Loos · Pubs

Loos v Oslu

Friends, today is a special today, and this is a special blog post. I’m sure you could sense it as soon as you clicked on whatever link brought you to my door – this isn’t the typical Bland Blog installment. Why? Because this is my first CROSSOVER post. That’s right, today’s literary gobbet from me doesn’t just fit into one of the headings above, but two. Hold back you’re excitement.

Sure, most crossovers refer to collaboration between two independent sources, but I think that when you have the content, you don’t need to borrow from other people.

Today I’m continuing my hunt for a local and my quest to review every toilet in the greater Prague area. In my sights: the Belgian beer place confusingly called Los v Oslu. (My clumsy translation is Elk in Oslo. Oslo, famously, is not in Belgium.)

I was first attracted to this cosy pub when I discovered that it a) boasted a whole bunch of non-Pilsner beers and b) was located within spitting distance of my flat. What more could you want?

I really loved the decor of the place – it’s the most recognisable pub I can remember visiting in the Czech Republic, all dark wood, slightly sticky tables, and low lights. It reminded me of a generic Cumbrian pub that caters to tourists on weekends and mardy locals throughout the week. I could imagine them having a deal on kids’ Sunday roasts and legislating on whether muddy dogs were allowed. I felt very at home.

The menu was extensive – for food at least: two laminated brochures appeared before both of us. Vegetarian options, as is common in the Czech Republic, were few, although, perhaps steering into the Belgian theme, the menu did feature some dishes I’ve not seen anywhere else in the city, like two kinds of mussels. I winced at the sight: seafood dishes aren’t at all common in Prague, for the very good reason that Czechia’s landlocked. The beer menu deviated from Belgium altogether, offering the standard Pilsner Urquel or Kozel with a cheeky Flying Cloud IPA tacked on the end.

I opted for an IPA and a goats’ cheese salad, and my friend went for chicken wings. Disappointingly, considering it sold itself as a specialist beer place, the ale tasted claggy and I didn’t consume it with my usual gusto. It left a filmy aftertaste which I only later budged by consuming a lot of imported milkshake stout at my kitchen table. Resigned, it was with a heavy heart and compromised palate that my friend and I agreed not to order a second.

Whilst the beer left much to be desired, I was open-minded as I headed into the toilets. After all, some of the worst pubs I’ve ever visited, as far as drink/atmosphere are concerned, have still provided a decent urinary experience.

The ladies’ consisted, as is conventional, of two small rooms, the first containing a sink, mirror, bin etc, and the second housing the loo itself. To my surprise, however, the lock was located on the door from the sink room to the corridor, rather than between the two bathroom spaces, leaving the user with the sensation of entering a toilet suite. Given that it was a quiet night at Los v Oslu, I enjoyed this luxuriousness, but it did occur to me that it would be frustrating on evenings with higher toilet traffic.

I am not, and I hope no one will contradict me on this, a stickler for consistency, so the contrast between the bar and its toilets didn’t faze me. As I say, the pub itself felt traditional, with its varnished wood and spindly chairs, and its fragrance of beer spilt long ago. The toilet suite, however, was modern in the extreme: an ocean of glistening black tiles offset by the gleaming white john and the minimalist toilet brush. It felt like I’d been transported from the loos of a disappointing bar to some kind of luxury hairdressers’ for the super rich. I was dazzled and amazed by the contrast – the journey that the good people at Los v Oslu took me on really was a trip to see how the other half lives. I’d go even further: I felt like I’d stepped onboard a rocketship.

This second photo better encapsulates the contrast: on the right, a high-tech metal door, a gleaming sink. Steel so brushed you can see your reflection in it – literally. The blue of my Sweden-themed t-shirt appears on the door like a meteor blasting through space. Truly a journey to the cosmos.

On the left, the characteristic stained wood. This, too, is a journey, but rather than blasting off, we’re setting our sights on the past – childhood memories of teas at pubs, of being allowed Coca-Cola and not understanding the appeal of beer.

I also enjoyed the fact that the frame for adverts was left empty. Rather than forcing us to consider eg affordable broadband, half-price electronics etc while on the potty, Los v Oslu invites us to take a moment of quiet reflection. Something we can all learn from.

