Lenka Požárová (26. 1. 2022)
When the brochure Gourmet Brno 2021 came out, there were many excellent food venues that, for whatever reason (e.g. didn’t fit the existing criteria, was ignored by the nomination committee, had not been open for more than a year, or had turned down the offer to participate) never appeared within its pages. I started grumbling about these omissions on Facebook, TIC BRNO noticed, and I got the chance to finally write about them. Unfortunately, I still can’t mention them all here, but I do think that without mentioning this group below, Brno’s gourmet hit parade would not be complete.
The legendary food truck Būcheck, ruling over its little niche on Vegetable Market between the Tržnice building and the Gran Moravia cheese shop, was set in motion by the Slovak pair Peter and Zuzana. They showed Brno how to make proper street food. Loud music and heavenly smells emanate from their truck. Inside their buns they serve up brisket with coriander, peanuts with hoisin sauce, smoked knee of pork and horseradish crème fraîche, pulled beef with Cheddar, or pork roasted on lemons with a mustard mayonnaise. Their carnivorous fantasies know no bounds, which means next time you can treat yourself to a new gourmet invention. Truly magnificent is their grilled cheese with sriracha mayonnaise and pistachios, and if that’s not enough, you can knock yourself out with chips fried in pig fat. Naturally, they tweak all their sauces and marinades to perfection. Zuzana – aka Dezertýna – not only stands at the grill and till, she’s also a dab hand with the oven: her cakes will take you to seventh heaven.
Zelný trh 18, from Tuesday to Saturday, from 11.30 until sold out
Originally steered by her alma mater MUNI towards finance, that path was rapidly ditched for a punk life. She’s the author of the international award-winning Zapálené kuchařky, two novels, travel writing, and highly original pieces of photojournalism on Brno’s food scene for various newspapers. The return to her native “shtetl” after a 20-year hiatus surprised many, including herself. Most of the time you’ll see Lenka with an eyeball glued to a reflex camera, a question (or crumb) on her lips, and ears craning to hear the next story.
This business started out slowly, selling Chleba Brno bread only to order, and just a couple of days a week. Finally, last spring the doors to its bakery and café on Brno’s Bratislavská Street fully opened. Their loaves of sourdough bread with crunchy crusts are among the city’s most sought after foods: the best food joints use them for serving up their brunches. Besides traditional wheat breads, you can also grab a 33% rye bread, breads made with oatmeal or nuts, or “country” bread with poppy seeds and cranberries. A stellar offer is the pork crackling bread, while seasonal specials such as those made with pumpkin and sage are great fun. This foodie outfit were never going to stop at bread: they’re experts at making croissants, sweet loupáky rolls, baguettes, and focaccia. Inside their flaky pastry they wrap cheese, ham, and mustard, or mascarpone with povidla – a rich fruit spread, or chocolate and raspberries. They never run out of fresh ideas or new refinements, you can newly savour a homemade Pribináček (a sweet, cream-filled custard) in a bowl with a sweet, bready crumble or order an open sandwich.
Bratislavská 22, Monday to Friday, 08:00–18:00.
Eggo Truck Brno
For a long time now, it’s been whispered that Ron and Víťa from Eggo Truck Brno make the city’s most delicious breakfast – which you can order right through till lunchtime. And their business has grown more sophisticated, too. For two seasons they sold egg specialities on Vegetable Market from an elderly Citroen. But preparing labour-intensive meals in the limited space of a food truck was an obvious constraint, and so last autumn the boys fired up the cooking range in their new bricks-and-mortar bistro on Dvořákova Street. Classic dishes include their ‘egg scramble’ or BLT, but the masterpieces keep coming: dishes like Russian eggs with caviar and homemade Vlašský salad (a sort of potato salad with cured meat), duck confit, toast with local smoked trout, bean sprouts with soft-boiled eggs, roast beef with rémoulade, hot dog with sauerkraut and beer mustard, or their legendary French toast. Besides food and passion, they also serve great coffee here.
Dvořákova 12, Tuesday to Saturday, 8:00–14:00.
Stepping inside the café Take 5, you’re warmly greeted by a friendly neighbourhood atmosphere and countless divine, yellow, retro soap pouches, sewn to form a chandelier. The right-hand of the store is the domain of Honza, enthroned behind the coffee machine; to the left, the array of rolling pins, tins, and cream whisks are ruled by the baton of Vendulka. She conducts the creation of custard tarts, doughnuts, profiteroles with double cream, or slices of poppy seed and quark cake with blackcurrants. And I’ll never forget their “St. Martin’s horseshoes” (svatomartinské podkovy) – made from a buttery dough, with a hazelnut-plum butter filling and orange cream. Without rhapsodising too long, this young married couple complement one another in myriad ways, and it’s well worth leaving the town centre to check out their place. Who knows, you might be greeted with a revolutionary concept for an open sandwich. Wendy can transform countless dishes into the guise of a sandwich: potato and mushroom soup, spaghetti carbonara, or even tomato sauce!
