Vegan Prague: Four vegan friendly restaurants in the Czech capital
The story of my time in the Czech capital of Prague is one of culinary ups and downs, surprises and hangry fury.
Our first night, strolling around the city, we came across Maitrea, a veggie restaurant in the centre of town. Despite semi-overhearing a conversation where two would-be diners were told to come back in an hour, we somehow managed to score a seat in the cosy, low-lit basement area and a very friendly server.
About half the menu is vegan or vegan-option, and there's local as well as international food to try. We kicked off with tofu tartare, a dish of minced tofu, mayonnaise, and dill I'd had in Croatia last time and really enjoyed. The Maitrea version was just as good - deeply dilly and soft, with some dark rye bread as a chewy counterpoint. Delicious.
I thought I'd try something from the Czech specials for a main, and despite the fact I'm pretty sure the Hungarians would claim it as their own, I went for goulash. I don't think I've ever had goulash before - I think I've been missing out. There were vegan meat pieces in a deep, dark, Marmitey, onion rich sauce. The meat was a bit on the sparse side, but the potato wedges that came on the side did a good job of conveying the sauce to my mouth.
Mr Flicking the Vs had a burrito that while, very tasty, wasn't a patch on my goulash. We were both pretty stuffed, so neither of the two raw desserts called our name, and we wandered out into the Prague night full and happy.
Our second meal in Prague had an equally fortuitous start - we were wandering around the Prague Castle gardens, and leaning over one of the walls, saw a sign poking out over the rooftops saying 'vegan restaurant'. It was calling our name!
We tracked the sign down to LoVeg, an all vegan restaurant. It's up three flights of stairs, so be prepared for a bit of a walk before you can enjoy your dinner. When you get to the top, there's a white wood room to greet you but the lack of music and handful of diners all keeping their voices down meant it lacked a bit of atmosphere.
Like Maitrea, there's both Czech and international food on the menu at LoVeg.
Here's the starter we shared, bruschetta with cashew cheese:
The cashew cheese on this was pretty much worth the price of the bruschetta alone, which is handy as the rest of it was fine but nothing spectacular.
What better to follow Italian starter than a Czech speciality? I ordered vegan version of svíčková, pieces of tempeh in a creamy root vegetable sauce toped with with cranberry jelly and served with dumplings.
It was cool to eat Czech dishes, but this one didn't hit the high notes for me. The tempeh was chewy and plan, the dumplings were like white bread slices, and the root veg sauce reminded me of soup, so the overall effect was like eating carrot and tempeh soup on a plate. The cranberry and root veg sauce combo was a bit of quiet revelation though, the sharpness of the cranberry cutting through the sweetness of the carrots and other veggies.
I'm glad I got to try some Czech food, but I'm not sure I'd be rushing to order this one again.
Mr FtVs was on more familiar ground with a nasi goreng, which was a bit on the bland side - a bit more chilli and spice wouldn't have gone amiss.
Our next meal in Prague was at a nearby Loving Hut, one of a handful of branches in the city. They all shut fairly early though, so if you fancy a Czech pitstop at the Master Ching Hai chain, I wouldn't leave it too late in the evening.
The one we went to is above a juice bar - an empty juice bar when we arrived - and was fairly quiet when we arrived, with just a few tables filled.
Like all the other Loving Huts, there's no alcohol on the premises - a bit of shame given the Czech Republic is the biggest per capita consumer of beer - but you can always quench your beer cravings with the alcohol-free Bernard. While the taste is surprising decent, the label is interesting. I feel like Bernard is looking into my mind...
So, starters. Mr FtVs was in the driving seat for ordering our shared appetiser and he decided on hummus. Not the most exciting thing you can order, you'd think, but how wrong can a restaurant go with hummus?
The answer is very. Very, very wrong.
This is the hummus that visited our table:
It was cold, like it had just come out of an aggressive fridge. The texture was thin and lumpy, like vomit. It went down like a bowl of cold sick, which was what it bore a resemblance to. It didn't have much taste either. Not a success, then.
Luckily, the main was a bit more promising - schnitzel in cream and mushroom sauce with potatoes and spinach.
Note to would-be diners: go hungry. The Loving Hut portions are not small. There were not one but two schnitzels, and a huge mound of potatoes for good measure. Despite not being small of appetite, I couldn't get through the whole lot.
If the garlic hadn't been quite undercooked and the dish was about half the size, it would have salved the memory of the hummus horror. It's the sort of thing you'd need to eat if you were planning on climbing a mountain tomorrow, or if you hadn't eaten for two days prior. Come with a belt with a few holes left.
Mr FtVs had a stirfry. It was similarly huge and similarly pretty decent without being anything to write home about.
Like a lot of the Loving Huts I've been to: you're glad they exist when the place you really wanted to go to is shut. It's unspectacular but solid stuff.
For our last night in Prague, we thought we'd revisit Maitrea after a fashion - it has a sister restaurant called Lehká hlava (Clear Head). We turned up, there were no tables, and no hope of getting one any time soon. We tried to find a nearby Loving Hut, when we arrived it was closed. We tried to find another place we'd thought of, and couldn't for the life of us discover where it was hiding. It was late, we were hangry, and we ended up trekking back to the hotel, thinking we'd pick up some bits and pieces from the supermaket and have a picnic tea in our room.
On our way, we stumbled down Jindrisska, a street that's home to vegan restaurant Plevel. I'd checked out the menu online and hadn't been overly impressed, but by that point I was so hungry I could have chewed my own arm off so it seemed wise to call in, despite the fact it looked like it was the only place open in a shopping centere.
Once our starter arrived, I knew it had been a sweet idea to visit Plevel. Seriously, if you're in Prague, get your ass down here. Maybe we were feeling reckless after our Loving Hut experience, but we'd chosen hummus again.
It was as good and right as the Loving Hut hummus was wonky. There were raw crackers, sprouts, salad, and hummus that was softer and creamier than cloud. You could almost feel the health oozing out it. We happily cleaned our plates. (Note: the hunger made the pictures bad. No, I don't know how either, it just did.)
The menu was way more interesting than the one online - I would have been happy to eat each and every main dish on there. After much debating, Mr FtVs chose a burrito:
He's a big guy, and he couldn't finish it which he deeply regretted, given how delicious it was. There was a great big bouquet of lambs lettuce and radish, sitting on top of a bean and tofu scramble. For added bonus points, there's sour cream and avocado - everything you'd want from your burrito, right?
For me, a beet burger. It was equally huge, and a shade more delicious than the burrito. (Choosing between the two is a little bit like having to pick your favourite child, I guess. You feel bad even attempting to pick between them.)
So there was salad, crisp coleslaw, and spuds fried to perfection. Then there was the burger itself, roughly the size of beachball, only the tastiest, purplest beach ball you could imagine.
You can see the innards of the burger, but along with all the standard fixings, there was cheese, tempeh and a patty of quinoa and beetroot.
I'm not the biggest supporter of tempeh even on a good day, but the stuff in Plevel's burger instantly converted me. The tempeh to quinoa ratio seemed a bit askew - the patty was a bit gentle and chewy compared to the flavour-filled tempeh - but I couldn't fault the burger.
Also counting in Plevel's favour - it serves breakfast. And not only does it do all the healthy stuff you feel you should eat for your first meal of the day - buckwheat porridge, coconut yoghurt with chia - it also does a full English breakfast with tofu scramble, sausages, beans, mushrooms, and bread. I don' think I could love Plevel any more.
Týnská ulička 6/1064
(+420) 221 711 631
Na Poříčí 25
+420 775 999 376
Jindřišská 5 - passage
+420 245 001 605