CZECHOSLOVAK NATIONAL HOUSE CLUB RESTAURANT: THE DUMPLINGS THAT TIME FORGOT
It may be fifteen years since Czechoslovakia dissolved itself into two nation states, but walking inside The Czech and Slovak House in West Hampstead you would be hard pressed to find much sign that the two were not still one. Maps of the combined nation line the wall and pictures of the last president, Vaclav Havel still have pride of place (although admittedly, he was also president of the Czech republic for ten years)
The food too is stuck in the past with a menu scarcely changed since Czechs and Slovaks arrived in numbers during and after WWII. It is enough to make a cardiologist quiver in their boots with deep fried bread, cheese, bacon and goose liver on offer for starters followed by hefty portions of roast duck, goose breast, wild boar and schnitzel for the main course, all coming with challenging portions of potato or bread dumplings. This is the food that time forgot, just like The India Club and The Polish Hearth Club, giving ex-pats a taste of a their homeland and us a glimpse of why they probably left in the first place.
I opted to eschew appetizers tempted by the list of desserts and was presented with a main course of goulas, which I was told was less spicy that its Hungarian counterpart and came with meaty chunks of tender beef, rather than pork (also on offer). The sauce was rich and dark and I cleaned the plate with a surprisingly light bread dumpling.
While I waited the twenty minutes it took to prepare my dessert, I read my Boxing News and sipped on a powerful, black Bernard beer before having a plate of apricot dumplings put in front of me. The whole fruit was surrounded by a dense, sweet steamed dough and topped with cinnamon sugar and melted butter before being spread with whipped cream. It resembled a badly performed breast implant operation, but was lighter and tastier than it appeared. I polished it off in short order much to the approval of the young Czech waitress.
A bill of £14 including a 10% tip for two hefty courses showed that their pricing has also failed to keep up with modern times. There is nothing subtle about food like this, but it is tasty enough and decent value, particularly when you consider that, as the beef and dumpling combination sits uneasily in my stomach, supper may be unecessary. But, if I had to eat like this every day, I suspect I would probably go and live in another country too.