Czech Republic

The Czechoslovak House, 74 West End Lane, West Hampstead, NW6 2LX

The Czechoslovak House has a proud history. Founded in 1939 for Czechoslovakian soldiers, it found its current home in West Hampstead in 1946 following a beer ban in Holborn. It continues to operate as a sort of club-hostel-restaurant-bar to this day.

A welcome desk serves as a reception for inquiries and takeaway orders, but we are ushered to the 80s-chic dining room: white table cloths and large laminated menus. Portraits of grandees and royalty, delivered with dubious skill but clear determination, line the walls.

The menu is extensive, with over sixty numbered dishes, plus variants, and the English language version contains a little history box for an educational edge. Feeling good, we decide to order big.

img_20160831_200036245

Billowy mini pizza

img_20160831_195958649

Halusky, with Bramborak in the wings

There is no Czech wine available, sadly, but since they’re famoous for their beer anyway we’re happy to order Zlaty Bažant and Dark Budvar, both of which have the rich, malty edge that we hoped for.

The starters all sound good, and we opt for Langoš, a fried dough spread with tatare and tomato sauces, sprinkled with cheddar: a sort of billowy pizza bread. We also try Bramborák, a plate-sized chunky fried potato pancake spiced with marjoram and caraway, topped with sour cream, cheese, and salad, and finally Halušky, potato gnocchi with sheep’s cheese and bacon which are very rich, very salty and very filling.

In fact we are now full enough for a little lie down, but this is no place for the faint-hearted, so we plough on.

img_20160831_202206477

Segediner Gulash with bready mega-dumpling

For mains Sophie and Joe choose Segediner Gulash, pork cooked with sauerkraut and double cream, spiced with red paprika and served with steamed slices of what must have once been an enormous dumpling, that are like round slabs of thick, spongy white bread. It’s a very rich dish to take on following those starters.

Likewise Steve’s Svíčková, which is roast beef in cream and vegetable sauce, served with a few more slabs cut from the aforementioned mega-dumpling. Both main dishes are tasty, though not quite as interesting as the starters, swimming, as they do, in their respective sauces – and they’re just too damn big. Only one plate is cleared.

Sweating heavily and loosening top buttons, we take on dessert. We’re all keen on the various versions of Meruňkovỳ kynutỳ (apricot dumplings), but sadly they’re unavailable, so it’s Jablkový Štrůdl (apple strudel) all round instead. It is served with squirty cream, ice cream, dusted with icing sugar and spiced with cinnamon, but is still just apple strudel, and a bit of a tame end to an otherwise interesting meal.

img_20160831_211846662

Admit it, it’s just strudel

You get the sense some people eat heartily at the Czechoslovak House every night, watched over by glorious forefathers, and accompanied by glorious beers. And why not? It’s an odd, welcoming place, and it’s worth a visit.

Scores

Food: 3.5/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Advertisements
This entry was posted in C. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s