My favorite event in Brno is the annual Špilberk Food Festival. It is a rare foodie delight in this mecca of 79 CZK lunch menus. I go with some friends and delight in the inspirational menus. Last year, one booth stood out.
I wrote down their name, Butcher’s, and a few days later decided to give them a try. I whipped out my phone and googled Butcher’s Brno. Nothing. Hmmm. Did they have a Facebook page? Nope. Did I imagine them? Why is there a booth for a restaurant which doesn’t exist? I wondered. I was disappointed but moved on and, eventually, forgot about them.
Fast-forward nine months and I’m driving in Královo Pole. I notice a sign. BUTCHER’S! I couldn’t stop, but I googled them at the next stop light (don’t tell the po-pos). Sure enough, they opened up a few months before. Their menu looked great. I posted on Facebook and a few friends raved about them. I booked a table for lunch as soon as I could.
Walking in, you are immediately confronted by their ambiance. This isn’t some place nestled away in a cellar. It was clearly designed and decorated by professionals who know how to create a space for dining. The decor is elegant and the tables are inviting. The place screams “you are about to have a great experience!”.
The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and knows how to sell the menu, though it seemed the staff isn’t comfortable with English. In the better establishments the wait staff usually switches to English the moment they recognize a foreigner. When I asked them questions, they kept switching back to Czech. It’s fine, I understood what they were saying. But they should have no problem explaining what cut of meat is in the burger in English. Nevertheless, I’m getting excited.
We start with the Butcher’s Meat Soup and the Garlic Prawns and the facade of perfection starts to crack. The soup arrived and I am disappointed by the presentation. The edges of the bowl were dirty with spilled soup. I have worked in restaurants and there is always someone checking the presentation before they leave the kitchen. A quick wipe of the edge was called for. I dismissed the thought as the waiter kindly offered to split it to two bowls for us. The soup was rich and textured as a good broth should be. The meat and veggies were tasteful and perfectly done as well (no soggy carrots in there). This is what I expect from a quality broth.
The prawns arrived in a sizzling pan. I can feel my lips twitching, involuntarily making the “McKayla Not Impressed” face. First, the menu does not match the item. Since they wrote “unshelled prawns”, I was anticipating crunchy and juicy prawns I can dig into, only to find tiny shelled prawns. Perhaps this is a translation issue, but it is important to ensure your typos don’t change the meaning of the dish.
Second, the portion size is disappointing. There were six very small prawns swimming in the butter. With a price tag nearing 300 CZK (almost double every other appetizer on the menu), you should expect more. The flavor is fantastic, but I can’t help feeling let down.
Our main course arrived and they are back on track. My friend ordered the Flat Iron Steak. Above all, Butcher’s is a steakhouse and the steak did not disappoint. Nice size (especially for the price), grilled right (charred on the outside, barely cooked on the inside) and perfect flavor is a winning combination. Hands down the best steak I’ve had in the Czech Republic.
The major letdown of the meal is my burger. When I saw a 300 CZK burger on the menu in a top quality steakhouse, I was more excited than a senior on prom night. I went with the Grand Butcher’s Burger. This burger is not Grand. Far from it, in fact. Lets break it down.
A burger is not a fancy dish. Fancy flourishes are lost on burgers. I’ve had a $666 burger with gold leaf flakes on it that wasn’t half as good as a $14 Dumont Burger. A better burger is made by using better ingredients, not by fancy presentation or wild flavor combinations. This burger was all bells and whistles, no substance.
Again, the presentation was sloppy like the soup, but this time it affected the meal. They pile the toppings high on the burger and leave it open faced with a toothpick holding it together. Instead of following the time-honored practice of melting the cheese on the pattie and putting strips of bacon on it, they sprinkle bacon bits and a drop of shredded cheddar on top. Bacon and cheese are major components to a burger, not some fancy garnish.
To make matters worse, there is no way to take the toothpick out without the garnish falling off the burger. In fact, half the bacon/cheese fell off the burger before it gets to the table. I ended up with a burger sans cheese or bacon. The fried onions were great and the veggies were crisp, but I did not like the chutney they slather on the burger. If you have good quality meat, condiments should be at a minimum.
The burger could’ve been saved if I am blown away by the actual pattie. It is good, to be sure, but it is no better than the burgers at The Immigrant and Bar Který Neexistuje (coming it at half the price). A 300 CZK burger at a fine dining restaurant should blow away their casual dining competition.
So how is Butcher’s? I still don’t know. I was disappointed, but maybe I should’ve known better. I’ve been here long enough. I shouldn’t have envisioned a Smith & Wollensky. I should not be getting my hopes up for a burger. On the other hand, those expectations are reasonable. Brno’s culinary scene has come a long way the last couple of years. Maybe I should get excited when an expensive steakhouse opens up and offers a premium burger.
Bottom line, if you are looking for a steak, there is no better place in Brno. The service is great and the ambiance is top-notch. But I was unimpressed with the overall meal. If you are looking for a culinary experience, there are better options in Brno. I dropped 1200 CZK on lunch, sans dessert and drinks. That money would have been better spent elsewhere.