The Little Blue Duck, Prague
Dinner for two, Wednesday 8 March 2017
'U Modré kachničky' translates from the Czech as 'The Little Blue Duck (or Duckling)'. The restaurant where we dined, on the recommendation of good friends, was at Michalská 16, 110 00 Prague 1, Old Town. You will find a link on the website to the other, 'first', restaurant, also in Prague.
This was our last chance to sample food on offer in the city. We flew back home the morning after. It seemed right to celebrate our very enjoyable short dip into Prague's history, culture and people with a glass of fizz. Cuvée Quatre Michlovský did a fine job even though its 'extra dry' was a tad sweeter than our often preferred 'brut'.
The patron reminded us a few times that the food served was traditional Czech cuisine, game in all guises being a speciality. This was not by way of an apology; rather a point of pride. All recommendations were earnestly in favour of local and national recipes and wines... and none really disappointed.
Veal paté with brandy and green pepper wrapped in bacon with cranberry sauce
A generous portion of meat for Mrs. Cheoff. Very nearly off-putting generosity. Not so with the small accompanying toasts. But plentiful, fresh bread compensated. We really enjoyed the abundance of lovely sourdough and caraway infused loaves throughout our Prague trip. Oh, there are still unconfirmed reports that those 'cranberries' were actually red-currants.
Smoked venison leg with rowanberry sauce and pickled mushrooms
My starter was pretty fine, probably the success of the evening. I'm not sure how much was produced in-house but the whole thing worked very well. Tender, lightly smoked meat and a delightful return visit to rowan berries (I made jelly with them a couple of years back). They added a fruity but mildly bitter touch... think tangy Seville orange marmalade. My fear that the mushrooms would spoil the show were unfounded. They were delicately pickled and formed the third element of a lovely, balanced trio.
Grilled duck with pears, ginger and shallot mashed potatoes
Roasted duck with bacon Brussels sprouts and garlic potato pancakes
Both mains relied on the eponymous duck to lead the way. Grilled turned out more successful for succulence, since my roasted version was a little dry. You will struggle to find pink duck in the Czech Republic and most will resemble a confit. The skin on our birds was perfect and very tasty... crisp, well seasoned and with just a hint of fennel seed. Don't look for consistent finesse in finish or presentation. My sprouts were surprisingly firm. Enough to be difficult to cut and eat. On the other hand, potato pancakes were just right.
Red wines are out of favour with Mrs. Cheoff at present so we decided to share our food with a Sauvignon 2014 Gala from Bavory in the Moravian region (why refuse the patron's recommendation?). Although it was 'Late Harvest' there was very little residual sugar and the alcohol content was not too high at 12 1/2 %.
Raspberries and Mascarpone with Blueberry Ice Cream
We had a sweet, romantic assignation involving one dessert and two spoons. Nothing to shout about here. But nothing to spoil the overall enjoyment of our meal.
Other entertainment is provided by a young pianist who plays familiar UK and US music and occasionally breaks into song in English. He alternates with the luxury of a second instrument upstairs so you won't escape him!
Two young female American diners were treated to giggle-inducing moments from one server*. Scarcely raising an eyebrow he asked if he had given satisfaction. The question was delivered with enough inflection, judgement and experience to cause amusement rather than offence. He used the same judgement and experience to leave Mrs. Cheoff alone at the mercy of my usual nonsense.
The success of our evening at the Blue Duck hinged on the house confidence in the food and wines offered and the interest and atmosphere added by the staff and surroundings. Even if not all are of the finest, their combination was fine enough to provide a fitting end to our Prague experience. I can recommend you book there on at least one of your days in the city.
More pictures are available to view at the restaurant's Facebook page.
* This server also provided my current favourite overheard conversation.
Asked by a group of businessmen what were the best Czech red wines he had no hesitation in telling them, "The ones from Italy".