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Poprad: Café La Fée

On a summer’s afternoon on a tree-shaded pavement cafe, groups of businessmen and suave young urbanites sit and slurp cafe au lait. The sunlight dapples their faces and slants into the interior, rendering the premises light, spacious, modern, inviting. The dapper old waiter deftly manages the clientele and pauses (at a sufficient distance not to cause offense, of course) for a cigarette. On the wall opposite the counter, the names of great French writers – Verne to Baudelaire – are scrawled in italics. Paris? Not a bit of it. La Fée lies at the heart of the High Tatras Mountains hub of Poprad. But it could have been plucked from a Montparnasse side street, it’s so French.

The menu is French, from its Quiche Lorraine to its mineral water. The service is French: it’s elegant, it’s respectful, it’s knowledgeable. The wine served is French. The cafe is still very new (it only opened in late 2012) so in this respect it is perhaps a little less French, but the place has been done tastefully to avoid the unfortunate ‘furniture showroom’ look a lot of totally refurbished restaurants have. It is not French in its prices, either (its coffees are under 2 Euros, its cakes are under 3 Euros, even a quiche will set you back less than 4 Euros). But in every other respect, Frenchness exudes throughout.

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Image ©www.englishmaninslovakia.co.uk

When I kick back with a coffee in a cafe, I like to do so with the intent of lingering a long while. I linger for the atmosphere, I linger for courteous service and I linger because I like to be allowed to linger. On all three counts, La Fée scores highly. Outside the pavement-fronting terrace is most popular but inside the conservatory-style outer room catches the best of the day’s light and would be perfect for when the weather is less clement than it was on my visit there. Here and around the counter (decorated with those legendary writerly names) is where the loners coveting caffeine fixes and the families on a proper a few hours of “cafe downtime” frequent: there are some sofas to encourage them in this. Getting the oldest of the waiters (pictured above) to serve you would secure you the dream Poprad cafe experience but being attended to by any of the friendly waitresses is no bad thing: they’ll explain the cake menu, for example, which changes daily as each of the fabulous cakes here is fresh, and takes several minutes due to the sheer variety. When I stopped by the last time it was a tough tussle between the Crème brûlée and the lemon and raspberry cheesecakes. But service complete, you’ll be allowed to linger as long as you want – and people do. 

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Image ©www.englishmaninslovakia.co.uk

La Fée (translating from French as the fairy, and indeed perhaps bestowing a certain magic on Poprad’s prime shopping street) is an anomaly in a sense, of course. Despite defiantly stamping on Poprad an air of timeless sophistication, perhaps what it illustrates more than anything is how Poprad is no longer the sleeping giant relying on its proximity to some sublime mountain scenery to pull in the punters – how it is very much a destination in itself, and how the wining and dining to be done around town (framed by those photogenic peaks) is a big part of the appeal.

 

A Quick Guide to the Other Content We Have on Poprad

Places to Go: Poprad’s funky contemporary art gallery in an old power station

Places to Go: Poprad’s lavish Aqua Park

Places to Go: Nine reasons to linger in Poprad

Places to Go/Getting Around: Taking the Mountain Railway into the High Tatras from Poprad

Places to Stay: A cool travel-friendly B&B in Spišská Sobota, Poprad

Places to Eat & Drink: Poprad’s trendy burger joint

Places to Eat & Drink: Poprad’s dignified Café La Fée

Places to Eat & Drink: Poprad’s Coolest Wine Bar

Places to Eat & Drink: Poprad’s gourmet chocolatier

Going Out: Poprad & the Manchester United Connection

Arts & Culture: Dedicated traditional Czech & Slovak music radio station now based in Poprad

Getting Around: London to Poprad Flights

Getting Around: The Poprad to Ždiar to Zakopane (Poland) bus

Top Ten Medieval Towns in Slovakia

 

MAP LINK:

LOCATION: Right on Námestie Svätého Egidia (number 114) next to the new Forum shopping centre (ooh, it’s all so glitzy and new).

FACEBOOK:

OPENING: 10am-10pm daily

BEST TIME TO VISIT: Come in the sun, any time, when you’ve got a spot of time to linger: after a long mountain leg-stretch, perhaps

NEXT ON THE JOURNEY: From La Fée it’s 2.3km northwest to Restart, one of the best new places for evening eating and drinking in Poprad

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Prešporák

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Wifi: Good

Just sometimes, there’s a cafe which makes you glad you moved to a city. Actually, in my case, Prešporák could have been a deciding factor. One October afternoon I was wandering Bratislava’s Old Town streets with my girlfriend and we almost bumped into two guys carrying this big replica of a 16th century Dutch sailing ship. It was easily the most interesting thing going on at that time. So we followed. They left it outside this cosy-looking place on Baštova. We stood, admired it until it probably seemed like we were trying to steal some of the rigging or something, then passed on. I remember looking through the window and seeing all kinds of delightful old furniture and books, but at that dreary hour on a Sunday it didn’t even definitely look like a cafe. Just, well, a cosy place that was going to get a really beautiful old ship.

Fast-forward a week or so and a friend is taking us on a tour of Bratislava cafes. It’s probably worth you knowing at this stage that I’m a coffee addict. I’ll drinks cups of it. Gallons of it, if you let me. So when I hear someone who knows a LOT about good coffee (and my guide certainly does) say: “apparently they do some of the city’s best coffee” I pay attention. Imagine my surprise and delight when my “some of the city’s best coffee” image was reconciled with my “16th century ship” image. It was the same place!

Prešporák is, in fact, mainly about really good, strong coffee. Sure it does tea, and some cakes (it doesn’t have a kitchen so nothing more substantial food wise except for the dependable encian (a creamy cheese served with a delicious oily onion salad). But the crema on that expresso, wow. Delicious. Fruity. I actually preferred it to Caffe Trieste, another pit stop on the same coffee tour. Caffe Trieste, whose merchandise (cups, sugar packets) Prešporák is using and doing itself no service by so doing. These guys should get their own brand out there, asap.

With cafes, I always have a soft spot for the ones that look like places where they wouldn’t really care if you lingered all day. Where there are comfy battered chairs, and shelf upon shelf of browsable books, and random paraphernalia to occasionally distract my gaze (old sewing machines for example). Prešporák has all that. And now, of course, that fantastic ship. A perfect writerly hangout this. I fully intend to hang out there. And probably write another blog on Prešporák when I do… Pictures to follow.

LOCATION: Baštova  9 (Baštova is best described as the little street to the right after you’ve strolled under the town gate).

OPENING: 11am-10pm Monday to Saturday

BEST TIME TO VISIT: Early afternoon, after the main lunchtime coffee rush, when it will be just you and a few students skiving lectures, and the odd caffeine-craving tourist.

RELATED POST: See Top Ten Best Cafes in Bratislava

Update Dec 2014: With regret I have to state that Prešporák is permanently closed (their Facebook page states it too now) so I’m removing it from our Bratislava Cafes section. I’ll keep it as a post on this blog, just in case it by some chance reopens or if you want a bit of a trip down memory lane. But I am gutted. This place was a real gem… :(