Entree: Prague

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 December, 2007, 12:00am

A short stroll across the Charles Bridge, on the west bank of the Vltava River, lies the historic Mala Strana quarter.

Essensia, Mandarin Oriental

Dining in a 14th-century monastery offers a heavenly experience in more ways than one. Located in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (below), Essensia's five adjoining sections have high ceilings, dome windows and a hidden staircase leading to an underground wine cellar (which can be booked as a private dining room). European, Asian and Indian dishes are presented on one menu. This blend of cuisines offers diners the chance to mix and match. Start with crispy Peking duck spring roll triangles served with sweet plum, chilli and coriander dip (240 koruna, HK$102) then try their Thai tom kha goong (320 koruna) before sampling a crepinette of veal fillet with mushroom ragout on polenta cake, glazed vegetables and sage sauce (560 koruna).

Coda Restaurant, Aria Hotel

Located in a stylish, music-themed hotel, Coda Restaurant dishes up contemporary international cuisine on crockery that is hand-painted with caricatures of famous musicians. In winter the conservatory dining room on the ground floor allows light to stream in from skylights, while in summer the hotel's roof terrace offers one of Prague's best views. Czech selections from the menu include Bohemian goulash served with Carlsbad dumplings and thinly-sliced red onions (520 koruna) and crispy oven-roasted duck accompanied by sauerkraut, steamed red cabbage and potato dumplings (545 koruna). There's a chef's tasting menu with wine for 2,500 koruna per person.

Restaurant U Glaubicu

This historic restaurant with its 700-year-old cellar, traditional tavern, salon and street cafe (above) is brimming with character. It's the spot for a hearty traditional meal - and a pint or two of Pilsner Urquell - at very reasonable prices. The restaurant began as a brewery in 1520 and gradually developed a reputation as a meeting place for politicians and nobility. Try the half roast duck on braised red cabbage, served with two kinds of Bohemian dumplings; at 220 koruna it won't break the bank.

Aquarius Restaurant, Alchymist Grand Hotel and Spa

The cuisine is French, Italian and Mediterranean, and includes starters such as octopus carpaccio with black olives from Taggia, tender potatoes and valerian salad (690 koruna) and main courses such as beef tartare with potato cake and green salad (790 koruna).

U Zlate Studni

Set in the Mala Strana quarter of Prague, the restaurant has amazing views of the terracotta rooftops over Mala Strana and across to the ancient buildings of Prague's Old Town. Its five-course degustation menu (1,500 koruna) has dishes such as pan-fried foie gras and charlottes served with truffle-potato coulis and slices of smoked duck breast, and warm chocolate almond cake with marinated plums, vanilla ice cream and cognac foam.