Czech Club Restaurant
74 West End Lane
West Hampstead
Camden NW6 2LX
20/07/2011
We needed: two folding sun lounges, one folding camping table, a cool bag and there is only one place to go: Argos. We haven’t got a balcony or a patio or a garden. Nothing at all. So we didn’t really need those things…we just wanted them! But the building does have a flat roof and if you ignore: health& safety, the fact it is shared, the fact the only access is the fire stairs and the fact it is flooded even in the sunniest day on Earth, I suppose we have a beautiful roof terrace! The only Argos in London stocking all the components of our uber-stylish “open air living room” was the one on Finchley Road, by “coincidence”, a stone’s throw from the Czechoslovak National House & Restaurant…where we were so keen (NOT) to have dinner at. Had the food been disgusting, we would have our consolation shopping, at least!

Charlene, all excited, got us in front of a tired looking but still imposing Edwardian (?) House. We laughed: “She’s gone mental again! Or maybe the restaurant is hidden in a courtyard not far from here. Lets’ drive around a bit more; I’ll look on the left and you look on the right side…” But there’s she goes again: same spot. There was, actually a flashing sign and one of those life-size statue of a chubby-cheery cook at the entrance, but still too good looking for a Czech Restaurant… I thought malignly. Inside: a big staircase, paintings and a multitude of tiny rooms leading god knows where. Anyway, the waiter (really nice) showed us to our table. The restaurant was semi-empty a part from two couples and an Asian family, speaking English to each other with a very strong accent, under a portrait of the Queen in a Czech restaurant in NW6…I thought it was hilarious! But moving on…the order was taken very quickly and service was prompt too. The room looked ok, yes a little dated, but apparently the club remained unchanged for ages, and they’re really proud of it. So nothing was wrong really, but still I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of Czech cuisine. Edo goes to Prague regularly and ordered with no hesitation roasted duck with dumplings and Sauerkraut; I had Halusky: small dumplings with cottage cheese and bacon. I looked at it, smelled it and thought “Mmmh…it reminds me of spatzle, but without spinach…I bet they bounce back if I throw them on the wall…” WHAT A DULL STATEMENT!!! They were just PERFECT! Fabulous consistency, a little rubbery as they are supposed to be, but light and so flavoursome! I had spatzle at the German restaurant and they were BLEAAHHHHHHH; these were so close to the ones I cook at home or I have in South Tirol…thumb up! Edo’s duck was ok, just as he thought it would have been –he said. We drank a beer and a bottle of water. The bill was somewhere around £25 between the two of us.

Disappointed for not having been disappointed, what did we do next? We drove home feeling a bit guilty about the prejudice, we challenged the weather, took the sun lounges up to our not-at-all-our roof terrace and had a drink. What a lovely evening!

  • Food: 2.5
  • Ambience: 2
  • Service: 2.5
  • Value: 3
  • Overall: 2.5
Monica
We agonised over this one for over a month, a combination of me not really wanting to do it as I have been spending way too much time dealing with my Czech colleagues, and of the reviews and appearance of the place, judging from the internet, not being exactly something to look forward to. In the end we found the courage to head over to West Hampstead, on a bright summer evening, to finally tackle the Czech Republic.

The area is residential, pretty, and very British, as far removed in appearance to Prague ad it could possibly be. This is not really just a restaurant as more of a social club, set in a cute (if it got a lick of paint) townhouse and barely discernible from people’s homes around it. There’s a bar room (incredibly depressing) and a restaurant room, which may be in need of a spruce up but actually looked better than a number of other places we have been to as part of the mission for which we had had much higher expectations. By the time we had sat down we were already laughing about this having the potential of being a great night out after so much dreading it.

The staff and the bar patrons looked Eastern European but the people in the restaurant were a mix of British, Continental, Far Eastern. It was also a blend of couples, friends and families alike.

The menu was genuine enough, with some Czech classics. Names are beyond me but I go to Prague often and they had the usual duck with cabbage and soft wheat “thing” they always bring you with meat, plus a couple of other familiar ones. We had to wait for ages for the food, which given there were four tables sitting at any given moment was not impressive. However, when it came, the food was pretty good.

I had a stew of duck and mushrooms with various sides which was actually quite good, Monica had some spatzle with pancetta and a creamy sauce which between us we wiped out of the plate. We also had some creamy sauerkraut which was fabulous. I drank Pilsener Urquell, of course. The bill came at close to nothing, £27 for two including service.

Overall this is a bizarre place. I would never go there normally as it is way too shabby and characterless for a night out, however the potential is there for a really nice restaurant, which we weren’t expecting at all. Food is perfectly acceptable, the facilities are structurally fabulous and would only really benefit from a refurb, maybe a couple of tables outside, a bit more of a brewery look, more leveraging of the Czech theme, and this could be really good.

  • Food: 2.5
  • Ambience: 1.5
  • Service: 2
  • Value: 3
  • Overall: 2.25
Edo
CZECH REPUBLIC