My memories of the old St Germain are fond, I must say. Tucked into a cosy little courtyard off bustling Obchodná, this dinky but dignified spot with its elegantly old-fashioned Frech decor, from the black-and white figures on the wallpaper to the ornate iron-and-stained-glass bar and tiled floor, was Bratislava’s first true bistro – and a match for a lot of what Paris could muster in quality.
The problem with the old location was space. They were always full – especially so at lunch time – and customers were being turned away a lot of the time. With the new location there is no such issue. On the same pedestrian street as the cool art house cinema, Kino Lumière, the new location is spacious.
And for first-timers to Bistro St Germain, the effect is impressive.
The decor is the same, and provides a welcome oasis of originality in the somewhat bland environs of Špitàlska behind the monstrous Tesco’s – a bland area but a necessary one to visit if you want to do some supermarket shopping, or catch a movie. The service has actually improved. Staff are friendly as ever and perhaps a little more attentive.
The food is still great. St Germain remains one of a handful of Bratislava cafes where lunch is a real pleasure and salads are good. The burgers – tanked full of avocado – are equally as delicious as in the old venue, you can’t get better panini in the centre of town and the cake selection (really good cheesecake) is phenomenal – in a multi-tier attention-grabbing glass counter by the bar. For a quality-price-ambience trade-off you couldn’t do much better in the area (the only other place to rival it would be near-by Obývačka).
And yet… the cosiness isn’t there any more. Bistro St Germain have done the best job they could in replicating the atmosphere of the old spot in a larger premises. And hey – pop in for lunch or drinks before catching a movie across the street (they are open until late). But it’s not the same. Just as many of the best Parisian bistros are in secluded serendipitous locations that you would have difficulty finding if you tried, so the St Germain of yore retained a hidden-from-the-masses magic. Now it announces itself to the masses. And the magic has diminished…
MAP LINK: Tip – The address is Rajksa 7 but actually the entrance is a block back, across from the Kino Lumière cinema.
OPENING: 10am until 11pm (Monday to Friday), midday to 11pm at weekends.
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Late morning or early afternoon, say eleven thirty to twelve thirty, when idling a while with one of their great coffees, a cupcake and – should you wish – an early lunch, is perfectly acceptable and a totally guilt-free activity.
BEST DISH: The burgers. But you should definitely have a cake too.