Café Slavia ready to welcome back bohemian crowds after renovation

The legendary café, which was a favorite haunt of Czech artists during the Communist era, has now reopened with a new focus on local guests.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff
Published on 17.09.2021 18:00 (updated on 18.09.2021)

Few of Prague’s food and drink spots are as steeped in history as Café Slavia. Situated opposite the National Theater, the café was a favorite hangout for the city’s artists and revolutionaries prior to the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

The café has been closed for around a year. It reopened to the public on Wednesday, having been bought by new owners and given a makeover.

While retaining its atmosphere of historical significance, the new owners of Slavia want to reconfigure the café to focus more on local guests. Food at Slavia will now feature an Austro-Hungarian style inspired by the café’s long history dating back to 1881. Head chef Dušan Svoboda previously worked at Obecní Dům, where he cooked for dignitaries including the Czech President, the Dalai Lama and Pope John Paul II.

Appetizers on offer include veal croquette with coleslaw and butter sauce, or smoked carp tartare with dill sauce. Mains feature classic Czech dishes as well as options for vegetarians.

Café Slavia's new culinary style is influenced by Austro-Hungarian cuisine / photo via cafeslavia.cz
Café Slavia's new culinary style is influenced by Austro-Hungarian cuisine / photo via cafeslavia.cz

“It is an honor and a responsibility for us to build on the amazing history of this café,” said Petra Onderková, who now runs Slavia together with her son Jozef. The family, which also runs the nearby SmetanaQ café, said they had been considering the possibility of taking over Slavia for some time. In aiming to return the café to local visitors, they suggest that Slavia will be more affordable under their leadership, while encouraging a more welcoming atmosphere.

“We want to significantly change the way the staff here treat guests,” Jozef Onderka said in an interview with newstream.cz. “We don’t want anyone to feel judged here, as has sometimes unfortunately happened in the past. And we don’t want to let our position in a tourist location let us get away with shortcomings in quality."

Onderka says further investments in the café are possible depending on the development of the pandemic and the success of the café’s resumed operations over the coming months. While Covid closures freed up time for the renovation work to take place, the cost of the works grew substantially due to increased building material costs.

Now, the café aims to make the most of its historic appeal through a revamped food offering and through “cultural evenings” honoring celebrities and famous figures who previously frequented the spot.

The café is located in the Neo-Renaissance Lažanský Palace, which was built between 1861 and 1863. The name Nová Slavia was chosen for the location, inspired by popular themes of pan-Slavism and Czech nationalism at the end of the 19th century. The café’s current style was created during extensive reconstruction after World War I.

After the Soviet occupation of the Czech Republic in 1968, Café Slavia became a key meeting place for artists and dissidents opposed to the Communist regime. Now reopen for business, locals and tourists alike can again enjoy the unique atmosphere at one of Prague’s most famous social hotspots.

 

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