The most famous sight in Prague is probably the Charles Bridge, the magnificent stone thoroughfare over the Vltava, marked with statues and constantly swarming with tourists. Crossing that bridge always brings out conflicting emotions in me: frustration at how slowly people walk, and delight at the ridiculous poses people strike for their selfies. Perhaps because of that, I tend to think of crossing the river at all as stressful – even on public transport over one of the many other bridges.
That is the only possible reason that it took me over one year to finally get around to visiting Pastva, one of Prague’s multitude of all-vegan restaurants. I’ve seen it recommended dozens of times, but on a Friday night Dr HH and I always struggle to motivate ourselves to venture across the river – even if it is only about 5 minutes longer than the trip into the city centre.
But we finally made it there, and I’m glad we did! It’s a bright, breezy place with fast service and an English menu (hurray!). Also, rather endearingly, there were several doggie bowls of water on the floor for furry friends (Czechs love taking their dogs everywhere with them, and it took me a while to get used to seeing them in restaurants. Now I quite enjoy seeing them, as long as they keep their distance and don’t give me puppy-dog-eyes while I’m trying to enjoy some cake).
The menu changes quite regularly, and the online version didn’t quite match the one when we arrived. There were so many good options, it was really tricky to narrow it down! Eventually Dr HH and I both ordered burgers. His was a Thai burger with peanut sauce dripping down it. The patty was made of sweet potato and chickpea, and it was tasty but not really spicy, as you might expect from the “Thai” aspect.
Mine was this Latin burger, made with kidney beans, mushrooms and coriander. The patty was really hearty and flavoursome, and the salsa on top was very tasty too. Both burgers had really good buns, but were too huge and/or sloppy to lift up – yes, it was a knife-and-fork affair. I was ashamed. The sweet potato fries were ok, but as with all sweet potato fries, they just weren’t crispy. Dr HH’s potato slices were better.
Even though the burgers were very substantial, we decided that in the name of research we simply must press on and have some cake! There were four or five to choose from in the display counter, and Dr HH opted for this strawberry and coconut one. There was a layer of strawberry slices hiding in there, and it was a good sponge too. He really enjoyed it.
Mine wins though, if only on size! The chocolate sponge was nice and not remotely dry, as some chocolate cakes can be. The layer of chocolate cream and banana was fantastic, and my only complaint is that I wanted more of the nutty caramel on top!
I went back to Pastva with my mum during her visit in October to try out the lunchtime menu. Like most Czech establishments, they have a set menu for lunch: soup as an optional starter, and a choice of 2-3 main dishes, changing on a daily basis. I find these things can be a bit hit and miss, but it really depends on whether or not you’re a picky eater. Pastva was absolutely heaving when we visited, but we squeezed in and chose from the three mains.
My mum really enjoyed the beet bourguinon. She doesn’t like ‘meaty’ protein sources like tempeh and tofu, so this was a good option for her. The flavours were good and earthy, she was delighted with the pickled onions on top, and it was a lovely autumnal dish.
I love tofu, so I chose the ginger squash and smoked tofu with jasmine rice and peanuts. The smoked tofu was nice, but otherwise it was quite bland, unfortunately – I was expecting a bit of a kick to it, but it was in desperate need of some seasoning. I wish I had also ordered the bourguinon.
When we went back again in January, I had the same burger again while Dr HH tried a new addition to the menu: the quinoa and kimchi burger. It was unusual, but he really enjoyed it. We both got regular chips on the side this time, which was an obvious improvement: everybody favours a good old fashioned chip, surely?
I was instantly impressed with Pastva and am adding it to our regular rotation of restaurants – even if it is all the way across the river!