Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Historic Tavern U Meluzíny, Domažlice

On a recent trip through south-west Bohemia, I stumbled across a great place to eat; Historická Krčma U Meluzíny, (Historic Tavern at Meluzina's) in Domažlice.

Meluzína was a mythological creature popular in legends and heraldry in the middle ages. Something between a siren and a mermaid, Meluzína was also a wife and a mother who had asked her husband never to disturb her on Saturday afternoons. Of course he did and discovered that she was a mermaid. Meluzína fled through the window with a scream, abandoning her husband but returning each night to nurse her children. From then on, wailing winds in chimneys or other spaces in the house were called Meluzína's songs.

When I first walked past the pub I wasn't sure if it was open for business; the entrance looked kind of dusty and I couldn't see any light or movement from inside through the thick windows of wavy glass. Giving it a try though, I pushed open the heavy wooden door to find a low ceilinged, dimly lit little room set up with five or six heavy wooden benches, a pile of old-fashioned ceramic beer coasters on each one.

'Can I help you?'
'I'd like to have lunch if you're still cooking'
'Certainly. Sit anywhere you like'

I sat near the window and the long haired waiter in the leather apron and traditional knee length trousers brought the menu and a slip of paper with the specials of the day in pencil. I liked the sound of the Venison with rosehip sauce, but 179Kč was a little steep for me so I chose a 99Kč Hungarian chicken dish with chips on the side. A moment late the waiter was back to explain that the cook had baked fresh bread that day and that it would suit with the dish much better than chips.

'It's a 400 year old recipe and chips just don't go with it, but it's up to you.'

When the dish came it was a stew and the thick slice of heavy bread went with it perfectly. There were rings of leek in the creamy sauce and a spice that I couldn't quite put my finger on but which could have been turmeric.

The waiter used the informal version of Czech right away and I found out later that he was the proprietor and had been running the place for the last four years. I had the impression that he was probably part of an historic re-enactment troupe-those groups who keep alive and demonstrate skills like swordfighting, falconry and archery at summer festivals in castles and historic towns.

All kinds of medieval weapons, helmets and other pieces of armour decorated the walls of the pub; well chosen music played in the background the whole time I was there, strings of garlic and corn were hanging up to dry and scattered across the thick unglazed tiles on the floor was a thin layer of straw.

I'm sure some Czechs cringe when they hear about a pub or restaurant with a medieval theme; much as would Americans hearing of a cowboy-themed steakhouse or Australians hearing about anything to do with jackaroos or Crocodile Dundee. The atmosphere at U Meluziny though is not a facade tacked on for marketing reasons; it's what the owner is genuinely interested in, and if the people I overheard on my visit are any indication, so are his regular customers.

But no matter what you or your friends think of the theme, U Meluziny is worth considering for two other reasons. One; It's run by the owner who is enthusiastic about what he does, and that's one of the best ways to ensure a good experience with any kind of business. And two; because (along with the Two Marys' in Český Krumlov) it's probably the best place to find out that there's more to traditional Bohemian food than Vepřo-knedlo-zelí (yawn) and Svičkova.

I’ll certainly be going back next time I’m in the area.

Historická Krčma U Meluzíny
Vodní 19, Domažlice
Tel. 379 768698


Francie said...

I'm hungry!

sansIcarus said...

"wailing winds in chimneys or other spaces"?

From that picture of the Meluzina, I'd say the winds are passing through 'other places'.