Three great days in Bratislava draw to a close, and I’ve found a fine restaurant — Messina in Hotel Marrol’s at Tobrucka 4.
We’re staying at the Marrol’s — the restaurant was right under our noses! Very elegant — ochre shantung panelled walls surrounded by precise oak frames, contemporary art hanging, fabric napkins for dabbing and excellent service — its food was the most refined I’ve eaten in more than three weeks in Europe.
Yet it’s mostly empty, and chef Michal Skrabak’s dishes are simply not making on locals and tourists the impression they should. A huge pity.
Stodge wins from England to Turkey. Unless you pay a fortune, you simply don’t get elegantly plated, refined cooking — the sort of precisely prepared and plated assembly dishes we take for granted in Melbourne. Whether you’re eating out in Greece, Germany, Italy, France, Austria or Slovakia, most concoctions appear as if they’ve been shitted on to the plate. And I won’t continue the metaphor to what they actually taste like.
For the first two nights in the Slovakian capital, we tried restaurants with a bit of form. Uninspiring both, mainly because ingredients were overcooked, meat tough, dumplings without flavour, sludges overwhelming, salads wet and tired … I didn’t take notes so can’t go on too much about them. Too dispiriting.
At Messina tonight we shared an entree of lamb pierogi (8 euros or about $12). You get three mini-pasties of house-made al dente and translucent fresh paste containing a fine lamb mince. They were spokes around a hub of excellent sour cream on which floated tiny cubes of ham and a scattering of chopped chives. Around the lot were tiny dots of a strongly flavoured oil-based mint sauce. Friend onion rings garnished.
They say the above is Slovakia’s national dish, but I doubt that there’d be any other version of it as refined.
Veal breast had been rolled with herbs and cooked sous vide, I suspect, one of the chef’s favorite techniques, I was told. Costing about $23, it was exquisite meat — real veal and more tender than a Viennese waltz — sitting in cooking juices that were lightly reduced, sticky, and authentic. Accompaniments were perfectly sweated spinach, Swiss-brown mushroom bits and a handful of perfect golden orbs, melty cheese croquettes.
For three courses and two glasses of wine we paid 50 euros, a price not all that different from what you could easily be charged for very much worse tucker in Bratislava’s cobbled tourist streets.
And Marrol’s is a brilliant hotel. Comfy large rooms delightfully furnished and decorated, a turn-down service and a mini-bar that is entirely complimentary. It’s replenished daily, and you may help yourself to soft drinks, four bottles of water, a half-bottle of fine white wine and a can of beer. And we paid 110 euros a night for the enormous privilege of staying at Marrol’s — with a fabulous breakfast to boot.
Restaurant Messina, I understand, is only one of a couple of places in Bratislava with any pretence to style and culinary subtlety. Go there whenever you’re next in town. Most of the resto recommendations in guide books and websites, by the way, don’t mention this place. It tells me you may dismiss their advice.