A Classroom for the Senses With a Side of Hot Chocolate

Kabinet Kavarna & Galerie Melds Mystery, Memories and Moravian Wine

By Lexi St. John

Thick, creamy, heavenly hot chocolate swirls in a small white mug, accompanied by a delicate pear cranberry salad with crisp toast. Pages of spiral notebooks rustle on gently scratched wooden tables, fluttering the centerpiece’s darkened, dried rose petals. Scattered red, Persian, tea-stained carpets soften the steps of a quiet smiling man who holds a plate with two fluffy golden waffles and a side of apricot jam.

I sit at one of the small tables across from an old upright piano, sipping my warm beverage while observing the yellowing piano keys under the open songbook. A large stuffed pheasant eyes me from a display cabinet, and I can’t help but think it’s telling me to try the hot wine. The whistle of a blue jay from a crooked bird clock is the only indication of time passing, the only reminder of reality. In the corner, a group of chattering students debate their philosophy midterm over cold beers and paninis.

Cocktails in the classroom? Pints with the professor? Kabinet Kavarna and Galerie has it all. A small and inviting gem of Prague 6, Kabinet combines the amenities of a bar, a classroom, a restaurant, a library, a greenhouse, and an art gallery, giving its customers an engaging and comforting experience. Its front room, adorned with bookcases, potted plants, vintage lamps, old coat hangers and used typewriters is complimented by finger paintings of giraffes and elephants hanging above the bookshelves.

Kabinet is situated in a beautiful early twentieth century building a few blocks from the Dejvicka metro station in Prague 6. Despite its simple exterior, the club’s interior features a visual paradise, its display windows flaunting antique mannequins, umbrellas, and school bags.

“The basic idea of Kabinet was to foster reminiscence, nostalgia, memories of summer school or primary school in each of us that left emotionally large footprints on our lifetimes,” Machacek said.

Founded in 1999, Kabinet was conceived by professional journalist Julius Machacek who believed that after the Velvet Revolution, Czech society was not transforming quickly enough. He longed for his community to feel comfortable enough to take back its cultural freedom and right of expression after years of oppression from Communist occupation.

“I wanted to create an environment for my customers that felt like a second home,” Machacek said.

Kabinet

Kabinet Kavarna & Galerie fosters a feeling of home.
Photo courtesy of Kabinet Kavarna-Galerie Facebook

After throwing around some ideas, his homely solution was Kabinet. The word ‘kabinet’ is Czech for a professor’s office or place of study. In creating this hybrid bar/gallery space, Machacek wanted to create an environment featuring objects reminiscent of a chemistry lab or physics classroom. He settled on this scholarly and exploratory theme, appealing emotionally to his customers by creating a safe space for them to create and to socialize after the hardships of living in a communist society.

“The basic idea of Kabinet was to foster reminiscence, nostalgia, memories of summer school or primary school in each of us that left emotionally large footprints on our lifetimes,” Machacek said.

And Kabinet has left an even bigger footprint on the community. The vibrant cafe/ bar opened in February 2000 and still is visited by many customers, most of which are regulars.

Both newcomers and the usual crowd will never feel bored of the bar’s visual eye candy and people-watching atmosphere. After renovating the former produce stand and building a loft-like structure over the central bar area, Machacek designed the interior himself. Kabinet’s second hand furniture and artwork make the Prague 6 bar a unique location and experience.

“The people who come here always find it a sort of magical, mysterious place” Machacek said. There’s enough mystery in the old books and stuffed birds to go around.

Kabinet Kavarna-Galerie provides a space for things from studying, to hanging with friends, to grabbing a delicious bite to eat  Photo by Lexi St. John

The delicate pear cranberry salad with crisp toast was delicious.
Photo by Lexi St. John

But Kabinet offers much more than just an aesthetically stimulating environment. The menu’s long list of food and drinks is enough to keep regular customers interested even after years of visiting. The food menu is reasonably priced and features a number of large dishes, including traditional Czech food as well as a typical cuisine that would satisfy an American palette. Try the “Balkan Smuggler”, a cheese sandwich with peppers and onions on a roll for 52 crowns, or the “Moravian Panini”, a smoked pork sandwich with vegetables, for only 75. For a light lunch, the “Kabinet Salad”, featuring cranberry jam, ginger, olives and bamboo shoots, for 85 crowns is always a safe bet. The drink menu is just as diverse, ranging from local Czech draft beer to tangy Elderberry juice.

Overall, Machacek is extremely proud of his not-so-little restaurant. “Kabinet appreciates all of its customers, among who are young people, especially students from the nearby university, and the older generation,” he said.

Through his hard work, Machacek and his friends have created a masterpiece and a “haven of peace and quiet” humbly nestled away in Prague 6.

Kabinet Kavarna and Galerie
Terronska 619/25, 160 00 Prague 6, Czech Republic

Lexi St. John is in the NYU Gallatin Class of 2015. Her hometown is Los Angeles, California.

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Categories: Culture, Fall 2013 Issue Number 2

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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