Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rotund Antipodean Marsupial

I am not sure if ethno-pub is an actual term, but they are everywhere. Think of your home town, is there an Irish bar? Is it called The Dubliner, the James Joyce or Molly Malone's? If you are British and live outside the UK, does where you live have pubs called The Lions, The George and Dragon or The Rose and Crown? Prague is full of ethno-pubs, I even know of a couple of pubs that declared themselves to be distinctly South Bohemian, and the names above are, or were, examples of the city's various ethno-pubs. However, I am fairly sure that wherever you live, you don't have an Australian ethno-pub called the Fat Koala, or as it is in Czech, Tlustá Koala.

The thing with Koala though is that it is really a British style pub with a couple of Foster's signs and cuddly toy koala's scattered about to add "authenticity". For those of us who have been in Prague for a while, there is a very good reason for this, it used to be a British pub, called The John Bull, and all around the pub you can see John Bull Bitter stickers, and even a couple of handpumps - how I wish they were being used rather than purely decorative.

Having once been a British pub, the decor in Koala is classic British, lots of dark wood, stools at the bar, an area with comfy seating, and if I remember rightly, a snug upstairs - though without the one way glass for watching the indescribable lower orders whilst quaffing one's ale. The bar itself I think is one of the best in Prague - solid wood, with glasses hanging of it and a nice array of taps - the pub mainly sells Staropramen, as well as Kelt and Velvet from the same stable. Of course, being an Aussie pub, they have Foster's - despite the fact, I am assured, that Foster's is almost non-existant in Australia itself. So there we have one of the reasons that Koala gets on my regular pub list, it feels a bit like home, and everyone likes to go home once in while regardless of how long you have lived abroad.

While we are on the subject of decor, I have a confession to make - I love the old time metal signs that advertise beer. My particular favourite is the Budweiser Urquell sign I took a picture off last year. The walls of Koala are covered in these kinds of signs, and not just for Czech beers, but all manner of things; Irish stouts, soap and even tyres.

Given my well documented distaste for Staropramen, why do I include Koala on the list? Beyond of course the decor and historical interest, after all who goes to a pub to look at the furniture? There have been two main reasons over the years for going there, it used to be the only place in town where you could get cider, or at least something resembling it, Strongbow - and in the middle of summer there are times when even beer won't quench a thirst like cider can. These days though I can buy cider at the Cider Club, or even easier for me pop Marks and Spencer for a few bottles of their simply superb Organic Cider. If I fancy something different, then Robertson's, as well as British ales, sells Magners Irish Cider. Put very simply, I go to Koala because it is the only pub near me that always has something on tap from Pivovar Kocour Varnsdorf.

Simple really, a pub where I like the surroundings, and they serve beers from one of my favourite brewers in the Czech Republic - and they even have the right shaped glasses for serving British style ales in! Importantly they seem to have worked out how to pour an ale so it doesn't take 10 minutes, and you don't have to order your second when you are a third of the way down your first, although out of habit I generally do so anyway.

So if you are visiting Prague and can't be bothered with trams and metros to find a pub with excellent craft beer, just go to Koala and have a Kocour. If you want a map, drop me an email.

4 comments:

  1. I love the slightly desperate Beamish ad.

    My favourite ethno-pub in Prague was the Hiberno-Cuban one, O'Che's. The punnage was definitely tastier than any beer they served.

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  2. I have never been to O'Che's, mind you at least Guevara's grandmother was Irish!

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  3. Ethno-pubs seem like a double-edged sword. If you're an expat, it could be a godsend; if you're a tourist, it could be just the opposite.

    I recall such a place in Vienna that billed itself as an Australian pub, serving Foster's and VB, but was for all intents and purposes kind of a cultural mockery. This was around the time of last year's Champions League final. Instead of playing it safe, we decided to venture out to where the locals gather, only to almost get beaten up by a bunch of rough-and-tumble Headhunters... although I take it they have been the Austrian chapter.

    Little did they know, I despise Man U just as much.

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  4. You mean you didn't have your Liverpool shirt?

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