Reinventing Czech cuisine and reinstating a national symbol is no mean feat. Designer Vaclav Cervenka of Prague-based PH5 Atelier, along with restaurateur Tomáš Karpíšek and acclaimed Chef Oldřich Sahajdak, has achieved nothing less with the recently opened Hospoda.
The bar and restaurant marks the final phase in the restoration of the 19th century Bohemian National Hall on 73rd St in Manhattan. Inside Hospoda, the walls are lined with black wooden panels, which have been backlit to illuminate the engraved graffiti by Czech street artist, Masker. In keeping with the restaurant’s overall vision, the artist’s work represents beer, food and community (Hospoda is a traditional beer hall or gathering space in Czechoslovakia). “The main idea behind the design was to make a simple space with a focus on the quality of the materials,” said Filip Trčka, restaurant manager. Indeed, the 80-capacity ground-floor space is furnished with walnut-wood tables designed especially for Hospoda by PH5 and classic Thonet chairs. The centerpiece, however, is the bespoke bar by PH5. Made entirely of glass with a brushed steel frame, it displays the kegs of Pilsner Urquell, the Czech national beer and speciality beverage at Hospoda. The bar doubles as a stage for the in-house draught master and his various beer “pours.” In the center of the room, a rectangular section of floor has been replaced with glass and reveals the subterranean cellar.
Built in 1897, the Hall is a rare survivor of the social halls built for New York City’s immigrant ethnic communities. Though the ten-year effort to return it to its former glory will provide the Czech community with a dedicated Hall again, its crowning jewel, Hospoda, is designed to show off the contemporary aspect of Czech culture to its cosmopolitan city.