Art and fire: An afternoon in Patrik Tkáč's new experience restaurant "Eck"
Not far from Vienna, in the Slovakian capital Bratislava, food-loving investor Patrik Tkáč has fulfilled his dream of owning his own experience restaurant - the "Eck" - and a winery. Tkáč has hired the young chef Daniel Tilinger for his project.
The last few metres to the restaurant lead past young vines and oversized works of art in the garden - a metre-high rocket smashes into pieces of cake - and you can already get a pleasant whiff of one of the restaurant's trademarks; here, barbecues are cooked in the open kitchen directly in front of the guests over an open fire. An evening in the "Eck" should be "an experience", that's what the team is committed to.
The "Eck" is located on a hill above the trendy Devín district of Bratislava, and until it opened at the end of last year, it was perhaps the most eagerly awaited new culinary project in Slovakia; not least because it was set to change an entire district. Behind the "Eck" is not just anyone, but Patrik Tkáč. He is a highly successful entrepreneur, financier, co-founder of the "J&T Finance Group" and a proven wine lover and connoisseur. As a vigneron at heart, and after more than three years of detailed planning, the 50-year-old has not only fulfilled his dream of a restaurant experience, but has also set up the Zláty Roh vineyard right next door, whose vines also surround the restaurant.
Here, his winery manager Filip Nagy produces classic white and red wines that continue the great tradition of Bratislava wines, which were once prized and sought after during the monarchy. The wines from the Goldeck and Purweg vineyards (at least now you can guess where the restaurant got its name from) are more classic; the Pinot Noir and the Bordeaux cuvée of Merlot and Cabernet are elegant accompaniments to food. The wines from Nagy's second small project bear the name 7Radku, where fans of the "funky style" get their money's worth.
The "Eck" has a dignified, cosy atmosphere, and that's not just because of the open grill. Around 30 guests can be seated at the six tables (there are a further ten seats in a separate room for those seeking more peace and quiet), and Slovakian craftsmen and artists have contributed wooden furniture, porcelain and works of art. They are convinced that a good restaurant is not just about good food, but that "every single item here completes its soul". A seven-course tasting menu is offered, which bears the signature of the chef, who directs his team with professional silence and ease. (This is how the open kitchen concept works!)
For his project, Tkáč has hired the young chef Daniel Tilinger, who has cooked in Michelin-starred restaurants in Belgium and the UK (with Gordon Ramsey) and for three years at "Ikarus" in Salzburg. Here, at the "Eck", he now focuses on radical regionality, with many of the ingredients coming from his own garden. For the dishes, he looks for "a combination of classic and modern". The menu doesn't really seem Slovakian. "Devín is close to Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Today, "it is very difficult to determine which ingredient belongs to which cuisine," Tilinger explains in an interview. Tilinger's tasting menu includes cold-smoked trout with grilled sweetcorn and a crispy potato millefeuille with caviar, sheep's butter and parsley foam. The cauliflower is also served smoked (yes, the open grill is really used here) on letcho espuma, to which a toilet bowl was allowed to add its flavour. Visually strong. The following boiled beef also comes from the grill.
The dessert is more experimental; it comes in the form of a cherry painted on the plate, which the guest is asked to lick off. That's what the chef wants, the colleagues say. There is simply no cutlery at all, so you have few alternatives. The corridor bears the name "Lothar", a tribute to the visual artist Lothar Vigelandzoon, who is known for his cherry sculptures. One of them is located directly in the restaurant, on the way to the wine cellar.
The eloquent young head sommelier, Peter Lunter, is the master of the impressive wine selection and the more than 100 square metre cellar. He has put together a menu that leaves nothing to be desired. However, guests can also choose from four wine pairings served by the glass to accompany the menu, as well as a non-alcoholic option. All the juices are homemade, and the kombucha is worth a mention.
A store with 1,500 wines
The importance Tkáč attaches to the wine selection is also evident not far from the restaurant. In Devín, he built the modern grocery store "Od Nasich" with specialities from the region, his own bakery and delicacies. For wine lovers, however, the expansive range of top international wines, which can only be reached via an elevator, should be of even greater interest. Around 1,500 wine items are presented in a highly appealing and well-organised way, with all the world's major wine-growing regions represented according to their importance. Natural wines and great classics are peacefully presented. The depth of the vintages is also impressive, with wines from several good years always available, even from the icons of Bordeaux, Bolgheri and Napa Valley. The store alone is worth a detour to Devín; this wine shop is remarkable.
Through his "J&T Wine Holding SE", Tkáč has already acquired two wineries in Moravia in the Czech Republic, invested heavily in both - rumored to be worth between 7 and 8 million euros - and developed them into crowd pullers. The Kolby winery in Pouzdrany and the Reisten winery in Pávlov produce a wider range of the classic varieties of the top Pálava region and have been awarded "Winery of the Year" in the medium-sized winery category by the Czech Winegrowers' Association.
Kolby has around 40 hectares of vineyards and the most important grape varieties are Welschriesling, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. The smaller Reisten estate is located on the other side of the reservoir and from the terrace you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Dívcí hrady castle ruins and the vineyards.
But the billionaire is also involved in Bordeaux. In 2017, Tkáč participated in the Le Dôme winery in St. Emilion, which was elevated to the lofty heights of 100 Parker points for the 2010 vintage by Nigerian-born Englishman Jonathan Maltus. A new winery was built and Sir Norman Foster, who had previously worked for the Premier Grand Cru Château Margaux in Bordeaux, was recruited as the architect. Here, the ultra-rare top red wine now actually has a cathedral as a roof over its head and Bordeaux has a new pilgrimage site for architecture-loving wine freaks. It will be interesting to see what new wine projects the Slovakian has in the pipeline.
K zlatému rohu 36, 84110 Devín, Bratislava
T: +421 911 513 387, eckrestaurant.com
Wed. until Sat. from 6 to 10 p.m.; reservation required.
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