Food & Drink
The Down Under
Just below a theater famous for it’s burlesque show and on Vinohradská is one of the most family-friendly sports bars in Prague. The Down Under might look unassuming at first with its simple decor and televisions streaming cricket, but expat owners Ashley McGlynn and Meagan Hasa aim to make the spot a haven for parents who want to enjoy a drink or a meal while watching a game.
Australian McGlynn first came to Prague in the late 1990s. “I’d like to say it was Franz Kafka and history that brought me, but it was really just pretty girls and 1998,” he says. Although he returned home after a few weeks in the Czech capital, the city still lingered in his mind. Then, back in Sydney he struck up a conversation with another pretty Czech girl who eventually became his wife, and the two found themselves back in Prague to start a family. That was nine years ago.
Hasa’s journey also involved marrying a Czech. Originally from South Africa, she and her Czech-Australian husband Vojta relocated from London to Prague when Vojta’s family bought the abandoned Chateau Hostačov. They have since transformed it into an elegant, award-winning hotel and restaurant considered by many to be the best of its kind in the Czech Republic.
“Our relationship started, like many expats, with the great game of cricket,” McGlynn says.
McGlynn and Vojta met while playing cricket for the Australian Chamber of Commerce. The two quickly bonded over their sons as well as their love of “food and booze and sports,” according to McGlynn.
It was this combination that eventually led to their opening of The Down Under this summer. They realized there was a hole in the market for family-friendly sports pubs. Prague weather can be a nightmare for parents five months out of the year. If you have a 2-year-old and want to blow off some steam, it’s hard to find a place you can go that’s inside and welcoming.
For expats like Hasa who live far away from the helping hands of grandparents, you have to call the babysitter if you want to enjoy a cricket match at the pub, which can get expensive.
That’s why the first thing you see when you descend the stairs to The Down Under is a large kids corner, complete with a jungle gym for the little ones and ample space to park a pram. Parents can enjoy delicious food and drinks and watch a game while still keeping an eye on the offspring.
“It’s a place for him, her and them,” McGlynn says.
Aussies and Kiwis are also excited to have an authentic pub that cooks up their hometown favorites, since Fat Boy’s, Prague’s only other Australian pub, closed several years ago. In addition to the staples you would expect to see on a bar menu, The Down Under also has many dishes for children and offers a good variety of vegetarian and vegan options, from falafel to beer battered mushrooms and salads.
Hasa and McGlynn describe Australian cuisine as a melting pot of the country’s colonial history, and their menu reflects that. An example is the Parmy Burger, which Australians took from the Italians’ chicken parmigiana, added German schnitzel and then put it in a burger, according to McGlynn.
If looking to try a unique Australian dish, Hasa recommends the Kanga Sanga, a sandwich with peppers, sweet potato, tomato chutney and marinated kangaroo steak imported from the homeland.
“Kangaroo can be quite gamey, like deer,” she says, but also points out that its very healthy, lean meat.
“Show me a fat kangaroo!” McGlynn agrees.
The Down Under also sells many snacks made in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Some of the most popular items are Bundaberg ginger beer, which Hasa describes as the best ginger beer in all her travels, Biltong, a dried, cured meat McGlynn says is superior to beef jerky, and TimTams, which both describe as the best biscuits you’ll ever taste. In addition, they serve several crowd-pleasing Australian wines and meat pies from The Pie Shop, also owned by McGlynn.
While they plan to become more involved in the Vinohrady and expat communities, right now McGlynn and Hasa are focusing on smoothing out any kinks in their new business.
One of their most memorable nights was during the cricket world cup and Wimbledon finals in July. Expats were on the edge of their seats as the England and New Zealand game tied, and then the Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer match also went to a tie-breaker. Hasa and McGlynn both remember the “absurd cheering” that erupted in the pub.
“Everyone in the room knew that we’re never going to experience this again,” McGlynn says. “At least is was a tie. If it wasn’t, the English would’ve boycotted the bar!”
Vinohradská 48, 120 00 Vinohrady (located under Royal Theatre)
+420 603 839 349
By Nicole Ely