Jane Bower, a teacher, wine lover and Italophile from Cambridge, won our Piedmont truffle-hunting competition with her review of the Triton restaurant in Prague. In the judges' view it stood out for its sincerity, originality and wit. 'After reading the review, you really want to be there,' one judge said. Jane and her partner have won a three-day trip to Piedmont, where - among other treats - they will dine at the renowned Michelin starred Ristorante Antiche Contrade, have a private wine tasting at Angelo Gaja’s cantina in Barbaresco, spend a day truffle hunting with dogs in the Piedmont hills, and have a cooking lesson at the Antiche Contrade. The trip is provided by Italian travel specialists Tastes of Italy.
The Triton, Prague
One is hard pressed to find an eatery in Prague that is not subterranean. In three days I dined in more cellars, vaults and caves than I had probably ever visited, so I was not surprised when the gleaming stairs of the Hotel Adria in Wenceslas Square led straight down into the bowels of the earth.
The interior drew a delighted and incredulous gasp. Intimate and unexpected, the Triton Restaurant, preserved since 1912, is completely encrusted with stalactites, Art Nouveau decoration, inset fish tanks, and three-dimensional figures from Greek mythology.
This, teamed with graceful black chairs and fine pink and white table linen, made it momentarily hover between elegance and kitsch, but it has an endearingly naive quality. The head waiter is a Czech Jeeves, his demeanour, appearance and English equally impeccable.
Service is discreet, perfectly timed, never interfering. Sparkling kir royales were placed respectfully before us, followed by, free gratis, small warm white knots of bread with a sour cream spread and a tiny aspic jelly resembling an exquisite brooch.
Delicate starters of goats’ cheese and salmon, delighting equally the eye and the palate, were followed by a stunning fish course, unpretentiously presented and cooked to perfection. The flawless meal was accompanied by a superb wine and unintrusive music from a tuxedo’d pianist at the sleek black baby grand opposite Orpheus and Eurydice.
On booking for the following night, Jeeves merely inclined his head as if in complete understanding. This time we indulged in melting smoked duck breast, ravioli so fresh that it was almost unrecognisable as pasta, and pork, which we agreed must have come from some flying, heavenly pig owned by Zeus. After the bill was presented we ordered more coffee to delay leaving.
Returning four years later, the bizarre and beloved interior was unchanged, Jeeves still in charge. A broken glass was discreetly removed as if by sleight of hand.The puddings were so exquisite that we opted for the taster plate. Instead of the expected spoonful of each we received six miniature versions, each a jewelled dolls’ house dessert.
This beautiful experience, combining professionalism and warmth with grace, is strangely humbling, especially as it comes at Prague prices – well below what you would expect to pay for an equivalent meal in England. The Triton remains, so far, my very favourite restaurant.
Triton Restaurant, Wenceslas Square 26, New Town, Prague 1, Czech Republic
Written by Jane Bower