Krčma V Šatlavské, Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
On the train, actually more of a three-coach tram, one being empty, trundling up a steep incline toward Cesky Krumlov a World Heritage Site in the hills of the Czech Republic, I am told by a local that there is one place, one bar, that he considered to be the very best in the world. Whether or not this is true, I am certainly hooked on the concept of putting his comment to the test.
I find my hotel and quickly dump my bags in the room. On the way out, I see a local tourist office and drop by to make an inquiry as to where the Tavern in Satlavska Street (actually Gothic dungeons of the old town prison) is located. A smiling official says it’s just up the street, turn left as you go out the door and you’ll see it on your right. Not far away, I turn into the bar, find a seat just left of the door, and order a glass of the original Budweiser, Budvar, known for years as Czechvar over in North America due to an on-going legal battle with Anheuser-Busch over rights to the Budweiser name. This has been settled in AB’s favour with the purchase of the Budvar Brewery. Budvar is still a refreshing brew with a good hop quotient matched to a sturdy backbone of malt.
To my right, about half way along the opposite wall, is an open wood fire beneath a four foot by three foot black iron grille, which has two levels of cooking grilles, both on rollers. The waiter, dressed in medieval attire, delivers my beer and then slides over to flip chicken breasts, wild game, spit-roasted pig, and thick sausages on the grilles. He then delivers more beer to other tables, goes to the kitchen to retrieve cooked potatoes and garnish to complement the almost ready meats. Plating the meat, he delivers the dishes to table, returns to my table to take my food order, the mixed grill, and he sets off to tend to the grille again. He rolls out the two grilles, pokes the embers around a bit and then places a couple of logs on the fire, returning the grilles in place after the initial flare-up has subsided.
I return on another night to find the place packed, and find a seat in the caverns nearer to the back of the place. This time both grilles are tightly packed with grilling meat, mainly featuring meats for the mixed grill. It is an impressive sight indeed.
Was the Krčma V Šatlavské (Tavern in the dungeons) actually the best bar or pub I have ever been in over the years? I am reserving judgement as I am quite certain I will be visiting other fine establishments in the coming years. It was certainly a fine and unique place. The food and beer were both top notch. The atmosphere was warm, inviting and genuine. The hard working staff were friendly and helpful. The total experience was fabulous and I have a certain longing to return and sample its wares again. I very much admire the hard working waiters who not only are servers but cooks as well. But with so many other great places around the world, to name just one place seems so unfair, unfair to all the other great pubs and bars awaiting my first visit. And still others that demand a return visit. I await.