Czech and Slovak House
74 West End Lane
74 West End Lane
020 7372 1193
Wonderful and miserable in equal measures, Czech and Slovak House is communist to the core. We were led into an empty restaurant, reminiscent of crap embassy waiting rooms and dilapidated seaside B&Bs. "I feel like we're about to eat a hotel breakfast," my friend said.
On the wall are pictures of Vaclav Havel, the Queen, some Pope and that's your lot. In the next room hangs a large map of Slovakia and nothing else. The first page of the menu inexplicably features a cartoon-chef-child molester with half a tie, a monster's hand, a scarred forehead and flapping rabbit's ears made of burnt skin. We would proceed with caution.
Our waiter assured us that Czech and Slovak food are exactly the same, but my research suggested otherwise. Halusky is the Slovak national dish - not much of a hit in the Czech Republic, but a number one chart-topper since forever in Slovakia and in big letters at the top of the menu here.
It's a remarkably unsophisticated piece of work: a yellowy-white stodge, copious in carbs, positively Molvanian, guaranteeing obesity in 30 minutes or your money back. It combined Spam-like smoked sausage with a vast quantity of bryndna (sheep's cheese) and tiny potato dumplings like miniature gnocchi. I liked it, and felt guilty immediately.
We shared an outrageously indulgent starter of fried bread with melted cheese and garlic, a gut-tormenting classic. Oh, the deliciousness. And we enjoyed our main courses, too. We had half a portion of wild boar with cheese sauce and dumplings, and half a portion of roast pork with sauerkraut and dumplings. Czech/Slovak dumplings, we discovered, are what we know as bread. It was comfort food at its most comforting, and the pilsner is cheap, froth-topped and excellent.
This place is unashamedly retro, a Soviet bloc time-warp. I love it. And I've still got here to Czech out. Sorry.