There’s many good reasons for countries to encourage immigration and food cannot be the least of them. Fans of Middle Eastern cuisine are not exactly spoiled for choice in Brno, especially when compared with many other cities of similar size around Europe. But there’s an oasis of spice to be found.
Klub cestovatelů (Travellers Club) was pretty much the first place offering Middle Eastern food in Brno. The same site has a 20 year heritage, earlier being an “Egyptian” restaurant called Faroe that specialised in the type of “fusion” dishes meant to feel both familiar and exotic – the first wave of every nation taking exploratory steps in culinary diversity.
But that was a long long ago, and for many years they’ve been at the vanguard of middle eastern food in Brno. They recently underwent a renovation and it made me curious to revisit the place. The new look has given it a glossy traveller frel, and I’ve got to give the new team credit – it’s the best Lebanese cuisine I’ve had in the Czech Republic. Granted it’s almost the only Lebanese cuisine I’ve had in the Czech Republic, but from the outset I’ll say I look forward to eating there again.
It’s a little out of the way. Take the number 1 tram down Štefánikova / Palackého třída to Jungmannova stop and it’s very close by. But console yourself with the fact that what you’re coming for can’t be foundl elsewhere in Brno. Kupé on Veveří might scratch an itch, especially for vegetarians, but if grilled meats (and especially lamb) is what you crave, this is the place to hit. I’ve been twice in the last few weeks and I’d like to share my thoughts. Let’s start with the best:
The Sojok is a warmup dish that blew me away: unsmoked beef sausage, a touch blackened, drowning in a rich, sweet, tangy, smokey tomato sauce. I couldn’t ask more from the finest US bbq. The second time I had it, it was not blackened so I don’t know if the chef made a mistake the first time or the second time.
Whatever the case they need to serve it slightly blackened every time because it was greeeaaat!, and I don’t mean a dead-behind-the-eyes greeeaaat like Tony the Tiger says when he’s shilling breakfast cereal, I mean greeeaaat! like an unexpected eruption of joy. But seriously, the added bitterness just elevated the whole thing. A bit of bitter’s better.
I also had the homemade cheese (Labna Bi Zeit), which is served looking a bit like an ice cream sundae. This turns out to be appropriate visual aid – a refreshing cool thick creamy lemon flavour juxtaposed with, fresh chilli, black olive, crunchy walnut and olive oil. I loaded it deep onto the accompanying toasted pita that served nicely as substitute ice cream cone. It comes in 4 large-ish scoops and I could happily eat the whole thing by myself.
Apart from that there’s all the malarkey of hummus in various shades and the usual suspects of Middle Eastern food such as stuffed vine leaves and baba ganoush.
And there are the grilled meats. Yes, there are some good grilled meats here. Honestly there’s little point going into much detail; outside pork Klub cestovatelů wins by default, especially when your other options for grilled lamb in Brno are almost nil. I will say it blows your average vepřový špíz out the water, and despite the lamb being an obvious highlight, the chicken is also worthy of your consideration.
There are some other advantages to the spot. In the summer they have a quiet garden at the rear. And you can get a shisha pipe brought to your table if you like that sort of thing (although this may be subject to change). It is my sort of thing, although I find the sound slightly off-putting; it’s like listening to somebody on their deathbed gurgling their last breath.
Anyway, in summary: if you’re into Middle Eastern food, Klub cestovatelů is worth a look. Not just because they’re the only game in town – they also have some genuinely excellent dishes on the menu.