Friday, August 29, 2008

In praise of staff

It may seen as though I am stating the obvious here, but a pub needs more than just good beer and good food - I have never quite understood the point of a "wet lead" pub to use the industry parlance for a pub with little or no food. Food is an eseential part of drinking, an Irish chef friend of mine once told me that in the first pub he worked in their top selling food was spicy potato wedges, which of course stoked the drinkers' thirst and so they drank more beer. Essential though for a pub in my opinion is good staff, but that in itself is difficult to define.

There are a few bars in Prague I go to regularly and each of them has decent staff for varying reasons. For example Zlata Hvezda, where Mrs Velkyal, myself and my mates watch Liverpool perform the footballing version of the cruciatus curse, has good efficient staff. Perhaps because Zlata has been our "home" pub for 9 years now, we always get good service. But despite this, I would be reticent to suggest that their bar staff can be classified as "good", not that they are bad, but they don't for me get beyond decent.

When I say good staff, I mean the kind of barman or barmanka (I love that word, better than barmaid) who understands the customer and builds a relationship with them. Of the pubs I frequent in Prague, the staff I like the best are at Pivovarsky Klub - honestly I am not on a stipend from these guys, I just happen to love the place. Some would say that it helps that I am there a couple of time most weeks, but that would be the same for Zlata - depending on how far in the Champions League Liverpool go.

Take last night. Most Thursdays the guys I work with go for a drinking session - and being the dictator I am it is usually to a place like PK, Pivovar U Bulovky or recently Pivovar Basta - last night we went to PK. One of the guys is leaving Prague to go back to the UK, so of course a leaving bash was required. I was particularly looking forward to going to PK because I knew Ambrose was working. Ambrose for me is the barman supreme, friendly, knowledgable about the beers and having built a friendship with him, he knows what kind of beers I will enjoy and what to avoid. Also in that league is Klara, possibly the only barmanka I know who when she come to the table and asks what I want I can say "I don't know, what do I want?" and she'll pick just the right beer for me. Last night I had polished off a Bakalar from Rakovnik, followed by a Herold Blonde Lager and just wasn't enjoying the beers as usual, so I asked Klara to just bring me something. The result was a Comenius 14 degree lager from the Janacek brewery in Uhersky Brod which hit the spot perfectly.

In many ways, Pivovarsky Klub is like my Cheers, because everybody knows my name and they always look glad I came, always a sign of a great pub in my book.

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