Grand Café Orient is situated in the corner house “U ČernéMatkyBoží” (At Black Mother of God) in Prague 1, 569 Celetná Street and 569/19 Ovocný trh.
The House at the Black Madonna was originally constructed as a department store, according to the architectural design by Josef Gočár (1880 – 1945). At that timethe architect was 31 years old. His works in cubist and functionalist styles are considered the top specimens of modern Czech architecture. As the house, as it was originally proposed, did not meet, according to Prague´s municipal authorities, the demands on the architectural accord with the surroundings, Gočár complemented the structure by further cubist elements at the entrance to the building, and on balcony railing.
In the basementthere was originally a wineshop, on the second floor was a café and on the third floor were textile shops. The fourth floor was designed for offices, while on the fifth floor were flats.
The café itself was in operation only ten years, afterwards it was removed. The reason for its removal was said to be a non-modern style of the interior.
In the early 1990s when the house was reconstructed according to the design of Karel Prager it acquired its original shape.
The café was re-opened in 2005.
In 2010 the house was put on the list of national cultural monuments.
It´s an August Monday, hot summer early evening, the temperature is still round 30°C. We are entering through the front of the House at Black Mother of God. The name of the house is derived from the little statue of black Madonna, which is placed on the corner of the house. On the left is the entrance to the permanent exhibition of Czech cubist art. We are going up the stairs to the second floor. At the very entrance, looking upwards we are attracted by the spiral of the winding staircase. In order to meet the demands of cubism (edges, corners, acute and obtuse angles) the elegance of the curves is accompanied by airy railing in a cubist style, and if you look at the other side you can´t miss vertical stripes of rather dark, slant line segments reminding of the herringbone design.
It isn´t obvious why the café on the second floor bears the name Grand Café Orient, as it has nothing in common with the orient. The furnishing that creates the unique cubist interior is followed through to the last detail and is said to be the only cubist café in Europe.
In summer days like this one, the balcony with small tables is open to public. Several tables are at visitors´ disposal downstairs on the pavement.
In this early evening of summer holidaysthe café is half empty and so we can fully enjoy its atmosphere. Pleasant, partly separated niches with upholstered seats offer comfortable sitting and certain intimacy. Upholstery and curtains are in green tones, and in combination with brown wood of furniture they contribute to cozy atmosphere of the whole interior. Massive cubist chandeliers, which fill the whole surface of the ceiling, give a wonderful impression.
Due to large windows along the whole café, the inner space is light and airy.
A foxtrot sounds from the loudspeaker, which gives a discreet touch to lazy spirit. We order an espresso with milk and a Vienna coffee. The espresso is served in a cup with cubist motifs and the logo Grand Café Orient. On the top of the Vienna coffee is genuine whipped cream “comme it faut” and chocolateshavings.With the coffeewe order a reputed cubist puff, which as the style commands, has a square shape, and a piece of light chocolate gateau named Grand Café Orient. Both taste wonderfully. Attending personnel is pleasant.
The menu card offers both breakfast and snacks throughout the whole day. There is also quite a wide assortment of desserts offered. Beverages are cocktails, or, traditionally, wine or beer.
Conclusion: the café is very interesting, agreeable, the coffee is delicious. The prices correspond to the attractiveness of the venue and the significance of the structure, however, they are not exaggerated. The atmosphere of the café is exceptional.
When these lines were being written, a new restaurant At the Black Madonna was opened. The interior of that modern restaurant bears traces of cubism, but because it is a newly established facility, and besides, it is not a café, we didn´t pay attention to it here.