A few weeks ago a new bar opened on Kozí street opposite Bar, který neexistuje, visibly pulling even more people into the al fresco drinking environment surrounding Jakubské náměstí. Lokál U Caipla is an offshoot of its sister pub in Prague, which over the last few years gained a reputation for catering quality traditional Czech fare fast and efficiently.
The inside décor is a pleasing combination of minimalism and quirkiness. White paint on bare brick and functionalist stainless steel fittings are juxtaposed with warmly lit woodcuts of alcoholic fairytales. It’s both cosy and stark at once, like a homely factory canteen.
Before we get to the food, the beer deserves a mention. This is very much a Plzeň pub, and huge steel tankovna’s sit encased in glass under the bar counter and behind it. The Plzeň itself is as good as one would expect and it’s nice to see that attention has been paid to picking food which compliments it.
Nakládaný hermelín is one of my favourite beer snacks. Individual pucks of Camembert are matured in giant jars of oil with spices and herbs, every pub having their own recipe. When eaten the gooey cheese smears across your tongue, saturating your taste buds with the flavours it’s absorbed during the ageing proces.
This one was filled with paprika and topped with little pickled onions and goats horn pepper, adding a sweet tang. Served at room temperature it was superbly soft – oozing onto the plate when left for a few minutes.
The flavour profile was not quite to my personal preference, being very mild beyond the cheese itself. For me Bláhovka is the gold standard here – their stuffing of garlic and black peppercorns creating creamy little wheels of dankness.
My tatarák (or steak tartare) came premixed. The fried toast (topinka) was great. Golden and crisp with a chewy centre, easily shredding the garlic cloves I grated onto it. The meat was also well prepared. Nicely chopped, with small chunks of onion and pickled cucumber that were clear in both appearance and flavour, giving a well balanced sweet and sour taste. It’s a little hard to offer any detailed opinion of steak tartare.
There’s certainly not much reason to comment on how well it’s been cooked.
But it was good to eat. It was good to eat with beer.
Descriptions like that? That’s what makes me an expert.
Realising I only had room left for one more dish I was forced to choose between svíčková na smetaně and bulls testicles. I decided on the svíčková because it’s the daddy of Czech cuisine and, besides, I’d already had bulls testicles 5 times that week. Seriously, though, if anybody has had the bulls testicles please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Just thinking about cutting into them gives me sympathy pains.
First of all I love (LOVE) that the svíčková comes served with a boat of sweet freshly whipped cream and cranberries. Unfortunately the rest of the dish was good but not as good as I’d hoped.
The meat, whilst tender, was a uniform grey colour, with no trace of the “browned” character you get from braising it. The sauce was tasty and the light and moist dumplings sponged it up thirstily, but this dish is perhaps not at it’s best in the canteen-like set-up used in Lokál.
Lokál is not cheap, and there’s nothing here that you can’t get better elsewhere in Brno. But one of the great struggles of eating out in the Czech Republic is consistency. You can walk in a place one day and have the best meal of your life served in a timely manner, and then return and order the same thing the next day only to wait 90 minutes for something dismal.
Lokál appears to have a system in place to solve that problem. It also manages to marry it’s modern approach with a feel of casual authenticity, something which in the Czech Republic is more commonly associated with slightly grubby, smoke billowing dives. It’s a great place to get a cold Plzeň and a reliably good bite to eat in a laid back, smoke free atmosphere.