Let’s eat! A commonly heard phrase, especially among travelers. Certainly a big part of travelling, especially in foreign lands, is sampling the cuisine while soaking up the culture and maybe a glass of the best local wine.
There is certainly no lack of eating establishments in Bratislava and to the hungry and often overwhelmed traveler, finding that “memorable meal” can be a challenge, especially if you don’t speak the local language.
Bratislava’s cuisine is difficult to define in one word. This cosmopolitan European capital has been forged from the Hungarian, Austrian, German and Slovak cultures that have, at one time or another, dominated the city. Maybe a little history lesson will help to explain it further.
So, what’s available? References to “Pressburg cuisine” generally indicate the spicy Hungarian stews, goulashes, roasted pork, poultry, and fish. Austrian eateries feature deep fried meats – schnitzel – and amazing deserts. Germans influenced our roast – fancy wild boar and deer, sausages, goose or duck? Slovak traditional food consists of mainly different types of roast and grilled meat, grilled fish, fried cheese including the iconic sheep cheese and fresh vegetables.
Roast goose accompanied by lokše is considered a signature dish here. It’s accompanied by a potato pancake and red or white stewed cabbage and the meal is eaten mainly in autumn. You must not forget ‘Bryndzové halušky’, potato dumplings meal with sheep cheese and crispy streaky bacon, which can be found at almost every Bratislava restaurant. Actually potato, cabbage, and sheep or cow cheese are ingredients found in many traditional Slovak meals like ‘zemiakové placky’ (potato fried pancakes) or ‘kapustové halušky’ (potato dumplings with cabbage).
Current Bratislava cuisine discovered the rewards of using fresh, local ingredients and the power of seasonal cooking. Spring menus will typically feature asparagus and other vegetables accompanied by light wine-based sauces; summer menus offer light soups and freshly picked garden vegetables; autumn menus boast chestnuts, squash, and pumpkin flavored dishes and berry-flavored sauces. Winter menus lean towards hearty bean and lentil soups, dark meats and root vegetables.
Along with fresh, local ingredients, there is also a new breed of chefs trained abroad emerging in the city. Five-star hotels are hiring experienced international chefs to propel their hotel restaurants into competition with independent restaurants and these hotels today offer some of the best eating experiences in the city.
Restaurant districts have also sprung up in the shopping centres. The most trendy one is the Eurovea Gallery along the river Danube (where young professionals go to be seen) and in Hviezdoslavovo Square in Old Town. The area around the university along Obchodná Street and nearby SNP square features student pubs, traditional restaurants popular among visiting and local diners and trendy microbrewery pubs featuring craft beers.