Bubeníčkova 44, Tues to Friday, 9:00–17:00.
Order yourself an 11° Šalina lager, and take your place, glass in hand, on one of the benches, low walls, or steps. It’s a classic experience that at Albert’s – nestled at the foot of Špilberk, around which winds Pellicova Street – you’ll never tire of. Sure, you’re in the centre, but far from the usual hue and cry of the city. It’s one of the most romantic places in Brno to drink beer. Converging here you’ll find groups of friends, an old lady with a dog, lovers, or mums and dads (I don’t necessarily mean yours). For the latter contingent, the big bonus is the nearby children’s playground, where the adults can remotely command their toddlers while savouring a hoppy experience. Albert is a “nomad brewery”, brewing according to its own recipes in a range of different places. The bar always has an alternating offer of three beers, though you’ll invariably find the Šalina on tap. You can often order a top-fermented beer, e.g. Amerika (APA), or sample a Silvio Pellico – the Italian writer and revolutionary once jailed at Špilberk has given his name to a pale lager. The peckish can order half a slice of bread with pungent tvarůžky Olomouc cheese or pork crackling spread, and in winter you can sit inside around the stove.
Pellicova 10, Monday to Sunday, from 15:00 till last orders (usually 22:00–23:00)
It’s not a bistro, restaurant, or sushi bar. It’s an izakaya – a Japanese pub with food rich in umami and an interior stuffed with retro posters pulled from Japanese magazines, blue rays on the ceiling, and empty sake bottles for lampshades. Margita and Martin fell in love with Japan, where they both learned to cook and collect inspiration. After their return, they began organising in Brno the pop-up event “Sushi Days”, until they finally decided to take the plunge and opened Manya, right in the middle of the pandemic. The excellence of their cooking is evidenced by their regular Japanese clientele. Manya’s gyoza dumplings with a home-made hoisin sauce are magnificent. These are dispatched as an appetiser before moving on to something else: it might be lemon-marinated singed salmon, or okonomiyaki – Japanese pizza – pastry with cabbage, onion, bacon, and Japanese mayo. As meticulous Japanophiles, everything is served on Japanese porcelain. Ordering Manya’s sushi of an evening is a done deal, since Martin is a graduate of a Tokyo sushi academy. They don’t stock Coke, but you will find yuzu soda, Japanese draught beer, sake, whisky infused with sesame, or plum wine.
Průchodní 2, Wednesday to Saturday, 11:30–14:00 and 17:00–22:00; Saturdays 12:00–23:00.
You can find Dvorek, otherwise known as Platz, in a historic Baroque palace with an open courtyard right in the centre of Brno, on Vegetable Market. This year several bistros have moved in on the ground floor, where they share an amazing, long wooden table with benches. Domovina has a definite Vietnamese fragrance, and while David is serving, his Vietnamese mum keeps a firm grip on the kitchen. They do things their way – and that’s a little different. The beef rendang is wild, the duck simply bliss, and the non-fried spring rolls are a gastronomic caress. La Piñata sways to a Mexican beat: besides the cacti collection, here you’ll find tacos made from hand-pressed paste using blue corn flour, as well as tortillas or quesadillas. The Mikrofarma bistro is affiliated to the eponymous local butchers, and it offers a range of meat treats: from grilled veal liver and steaks, through to sandwiches with homemade pastrami. And the last member of the ensemble – the Buchta C café – balances the twin appetites for caffeine and sugar. Here in the shade you can avoid sunstroke in summer, while in winter you can thaw out under the space heaters.
Zelný trh 10, Monday to Sunday, opening times vary depending on which food joint you choose
Míša has Slovakian and Hungarian roots, Antonio’s forebears hail from Czechia and Italy. The combination of two spirits, four traditions, and a passion for quality is wedded to a mastery of food and drink. They have experience as restaurateurs in Italy, and in the Czech Republic as caterers. They began by making bread in a garage and delivering it by bike. Today they run Carlini, a cosy bakery on Smetanova Street, and these days their door never stops swinging. What’s fantastic is their ciabatta and their focaccia (maybe the one with onion and smoked cheese – provolone, or the carbonara – with egg, bacon, and Parmesan!) or perhaps the bread made from stone-ground flour. But what will really leave you flabbergasted (in a good way) are the local sweet loupáčky rolls. Made from sourdough, they are indeed subtly sour. Here they’re filled with mascarpone cream (loupakoule), but you can also eat them garnished or as a savoury snack. Perhaps with olives, aubergine and rucola. Whether it’s homemade pasta or hemp bread, Míša and Antonio carefully prepare it with love and joy. And waving at them through the glazed windowfront, it’s not just kids.
