Vegtral

Fraktal's hippie little sister serves somewhat predictable, mostly vegetarian fare

Fiona Gaze Jason Pirodsky

Written by Fiona GazeJason Pirodsky Published on 23.10.2013 09:28:25 (updated on 23.10.2013) Reading time: 6 minutes

Vegtral

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There are so many bars and restaurants crammed into the few blocks between Letenské náměstí and Stromovka it’s a wonder new places can ever get an edge in. But the area is also a microcosm of much of Prague’s dining scene, where mediocre restaurants blaze and then die out, and others step in to (hopefully) try and raise the bar.

The neighborhood is home to many a dive bar, many made less divey by having ample outdoor space in the leafy front gardens of tight-knit, faded-glory apartment buildings. There’s a run-of-the-mill pizzeria Einstein, the La Bodega tapas joint, and even a new branch of Masala, the popular curry house’s fourth location; Slow Food and Czech fare chain Lokál, run by behemoth Ambiente, opened a newbranch here in the late spring. Hipster cafes like Love Kidó and Kavárna Pod Lipami draw crowds for seasonal soups and cakes and booze-fueled laptop productivity or procrastination.

One of the mainstays for the past decade or so has been Fraktal, an expat-heavy bar that’s been around long enough to elicit a sort of possessive love-hate response among longtime Praguers. But it’s always had enough of a steady following, especially for its weekend brunches, late hours and garden seating. Earlier this year, Fraktal opened another restaurant focusing on vegetarian cuisine, just around the corner.

Vegtral

AGENCY PROPERTIES

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 52m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 2+kk - 1 bedroom, 52m2

Pavla Beneše, Praha 9 - Letňany

Apartment for rent, 3+kk - 2 bedrooms, 85m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 3+kk - 2 bedrooms, 85m2

Nekvasilova, Praha 8 - Karlín

Apartment for rent, 3+kk - 2 bedrooms, 74m<sup>2</sup>

Apartment for rent, 3+kk - 2 bedrooms, 74m2

Slezská, Praha 3 - Vinohrady

Apart from its vaguely ointment-sounding name, Vegtral has a similar vibe as Fraktal’s, almost confusingly so, given their proximity. The interior feels as though it’s been there for years, with exposted brick, paint-cracked walls and a slightly stale, post-late-night funk about the subterranean rooms that’s conducive to hair-of-the-dog treatments. The decor is practically the same: odd-shaped tables and benches fixed to the floors, a mix of colorful artwork on the walls and cool lighting made from colored glass blown onto twisted pieces of wood. The corner spot has a cozy bar up front for a select few patrons and a small balcony above with several tables, which get the most light.

Downstairs is a larger room, which has a roll-out children’s play mat and toy chest, and, way back down the hall and past the kitchen, a suitably dingey smoking room where it’s hard to tell if it’s night or day. Inside, the soundtrack is reggae and ska, with a few indie ballads.The best place to sit is probably the large garden outside, provided there are any Indian summer afternoons left to come this year.

I’d heard mixed but mostly positive reports of Vegtral, with complaints mostly centered around the service, and the same proved largely true based on two recent visits. The menu is decidedly small, so those looking a large range of options similar to Fraktal’s will be disappointed. In the evenings, there are about four starters to choose from and eight or nine entrees, and one dessert; items are marked as either vegetarian, gluten-free or vegan.

At lunchtime, Vegtral has one soup and a choice of three mains, the selection of which changes daily (the website lists each week’s menu) and which sometimes includes fish.

Vegtral

On a recent lunch visit, the soup was a mixed bowl: While it was nicely thickened with soft chunks of cauliflower and flecks of parsley, it was overwhelmingly garlicky and salty, which aligned it with almost every other soup on lunch special out there. 

A lunch special of vegetarian quesadilla was satisfying, if simple: It felt like something one could easily make at home, but for the price of CZK 105, is easier not to. The quarters of griddled tortilla, crisped to an ideal point with small bubbles of charred flavor, sandwiched a mix of saucy black beans, herbed rice, shredded fresh coriander and only a bit of Cheddar cheese. Sour cream was lightly drizzled on top, with more shredded coriander, and a pot of serviceable chunky salsa came on the side.

A frustrating thing about this particular table, however, was the uneven surface; when cutting anything with a knife and fork, the plates wobbled back and forth irritatingly, and we had to resort to stuffing coasters under one side to even them out.

Vegtral

Another lunch item, purportedly grilled sea bass, was forgettable, if not offensively so. For CZK 130, the fillet had been well-buttered and salted (on the verge of too much so), but there were so many bones it quickly became a chore to pick them out with soon-buttery fingers. The bed of “grilled vegetables” underneath looked, and tasted, like canned carrots, green beans and peas given a heated once-over in the pan.

The service on that visit was efficient, and we were in and out in 30 minutes. Returning for dinner another day, though, we were left for 25 minutes with our menus before we even spied the waiter again, and my friend was tempted to ring the bar’s mobile number to remind them we were there. The drinks, at least, didn’t disappoint: Vegtral has King’s Applewood Cider on tap, served with ice in a pint glass, for CZK 45, and an expertly mixed caipirinha (CZK 90). Pilsner (CZK 37), Gambrinus (CZK 31) and Kozel (CZK 31) are also on tap, although the soft drinks seemed expensive at CZK 39 for a 0.3 L bottle.

A starter of hummus (CZK 65) was quite good; creamy and homemade with a swirl of chili oil and sesame seeds, although lacking a dash of lemon. It came with triangles of white toast drizzled with olive oil, which were fine, but pita would have been a preferable vehicle. The tzatziki (CZK 75) also came with these, and was on par with the hummus: lightly garlicky with strings of shaved cucumber, and it came with a bowl of sliced black olives.

Vegtral

An entree of potato-broccoli “burgers” (CZK 95) comprised two Czech-style patties, pan-fried, of mashed potato, buckwheat, parsley and broccoli, served with the same chunky mashed potatoes that Fraktal serves, with pickle slices on the side and a bowl of tartar sauce. It was a dense but comforting plate, if nothing too exciting.

Black-bean chili (CZK 135) was a huge bowl of spiced black beans; even between three people, we couldn’t finish it, and while the salsa, sour cream and shredded coriander gave a good mix of flavors, and the texture became a bit monotonous. Large, fried triangles of tortillas were wedged into the side and added a crunch to each bite, but there were not enough to last for the entire portion (or even half of it).

A rice and bean burrito (CZK 135) fared similarly well, a simple but considerable wrap with yellow rice and herbed white rice, black beans, coriander and many, many slices of jalapenos.

Vegtral

The one dessert on the menu, carrot cake (CZK 45), had a lovely combination of nutmeg, cinnamon and chopped walnuts, but was incredibly dense and dry, requiring much force to saw through with the fork, and would have benefited from more of the cream cheese icing.  

Vegtral

Vegtral fits right in with the other dive bars in this neighborhood, and its garden is one of the better ones around. Some of its dishes are decent value for money, but it seems like little more than vegetarian run-off from Fraktal.

Vegtral
Čechova 12, Prague 7-Bubenec
Tel. 777 794 091
Open daily 11 a.m.-midnight
Smoking/nonsmoking

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What are your best bets for eating vegetarian in Prague?

Vegtral

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