“Spejle,”—the word means “skewer” in Czech. And that makes it the perfect name for Bistro Spejle, where everything does, in fact, come on a thin wooden skewer or two. It’s a fresh and fun concept for eating out in Prague, in the Czech Republic.
Location: Jindřišská 16, Nové Město, Prague, a 3-minute walk from Wenceslaus Square. See their website here.
Menu: There is no menu, per se. The cuisine is Czech-style small bites, tapas-like, served buffet style. The concept is based on the popular open-faced sandwiches called chlebíček, a favorite Czech snack at any time of day or night. Selections change according to the season but might include variations on such typical local fare as pork with dumplings and sauerkraut, duck paté, chicken schnitzel and coleslaw, beef or salmon tartare, as well as pastas, salads, mini-quiches, mini-burgers, and gourmet hot dogs.
Thoughts: The food-on-a-skewer concept at Bistro Spejle makes for a fun, fast, and casual snack, appetizer, or full breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I was a bit confused about how things are done, but the staff was happy to explain, in English.
Here’s how it works: When you arrive, the wait staff shows you to your table and takes your drinks order. Then you take your plate and head to the counter, where all the dishes available are displayed. Each dish will have one or two skewers stuck into it. After poring over all the delicious offerings and asking questions about anything that looks unfamiliar, choose whatever looks good, take it to your table, and dig in. Put the skewers into the receptacle on the table. If you’re still hungry or curious, go back for more. Then go back for dessert. When you’re ready to leave, your server will simply count up the number of skewers and tally your bill, since every skewer carries the same price—29 CZK (Czech koruna), about US$1.25.
Like tapas/small bites everywhere, the skewer approach to dining is perfect for sharing. It gives you the chance to sample many different flavors and textures, warm and cold dishes, salads and desserts without going overboard on any of them. It’s brilliantly simple and fun, and it lets you control exactly how much food you get and how much you will pay for it.
I was with a small group so we had a broad range of tastes to try. We started with several chlebíček, those pretty open-face sandwiches: a delicate prosciutto wrapped around sliced pear on a bed of pesto, finger-sized sausages with roasted red pepper, a slice of pork loin over mashed avocado topped with pickled onions, and salmon tartare with avocado purée topped with caviar. And all of them on yummy crusty bread similar to a baguette.
Next we opted to try some of the hot dishes. We shared some octopus with couscous, a dish of duck breast with cabbage and potato cake, and a cheesy, eggy mini-quiche full of broccoli. We each had a mini-burger, slider-size but with a nice thick little patty with cheese, red onion, bacon and a high-topped sesame seed bun. We shared a paper cone full of crisp, house-made potato chips.
There were so many small bites laid out on the counter that tempted us to keep stuffing ourselves. The perfectly pink sliced roast beef folded over mashed potatoes and pickled veggies with a heap of very grainy mustard looked fabulous. A potato pancake stuffed with fresh sauerkraut called to me. A bowl of thick beef ragout smelled heavenly.
But I was eager to try some of the desserts, so I moved on. Being am intrepid lover of sweets, and one who always has a hard time choosing just one, I love the idea of a variety of tiny desserts. We chose from an array that included a perfect crème bruleé, a blancmange with fresh berries, mini-cakes, tiny tarts, and other pastries, and the house favorite, a light and creamy tiramisu.
You also won’t go thirsty here. The wine list is quite good, featuring several Czech wines with the rest mostly European, plus a couple of Argentine and Australian added in. Several are served by the glass, including a delightful prosecco. You can even choose a bottle to take away with you, at a 30% discount. There is a full bar and several listed craft cocktails.
But their big claim to fame is the gin and tonic bar. I’ve been told they have the widest selection in Prague, and I believe it. You’re handed a chart with all the gins listed across the top—nearly two dozen of them—and a dozen different tonics/mixers down the side. The chart is marked with suggestions for the best combinations, but you can mix and match them however you like.
There is also a range of coffee drinks, fresh ginger or mint tea, smacking good house-made lemonade, soft drinks, and beers.
The space at Bistro Spejle is sleek and modern, full of light, plants, blond wood tables, and hanging bare-bulb globe fixtures. The high ceiling has exposed ductwork plus a hanging art piece made of huge wooden skewers that looks like a giant’s game of pick-up sticks. Since most of these small-bite spejles are finger food, you’ll be happy to see several hand-washing sinks around the room.
Spejle is popular with locals, so reservations are recommended, especially in the evening. You can reserve online.
Price Range: This is easy. At the time of this writing, the flat price is 29 CZK (Czech Korunas) per skewer, or about US$1.25. Most dishes have one skewer; a few of the heartier meat dishes have two. So clearly you can pick quite a few dishes to try yourself or share and still end up with a very reasonable bill. Wine by the glass ranges from $3.50-4.25 or up to $8.50 for champagne. Beer and cider is $1.25-3.50. Craft cocktails are $6.50-8. Credit cards are accepted, but tips should be paid in cash.
NOTE: After 10 pm, all skewers are half price, though the selection is more limited as the kitchen begins to close down.