Monday, August 23, 2010

Restaurant Hybernia - I really wanted to like it

Recently BF started in a new job working as a receptionist in a small hotel on the border of Nove Mesto and Zizkov. And as he works 24 hours shifts from 9 PM to 9 PM, I usually want to meet him for a late dinner when his shift is over, so he'll be recharged just a little bit after work.
I searched a bit in the area close to this new workplace - and my eye caught the website of Hybernia Restaurant in Hybernska street. Quite convenient for both of us, and the menu looked both interesting and fairly priced. The menu even has a friendly and personal greeting from the chef.

3 of the tables are fitted with taps for the tank Pilsner - a big plus for us
When I arrived around 9 PM I was being greeted by a friendly girl who showed me to one of the beer tables without any problems even though we would only be 2 persons and the table would easily seat 6 persons. A good start. So after having filled my first mug of fresh Pilsner Urquell I had a chance to look around in the pleasant room while waiting for BF to arrive.

The decoration of the room is really nice. Here we're in the smoking section, which has a large bar in the centre. The non-smoking section is a bit more "restaurant-like"

I was handed a menu in English, and as BF was running late I had lots of time to study it. Plenty of interesting things to tempt me, and I actually had some problems deciding, what I wanted. The soups weren't exactly my favourites, so I caught one of the waiters (that wasn't easy) and asked about the soup of the day, but the reply was that this was only an option during lunch, which I found to be strange as it was mentioned on the à la carte menu. For some reason the starters weren't that appealing to my taste as I didn't want traditional carpaccio (this classic dish seems to be on every menu in Prague), and I also didn't want any of the heavier options. We'll get back to that...

BF finally arrived. At that point no waiter could be caught, they all seemed to be busy serving in the garden/terrace behind - but we did get a mug for his beer, and I eventually went and found a menu for him myself.
He decided for one of his favourites, Pork Schnitzel (Czk. 170,-) with potato salad (Czk. 49,-). He didn't want a starter. I had finally decided on my starter - the quite unusual option of "Hot duck carpaccio" (Czk. 165,-), described as thin slices of duck breast with rosemary and home made mayonnaise.
For my main I was torn between some of the many knuckles, ribs and wings - and the 2 lamb options. I eventually went for one of the latter, the roast lamb, described as "roast kid meat with demi glass sauce  from fresh marjoram, with portobello mushrooms stuffed with spinach, shallots and blue cheese, roasted potatoes" (Czk. 189,-). To me it sounded really mouth watering, and I could hardly wait.

"Hot" carpaccio of duck. Don't order it!

Waiting is an issue in Hybernia, though. But after a good 20 minutes my hot duck carpaccio arrived. I already then started to regret my choice, as it didn't look that appealing with chunks of red duck breast sizzling in the skillet in front of me. No sign of the home made mayonnaise, by the way. I dug in, but the first slice was very tough, and I actually had problems cutting through it with my knife. Maybe I should have been given a steak knife? The next slices were more tender, maybe after having cooked a bit more on the hot skillet. The portion was generous, but the meat was bland, uninteresting and somewhat "nasty" in the texture. I know that is not a correct food term, but I can't come up with anything else, and I didn't feel like finishing the dish.

Pork schnitzel with potato salad. Nothing pretentious about this presentation...

After waiting another 20-25 minutes our main dishes arrived. BF's schnitzel was actually 3 smaller pieces of pork, and unfortunately they had been overcooked and were dry and completely boring. The potato salad was OK. Heavy on the mayo, but he likes that, so no complaints about that detail. He was hungry and emptied the plate, but without any enthusiasm.

This is supposed to be roast lamb Hybernia way. Absolutely nothing to like about this dish!

My lamb was put in front of me, and I literally couldn't believe my own eyes. It was very unappealing, bordering to disgusting to look at. 3 strange chunks of lamb were lying in not a demi glass sauce, but huge amounts of fat. As you'll see from the picture, the pieces seem to be pulled out of a random stack of lamb leftovers. A couple of dry, overcooked cutlets, something I didn't know what was (the piece in the middle) and then what I could only guess was a fraction from a lamb shank. I tried to eat the cutlets. They were fatty, but still dry - very overcooked. The bit in the middle I didn't want to eat, and the lamb shank (if that was what it was) tasted as if it had been served before. All of the meat smelled as if it had been cooked some days ago and reheated not once but at least twice. I could eat some of the potatoes - the ones on top, because they hadn't been soaked in the grease which covered the bottom of the strange pot it was being served in. The mushroom was too greasy, so I left most of it after having tasted one bite.
We'd had problems getting in touch with the waiters most of the evening, so I was actually surprised that one of them showed up and voluntarily asked, if there were problems with my dish. I told him it was inedible, and he promised to deduct 20% from our bill, which was a total of Czk. 632,- including 2,9 litres of very good beer.

