You say tomato, I say rajčatka: there’s more than one way to name almost everything in this city. Take, for example, the Dancing House, also known as the Dancing Building, locally called Tančící dům, although its official title is the slightly less-romantic Nationale-Nederlanden Building. Designed by Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunić, the building’s resemblance to a dancing couple earned it yet another nickname: Fred and Ginger. (I usually just say Dancing House myself.) It remains one of the most visited and most frequently photographed sites in Prague.
So what does that have to do with great beer? As of last month, the building’s newly renamed café and restaurant became only the second place in Prague to regularly stock beer from Pivovar Kout na Šumavě, one of the country’s best craft brewers.
Located on the Vltava’s eastern riverbank right at Jiráskův most, one bridge south of the National Theater, the Dancing House’s top floor has long been home to an arch, reservations-only French restaurant. But in late 2008 that location was taken over by the management of the great Angel Restaurant in Old Town, who opened a new restaurant with a new name, Céleste.
As you might expect from a Gehry building, the atmosphere and interior spaces are remarkable. (A balcony encircles the weird spherical sculpture that could represent Fred Astaire’s head.) The views of Prague Castle and Malá Strana are literally spectacular; the inventive, French-based cuisine is outstanding. And now, to go along with the restaurant’s seven-course tasting menu (1,450 Kč, or about $70 at today’s rates), you can choose a draft lager from one of the country’s best breweries.
Interestingly, the bar manager decided to stock Kout’s classic 12° pale lager. My favorite is the brewery’s 10° beer, which is as vibrant and bittersweet as many breweries’ premium brews, but the bar manager told me he believed that Kout’s 12° was better suited to pair with their food. It’s available in Céleste along with meals, as well as in the café-bar at the street level. I found it exceptionally well-tapped when I tried it with Max Bahnson recently. It’s not Žižkov-dive cheap — prices are 40 Kč per .3-liter glass in the ground-floor café, 65 Kč for the same in the top-level restaurant — but you have to remember you’re also paying for atmosphere, service and location. For me, considering the amazing views and the cool architecture, the price isn’t an issue.
What this means, however, is more than just wider availability for a great beer: it shows that one more of the city’s highest-profile, most luxurious restaurants is taking good beer seriously. Instead of just stocking whatever beer would give them the most money or would offer to pay for the most coasters and lights, the management at Céleste figured that they would do better by selling the beer that tastes the best.
What a concept. Incidentally, when I asked about sales, the bar manager said that with Kout on tap, he was selling three times more beer than he had anticipated. It’s certainly not going to be their biggest money-maker: Céleste is a restaurant, after all, with $35 main courses. But selling three times as much beer means they can probably afford to pay for their own coasters.