Let’s talk about class. Some have, some don’t. Some pretend they do when they don’t, while some have class but don’t give a damn.
I’m not the biggest fan of classy restaurants. I’m much happier downing a street taco than doffing a dinner jacket at a fancy restaurant. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate class. And appreciate I did at Borgo Agnese. Whatever it is that defines class, Borgo Agnese has in spades.
“Why am I focusing on class?” you may ask. After all, I’ve been largely critical of other ‘fancy’ establishments in Brno and I’m unapologetic in my love for ‘good eats’ over fancy trappings. I do understand there is a time and place for class. Business meetings, celebratory occasions, or just wanting to pamper yourself, are all perfectly valid reasons to bust out the high heels and dinner jackets. I just take affront when the class gets in the way of serving good food. That is not the case at Borgo Agnese.
Class hits you in when you walk into the door. An actual maitre d` greets you with a smile and takes your coat. I was early, so I had a cognac at the bar while waiting. Frank Sinatra, sipping his whiskey on the rocks, would not have been out of place at this bar. My date arrived and we were escorted to our table. Walking through the elegant dining room towards our window-side seat, everything seemed to be in perfect harmony.
While there is plenty of seating, the tables are spaced perfectly for privacy. While you notice the other tables, you barely hear them over the background music. Everything from the lighting (dim enough for romantic trysts, but light enough for a serious business conversation), to the the side table (to hold carafes and breads) makes you feel they prepared the dining room just for you. They pull this off without giving off the snobbishness of Il Mercato or the or the over-the-top, trying-to-hard design of Pavilon.
Class doesn’t just rear its head in the design and appearance of the restaurant. Attention to detail and staff play as much a role as anything else. And here is where Borgo Agnese starts to separate itself from the pack. You expect the staff would switch to English when dealing with foreigners, and Borgo Agnese did this seamlessly. I was surprised to find that wasn’t the case in other high class establishments (like Butchers and Pavilon).
The staff really were the stars of the show. This was the first experience in Brno where my inner-foodie felt at home. The staff did an excellent job describing the specials and answering any questions about the dishes and drinks. Our waitress adroitly paired side dishes to the specials we chose (correctly pushing a mushroom risotto away from the fish special and recommending grilled vegetables and saffron risotto). The waitress also handled the wine list with aplomb, helping pair wines with the food with a skill I haven’t seen in Brno to date.
Our waitress tickled our fancy with a fantastic goose breast and watercress amuse bouche. She did an excellent job selling the specials and we barely touched the regular menu. We decided to share three appetizers; the Jerusalem artichoke and shrimp soup, the grilled calamari salad and the scallops on sweet corn puree.
You may have noticed my affinity for seafood. Its really difficult for me to pass up on scallops or shrimp. Neither disappointed. Despite the sharp flavor Jerusalem artichoke brings to the table, they managed to lighten up the soup so it didn’t overpower the creamy texture or subtle kick of the shrimp. The scallops were as good as ever and the sweet corn puree was unique and divine.
The only disappointment was the calamari salad. There was very little variation in flavor or texture. A strong seasoning or balancing vegetable would have done nicely there.
Having selected our veal chop and turbot fillet from the plate of specials (a practice I love), there wasn’t much room for surprise on our mains. I hadn’t seen a veal chop (or any steak really) that looked so good since I last went to Park East Butcher in NYC.
Thick and marbled with a Flinstone-esque bone, I was eagerly anticipating digging in to it. Perfectly grilled and paired with a delightful saffron risotto, I dug in with gusto. My date’s turbot and grilled veggies were a perfect contrast. Light yet filling, it was a stark contrast to my hearty plate. Perfectly seasoned and prepared, it was another strong showing by the kitchen.
The kitchen’s execution was fantastic. I wouldn’t consider the food avant-garde, as they didn’t seem to stray too much from core ingredients. The only dish that piqued my curiosity was the sweet corn puree. I prefer the edgier chefs at Leporelo or Koishi, or the more homey feel of La Bouche. But what came to the table had the heart and soul of a chef poured into it.
Borgo Agnese is a fantastic option for dinner. Its not my type of place, but Borgo Agnese is definitely going into my rotation for better occasions. It’s rare that I go to a haute restaurant and am happy to drop the 2,000+ CZK on the bill. I had no problem doing so in Borgo Agnese and will do so again.