Babiččina zahrada

A new farm-to-table venture gets grandma's recipes just about right

Fiona Gaze Jason Pirodsky

Written by Fiona GazeJason Pirodsky Published on 18.09.2013 09:32:51 (updated on 18.09.2013) Reading time: 5 minutes

Babiččina zahrada


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Seasonal, farm-fresh products are fast becoming the norm, and not the exception, of the culinary landscape in Prague, and there’s a growing trend of restaurants both high end and low end that are reviving old Czech recipes with a focus on fresh, rather than necessarily stodgy, dishes, to varying success.

Babiččina zahrada, opened a few months ago in Průhonice by chef Radek David of La Veranda fame, takes a different tack by elevating time-honored, simple plates that are accessibly priced and presented in a country-chic setting of a renovated farmhouse. Instead of looking to modern takes on traditional recipes, David pays tribute to simplicity, reviving some dishes that haven’t made it much past a grandmother’s kitchen and others that demonstrate the Continental influence on local tastes in the 19th century. He does this mostly with skill, although responses can vary; a Czech friend was less intrigued than I to try the potato šišky (roast potato dumplings) or the dense škubánky with poppy seeds, saying darkly that some things were better left in the past.

The restaurant is ideal for daytrip dining, as the well-to-do suburb has long attracted weekend throngs for a stroll around the chateau’s sprawling gardens. As the name implies, one of Babiččina zahrada’s main draws is its garden, which features a large covered patio with an outdoor bar and a winding path leading among the tomato vines and rosehips to a series of copper-domed gazebos holding individual tables. Inside, there’s a cozy room with floral-printed banquettes and a bright-blue ceramic wood-burning stove; the building also contains a spa, and a hotel is planned, as well.

Babiččina zahrada

The namesake garden makes for a pleasantly intimate experience, as we learned on a recent visit, arriving late afternoon to a near-empty garden, only to be instructed by the waitress to sit at the back – the very back – which is at a considerable distance. The service proved perfectly attentive, though, providing the waitress with more than enough exercise. When we were first seated, she brought over a blackboard with the day’s specials, which she thoughtfully left leant against the gazebo for us to mull over, instead of having to ask one another “What was the special again?” as can often be the case. Later on that evening, after a double rainbow gave way to a clearer sky, we were brought blankets to stave off the chill.

Babiččina zahrada

Babiččina zahrada sources all of its ingredients from within the Czech Republic, something that worked in its favor in most, if not all, of the dishes we sampled. A basket of home-baked, flour-dusted Sumavsky-style bread, studded with pumpkin seeds and satisfyingly chewy, came free of couvert, along with a small pot of whipped cream cheese with chives and a winning pot of elegant, silky goose cracklings, smooth and chunky like a crunchy peanut butter. On a later visit, the bread was of a white farmhouse variety, equally as tasty, leaving us wondering if it would be possible to order some to go.

A starter of leggy crayfish tails (260 CZK) were meaty and snappy, an inherent muddiness masked convincingly by a rich crayfish velouté, swirled with what was more akin to a Hollandaise sauce than the “garlic sauce” described on the menu. Plump, skinless red and yellow tomatoes – which looked like the ones growing on a vine nearby – helped to brighten both plate and palate.

Babiččina zahrada

The dishware is a mismatched set of pastel floral and striped porcelain, lending to the atmosphere of being in someone’s very well-thought-out home. The vivid pea soup (65 CZK) looked a picture in its candy-striped bowl, poured tableside by the server over a bed of potato puree, croutons and salty bacon cubes. It was rich and sweet and smooth, and one of the best soups I could recall. The beef broth, while homemade and with hearty liver dumplings, paled in comparison.

Each of the mains we sampled had at least one component than detracted, to different degrees, from the overall quality. Veal schnitzels (240 CZK) were wonderfully juicy, the tender meat not pounded dry or too greasy from the batter, a breadcrumb mix with brown sugar and a hint of nutmeg. The restaurant also does incredible, creamy mashed potatoes, which went well with each bite of veal. On the side, however, was a disappointing cream-based cucumber and dill salad, which came across as too heavy; a tart, pickley salad would have been better suited.

Stuffed quail (365 CZK) was mostly without fault, the crisp-skinned breast stuffed with mashed chestnuts and dripping with jus. A parsnip puree on the plate added a good balance, but several sticks of lightly cooked, unchopped celery seemed out of place.

Babiččina zahrada

The tightly wound lamb roulade (250 CZK) had a wonderfully grassy flavor unmatched by many other places, but the meat was a touch too dry. This was the dish that came with the roast potato dumplings, which, while well-executed, were far too dry and did the lamb no favors. There was a lovely, meaty gravy on the plate, but only a touch – a small boat on the side for pouring over would have done wonders.  

Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the salmon trout (280 CZK). Cooked to pink, flaky appeal, it nevertheless had a distractingly muddy flavor that pervaded even through the sweet Hollandaise sauce. Potato croquettes on the side were the star: Served on top of mashed potatoes, they made for perfect soft-crisp bites.

For dessert, we tried the stuffed dumplings (95 CZK), which paired nicely with a bottle of ArteVini’s Pink rose wine (325 CZK/0.75 L). The molded balls of curds contained a mix of strawberries and rhubarb, with compote drizzled on top, and were worth leaving room for.

There has been a recent dispute surrounding Babiččina zahrada, highlighted by the food blog, regarding a former employee of the restaurant whom Radek David says copied his menu, almost dish for dish, and took it to another establishment. Intellectual property theft is as common as grass nowadays, and the Facebook comments went on to weigh the right for a menu, and particular dishes, to be considered works of art and therefore subject to copyright.

Other imitations aside, Babiččina zahrada is a worthy destination for families (there’s a cute outdoor play area and a children’s menu) or anyone looking for a bit of fresh air and country cooking. There are a few kinks to be worked out with the pairings, but overall it shows promise to stand the test of time, as have many of its recipes.

Babiččina zahrada
Tovární 536, Průhonice, Prague-East
Tel. 272 690 865
Open daily noon-midnight, garden till 22:00
Credit cards accepted

Babiččina zahrada

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