Like it says in the headline: I really wanted to like this place. The menu sounds very interesting, and it is convenient for the after-work-dinner with BF.
So we were back a couple of days later. This time we chose to let the waiters pour our beer while we were enjoying the fresh air and nice ambience of the large garden/terrace.

Decent red Italian merlot at Czk. 104,- for ½ litre - but boring Bonaqua water (Czk. 32,- for 1/4 litre)

From our first visit I believed it would be easier to get hold of the waiters out here, but unfortunately I was wrong. But we were able to order our drinks: Pilsner Urquell for BF (Czk. 38,-) and ½ litre of Italian Merlot for me (Czk. 104,-) plus a bottle of the uninteresting and usually overpriced Bonaqua sparkling water (I refuse to call it mineral water) for me (Czk. 34,-). I had huge problems reading the menu because there was almost no light, but after having used my phone as a lamp, I decided on grilled pork tenderloin, described as "Pork tenderloin in Dijon sauce served with sauerkraut, peppers and sour cream" (Czk. 195,-) with a baked potato with home made cottage cheese and chive on the side (Czk. 49,-). BF went for Almond Turkey Strips described as "Roasted turkey breast with almond flakes, carrot chips, celery, cucumber, peppers and blue cheese sauce". He ordered boiled potatoes on the side (Czk. 39,-).
Then the wait began. In the meantime (there was time enough, believe me), I could see how the waiters struggled to keep up with the clients' wishes - there just weren't enough waiters working. And I could see how other people my age (above 40) were struggling with reading the menu as well, and several phones came into alternative use that night.

Grilled pork tenderloin - most of the items mentioned in the menu missing

We had to wait 55 minutes for the food. In the meantime BF had gone through 2 beers and had to order a third to have something to accompany his food. I'd emptied my wine and my water and also had to order more of both - this time only 1/4 of the quite pleasant Merlot (Czk. 54,-).

Roasted turkey breast with almond flakes, carrot chips, celery, cucumber, peppers and blue cheese sauce. Edible, but uninteresting

But it wasn't really worth the wait. BF's turkey was served in a metal bucket, and the turkey was more like chicken á la KFC than a proper restaurant dish (although, of course, the metal bucket could be seen as an upgrade from the cardboard ones at KFC). The accompanying raw vegetables had been cut several hours before and seemed uninteresting and dry. A fresh salad would have been much better. The blue cheese sauce more than anything else reminded me of a jarred product, probably tartar sauce.
My grilled pork tenderloin was cooked Hybernia style - overcooked that is. It was seasoned ok, but dry and strangely enough, even though it must have been grilled for a long time, I couldn't taste any hints of grill in the meat. It was supposed to be served in Dijon sauce with sauerkraut, peppers and sour cream. It wasn't. Saurkraut, maybe with some mustard in it, but no peppers and no sour cream. The texture was almost slimy. I am not too sure why, as I literally couldn't see what I was eating. My baked potato had been prepared a long time in advance and then reheated - again I had the feeling it wasn't the first time it had been reheated. The "home made cottage cheese" didn't resemble cottage cheese at all, and I suspected it to be the sour cream missing from the main dish.

On our second visit the bill ended at Czk. 784,-.
No matter how much I wanted to like this restaurant, and no matter how nice the interior and the beer was, the food was just very disappointing - in some cases bordering on horrible. So unfortunately there won't be a third visit.

Hybernia Restaurant
Hybernská 7 / 1033
Praha 1, 110 00
+420 224 226 004 

1 comment:

  1. I've been to Hybernia once - seems the only safe thing to order their are their signature "needles" (meat and vegetable skewers), everyone at the table who didn't was disappointed with their choices. I remember having a vegetarian lasagne that looked and tasted like it had come out of a supermarket box, and was pitifulsmall to boot. And yet it always seems busy...