Smetanova 12, Monday to Friday, 07:00–18:00.
Owner and avid chef Aleš Křístek knows how they cook and roast in South Moravia – it’s his birthplace and stomping ground. Whether it’s chicken with homemade gnocchi, goose thigh confit with raisin cabbage, or wild boar goulash and homemade dumplings, every dish is prepared honestly and lovingly. They also make their own bread at the Tivoli Café, and, on Thursdays the best dalamánky rolls on the planet. With cumin and fennel, just as I remember them from childhood. Croutons made from the same dalamánky also appear in the pea soup. Added to which you can enjoy Moravian wines, smoked meats from their own smokehouse, and flat frgál cakes, filled with a rich fruit spread (povidla).
Konečného náměstí 6, Monday to Friday, 08:30–15:00.
Two friends, Tomy and May, born here to Vietnamese parents, decided to raise the bar when it comes to the Czech Republic’s standard Vietnamese late-night corner shop (večerka). In their café/bistro Večerka, suspended shopping baskets are stuffed with houseplants, corrugated sheet metal wraps around the bar, and the ceiling is dominated by tin cans, stacked upside down – a remnant from an installation by the artist Maxim Velčovský. There’s a topsy-turvy quality to the menu, too. They play with flavour, here and there adding the spices of their Vietnamese gran. How might a traditional Czech goulash taste with some Vietnamese flair? How is chicken in cream transformed if we swap out the cream and use coconut milk instead? What if we take our salmon and poached eggs and slip in a rice muffin, and do potato gnocchi go with star anise? The interior is a mass of powdery pink, while the coffee in the grinder comes from Berlin’s The Barn.
Pekařská 9, Monday to Friday, 09:00–21:00; Saturday and Sunday 09:00–18:00.
As a young man, fresh out of hotel school, Jakub became obsessed with ice cream and has never looked back. He started out using second-hand machines and has been teaching Brnoers to lick their ice creams all year round – this year from his own bricks-and-mortar establishment – Ještě jednu (One more) – in the centre of Brno. The menu changes daily with the season and according to mood. You can try mascarpone with gingerbread and fruit spread (povidla), roast almonds, or the amazing pistachio with Maldon salt. Nor is there any shortage of playful reminiscences of Czech childhoods: “Vlnky” caramel waves, Little Honza’s buns, “Horalka” chocolate wafers, caramel profiteroles, or sour cherry cake with vanilla and butter crumble. Naturally, all the cones are home-baked, and you can take your ice-cream home in a cup.
Minoritská 2, Tuesday to Sunday, 12:03–18:09.
Pub U Bláhovky
It’s a little way out from the centre, but everything in Brno is close. People have been coming to “Bláža” for an expertly tended pilsner and a good atmosphere for twenty-seven years. It’s a typical old-fashioned boozer, the only difference being the ban on smoking. A place where time has stood still. The range of bar snacks has remained unchanged for decades – the shelves are crowned with pickled sausages and marinated Hermelín cheese; there are rollmops and balls of tvarůžky cheese coated in ground paprika. If you want to sample the roast knee of pork, you’d better have booked in advance. You might even be offered meatloaf. To order your next kopek (as we call a half litre of beer in Brno), just nod your head towards the bar. All the staff are all past masters in the art of pub sign language.
Gorkého 54, Monday to Sunday, 12:00–24:00.
The restaurant Bonjour Vietnam, tucked away in not the prettiest spot, is a treasure trove for those in the know. In summer I tasted here the most ingenious spring rolls, served in a shaggy coating! I had to let them explain how to eat those thin, crunchy bánh xeo rice pancakes, stuffed with prawns and accompanied by a bouquet of Asian herbs on which you nibble between bites. The sweet potato fritters with prawns, or fried pork wrapped betel leaves excite the tastebuds, and if you can still manage it, try the dessert of mango, coconut milk, and sticky rice – the astounding taste lives long in the memory.
Václavská 1, Monday to Saturday, 11:00–21:00.
Phenomenon is the work of a specific author (Lenka Požárová); it does not express the official views of the City of Brno or TIC BRNO.
All photos in the article by Lenka Požárová.