My experience at Los v Oslu was, then, pretty strongly mixed. Beer- bad. Food – meh. But toilets? An epic journey that takes us from the cosmos to our own memories, from a high-end hairdressers’ to, yes, ourselves.

PS Girls’ toilets only. I can’t speak for the boys’.

living abroad · Loos

Lehká Hlava, Lehký Měchýř

Despite the fact that Czech traditional cookery revolves around pork fat and meat weighed by the kilogramme, Prague has a surprisingly vibrant vegetarian and vegan scene, which caters to locals and Czechs alike. Indeed, I was once told that Prague has the greatest number of vegan restaurants/capita of any European city. (I am, however, sceptical of this: for one thing, I haven’t bothered to Google around for the truth, and, for another, Prague is so small that winning anything ‘per capita’ doesn’t mean a lot.) Whilst the centre is full of meateries boasting traditional pork-based fare, the trendy outer areas are replete with avocado and meat substitutes. It was at I.P. Pavlova, for example, that I first tasted the joy that is deep fried cauliflower, and the pretentiously punctuated, uncapitalised ‘coffee room.’ in Vinohrady boasts two different kinds of avocado on toast.

Lehká Hlava (cz: clear/light head) is amongst the new generation of upmarket meat-free establishments catering to Czechs and tourists alike. I visited a few weeks ago and loved everything about the experience: the quirky decor, the friendly staff, the menu jam-packed with veggie and vegan dishes (including an incredible tofoie gras)…

Still, I know that most of my readers aren’t Prague based, and I don’t want to bore you with a gushing review of a place you’re never going to visit. Instead, please enjoy this detailed review of the toilet at Lehká Hlava. Strap in!

Also, and I appreciate the number of people who will get this is limited, I’m incredibly proud of the pun in the title: Light Head, Light Bladder. Love it. You’re all welcome.

The first port of call in any toilet review has to be the john itself. The unit in Lehká Hlava was outstandingly clean and equipped with a blue toilet duck. I was delighted, as the toilet blogging community has long accepted that blue is the optimal colour for any toilet cleaning products, and the bright white loo practically dazzled me.

The seat is at a slightly jaunty angle – this is no bad thing, as it lends the throne a certain whimsical character, which stops the tableau from falling into the trap of being offputtingly sterile. The pipe you can see on the right was somewhat rusty and aged, but in a pleasant way, like a disused locomotive or abandoned farm equipment. Overall a very decent unit.

I liked the contrast between surgical white wall tiles and rustic terracotta flooring; it reminded me of the food in Lehká Hlava itself – familiar flavours, with a modern twist.

The rustic/modern dichotomy was consistent throughout the bathroom area, as illustrated in the contrast between the Apple-white radiator unit and the tactile metal lock. I spent a few moments sliding the lock back and forth (you have to allow yourself some treats in this life), and I’m pleased to say that it was easily manipulable (it felt well-oiled) and pleasantly clunky.

Although the corner sink sacrificed comfort for space-saving (notice the awkward positioning of the soap dispenser, itself disappointingly service station-esque) the hand washing area contained this eye-catching piece of architecture. A mosaic arch was an original way to encourage patrons to spend that little bit longer lathering up. The arch itself, whilst ambitious, relies too much on spackle, as demonstrated by the sub-par tile:cement ratio. Still, an inspired creative choice.

The nature of the corner sink-mosaic arch combo was such that the mirror was unconventionally placed: not over the sink, as is usual, but on the wall opposite. Not unusable, but certainly frustrating; it would be difficult, for example, to use the sink as a makeup shelf, and washing your hands whilst also considering how cool you are would be nigh on impossible.

The final aspect of the bathroom was the most exciting. Yes, even more thrilling than the rustic-modern twist; still more exhilarating than the corner sink within its tile grotto. It’s not many toilets that include a secret cave, and I can only salute Lehká Hlava for including one here.

I was overall pleased with the bathroom. Although I generally prefer an over-the-sink mirror, the architect’s daring adventures into arches and nooks won me back. Would certainly recommend.