Press – “Bohemians were taught to eat quality beef and to care about the origin of meat”

  • “Twenty-three years ago, when the restaurant Bílá kráva (White Cow) opened in Prague’s Vinohrady district, it was a truly pioneering venture.” … “because until then, nowhere else could visitors to gastronomic establishments enjoy quality and mature meat from meat breeds of cattle”
  • Not everyone remembers how the restaurant started more than 20 years ago. The article describes the history of the restaurant and places it in the context of the development of Czech gastronomy, which is already clearly visible today.

Twenty-three years ago, when the Bílá kráva restaurant opened in Prague’s Vinohrady district, it was a truly pioneering venture. Until then, visitors to gastronomic establishments could not enjoy quality and mature meat from beef cattle breeds, in this case the Charolais breed, anywhere else. And this is the raw material to which the company has remained faithful ever since.

‘We wanted to show the people of our country the difference between the beef they were used to and beef that was dry-aged and butchered the way the French do,’ recalls Zdeněk Musil, one of the two owners and founders of Bílá kráva. It was probably a somewhat risky choice for the time, but in a way it was logical – both founders were involved in breeding work at Beef Natural, a company that imported breeding material from France with the aim of starting breeding meat cattle breeds in the Czech Republic. These breeds were hardly bred in our country at that time.

Food as a ritual

The Charolais is an indigenous French breed and this is also the reason for the range of dishes offered in the restaurant, many of which are based on the gastronomy of the Gallic cock country. “What we appreciate about the French is their relationship with food and their respect for the people who create it,” says Zdeněk Musil. Guests can enjoy dishes made from snails, frog legs, lamb dishes, as well as “sea creatures” such as anemones or sea urchins, although not all specialties are offered year-round. Among connoisseurs, however, the restaurant is best known for its beef steaks.

“But we don’t want to be just a steak restaurant,” emphasises Zdeněk Musil, adding that the plan is to open another outlet, probably next year, which would focus more on lesser-known and more attractive French dishes. In other words, the enthusiasm for innovation and the desire to discover new gastronomic horizons for domestic diners has certainly not waned.

But it’s not just about the dishes. Part of the concept that the restaurant offers guests is food as a ritual that everyone should enjoy. “For example, you shouldn’t talk too much when eating a steak, and you should bite into the bite about thirty times,” says the restaurant’s chef Vít’a Bajčanová. By the way, this is also quite an unusual phenomenon – in the “better pubs”, men usually cook.

Do you know what you’re eating today

So far, the only specific “Charolais restaurant” in the country has been as careful as few others throughout its entire existence to clearly identify the origin of the ingredients used to prepare its dishes. Twenty-three years ago, diners could already find out on a board displayed in the restaurant which farm the bull from which the dish came was reared.

It is this link with agriculture that the farm still retains today, and in this respect it was once ahead of its time and in many ways is still ahead of its competitors. The lambs, pigeons and, of course, the beef come from its own farms, as do the fruit spirits from the Radlík distillery, which won three silver medals this year in the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2018, the biggest domestic success on the world stage in the field of fruit spirits so far. Encouraged by this success, the company is looking to expand in this area as well.

From the breeding practice of the “founding fathers” comes the attractive preparation of desserts directly in front of restaurant guests using liquid nitrogen. The show is very efficient and the resulting dessert is very tasty. The basic motto of the restaurant – “You know what you eat and you know what you drink” – is really down to the last detail. The offer also includes Krondorf natural mineral water in specific glass bottles and with a certificate, containing very fine, imperceptible bubbles that help to “cleanse” the mouth of the previous taste and thus start a full sensory experience when perceiving the taste of the next one.

Satisfying guests is becoming increasingly difficult

It should be added that although the Bílá cow restaurant is one of the more luxurious ones, in many other gastronomic establishments, and not only in the centre of Prague, the consumer is faced with prices that are considerably higher. Perhaps this is also because the iconic establishment, incidentally one of the founders of the Czech Union of Meat Cattle Breeders, cannot complain about the lack of interest from guests who are far from coming only from our country.

In fact, it is a business that contributes to the positive image of domestic gastronomy and has certainly not yet said the last word. Although, as Zdeněk Musil points out, it is becoming increasingly difficult to come up with something that is attractive to consumers, but also of high quality and traceable origin.

Author: Petr Havel

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