Food News: Grand Restaurant Festival
Maurer's annual fest makes fine dining more accessible
Posted: January 11, 2012
Pavel Maurer introduces the "Yummy Bus," which will run from Prague to Plzeň.
Hearing which restaurants have ranked the best of the year is one thing; being able to try them out, at a discount price, is another.
The Grand Restaurant Festival, organized by restaurant industry magnate Pavel Maurer, publisher of the annual Grand Restaurant Guide, is in its third year, and offers a set price for one, two or three courses at the top-ranking restaurants in Prague and beyond.
The festival runs Jan. 15 through Feb. 15, providing plenty of time to taste at least several of the fine-dining establishments ranked in the Guide, which is published every autumn. The 2012 edition contained some shakeups from the previous year, with La Degustation Boheme Bourgeois being taken down a few pegs in the rankings and some newcomers featuring prominently in the top 10 of the 100 listed.
Last year's festival saw 19,978 people tucking into the gourmet meals, almost three times as many as the previous year. Tickets can be bought online in advance, allowing diners to choose how many courses and which of three categories of degustation menus they would like to sample.
"The idea came naturally," says Maurer, who also organizes the annual three-day Prague Food Festival each spring. "We wanted to give the opportunity to the wider public to access high cuisine for reasonable prices."
Sixty-three restaurants nationwide, encompassing 12 regions, are taking part in this year's festival, including 28 restaurants in Prague. This includes the No. 1 ranked in the country, Terasa U Zlaté studně in Malá Strana, as well as other top 10 restaurants like Alcron, La Rotonde, V Zátiší, and other notables like Sansho, SaSaZu, Chagall's, The Sushi Bar and Kampa Park, to name just a few. Second city Brno has five award-winning restaurants, as does Plzeň and Olomouc, and other participating cities and towns include Ostrava, Bystřice pod Hostýnem, České Budějovice, Český Krumlov, Jihlava, Karlovy Vary, Krnov, Liberec, Litomyšl, Malé Číčovice, Mcely, Nepomuk, Přerov, Ratboř, Rynoltice and Žebrák.
Each restaurant features a choice of tasting menus under the category Chef's Masterpiece, Best Food from My Mother or Regional Specialties. For the cities of Prague, Brno and Karlovy Vary, the set prices are 250 Kč for a basic tasting of one course plus a glass of mineral water, 300 Kč for one course plus a glass of wine or beer and a glass of mineral water, 500 Kč for two courses and the aforementioned drinks, and 600 Kč for three courses and two drinks plus water. Prices are slightly lower for other cities and towns.
For example, at Sansho, the Czech special is caramelized organic pork with papaya salad; the Chef's Masterpiece on offer is the soft-shell crab slider; and the Food from My Mother category features slow-cooked organic-beef Rendang. At the Alcron, in the Radisson Blu hotel, the respective categories feature roasted scallops with eggplant ravioli, glazed beef belly with miso sauce and mashed potatoes in smoked jasmine tea, and a roll with latte milk foam and wild-berry sorbet.
Some of the participating restaurants, in addition, offer free amuse-bouches or desserts in their festival menus. Check the website, Grandrestaurant.cz, for more specifics, as well as to view menus and to book tickets.
Dining on the go
New to this year's festival is the "Mňam Bus" (which Maurer translates as "Yummy Bus"), which allows diners to visit hotspots in several different cities, for example in Prague and Plzeň. The trip includes a welcome drink and a short tutorial from a sommelier, meet-and-greets with participating chefs and a 45-minute tour of the Pilsner Urquell brewery in Plzeň, as well as two-course menus at three restaurants along the way. The Prague-Plzeň journey takes place Jan. 21 and costs 2,290 Kč. Prague Yummy Buses run every few days and cover several combinations of restaurants.
Food for thought
Terasa U Zlaté studně is partnering up with Amnesty International Jan. 29 to celebrate the human rights organization's 20th anniversary of working in the Czech Republic with a special event called "Svíčkova with Amnesty." Chef Pavel Sapík will be preparing the traditional sirloin in cream sauce dish that apparently will "rival that of the mothers" and from which all proceeds will go toward Amnesty International's various campaigns for human rights around the world.
Fiona Gaze can be reached at