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Caru cu bere 1Monday 25th February 2014

Bob Thompson

There are many reasons for pubs to find their way in to BeerVisits and most often the beer that is available is the deciding factor. It is slightly different here because, although the beer selection is reasonable, it is the pub that makes this such an exciting place to have a beer. With the exception of the house beer maybe, the offerings are available in many other places in the city.

This is such a stunning watering hole, appearing like a cross between an ornate Bavarian beer hall and an over-decorated church. I had visited this restaurant the previous night as part of a group of eleven when it was packed out. This was following a visit to the country's only brew pub: Berestrioka, where we were disappointed to find that they no longer had a license to brew, and wouldn't have it back in place for a further one to two months.


Caru cu bere 2So here we were; Richard and I in Cara' cu bere at 11.00 the following morning, to soak in some more of the atmosphere of this unique building. As you enter there is a "meet and greet desk" staffed by young ladies in red uniform who take you to a table. We circumnavigated them by saying that we were just here for a beer and were pointed towards the bar. There are about fifteen bar stools around it and it is a good location for observing the rest of the restaurant.

The origins of this magnificent building lie with a tavern known as Zlătari that I think was also in the same Old Town (Lipscani) area. It was founded in 1879 and operated by the family of Nicolae Mircea. They moved from the town of Medias in area of Romanian Transylvania to the capital to seek their fortune. Nicolae eventually rose to running the Zlătari pub and set about creating his dream.

Caru cu bere 3Construction started in 1898 and the building was completed in 1899. It was designed by Polish architect Siegfried Kofczinsky in the neo-gothic style. It has 1,600 square metres of floor space and was built with an early form of air conditioning and provided with its own water supply. Unfortunately, the magnificent exterior was covered by scaffolding and safety sheeting when we visited as it was undergoing renovation. I say unfortunate only in the sense that I was unable to bring you photographs of it. No doubt, it will look fantastic when it is all finished.

The restaurant soon established itself as the place to be seen in and many famous people have dined there. Nicolae Mircea was the centre of it all and was known as the "Marele Comerciant", the great merchant. A visitor in the early years was Longfellow and more recently the Rolling Stones have been known to eat and enjoy a tincture or two in the magnificent surroundings. Between 1940 and 1942 it was the haunt of German Army officers.

Caru cu bere 4After entering through the revolving doors I noticed that there were many tables on either side. On the left side the room narrows about half way down to accommodate the facilities which are entered through a beautifully carved "porch", for want of a better word.

The bar is an island in the room at the end. There are balcony rooms on either side with the one on the right being the larger. These are approached by spiral stairs, again stunningly created in wood.

Looking to the rear of the building there are two large stained glass windows and there are more in the ceiling. When I climbed up to the right balcony I was able to look down on the morning briefing given by the restaurant manager to a circle of assembled waiters and waitresses. This was after he had personally inspected their dress in the same manner a sergeant in the army does with soldiers. The staff here are very efficient and most of them speak English.

The name of the restaurant means "beer cart", Whilst researching this article I have had to subject myself to a lot of rubbish written about the provenance of the beer, specifically the house beer which carries the same name as the restaurant. The barman told me it is made to unique recipe by the Ursus brewery, Rumania's largest producer, with four breweries. In my mind this didn't figure, as these are all large industrial plants and would be too big to produce a small run for just one pub. However, I have a theory, please read on.

Caru cu bere 5This beer is said to be a reproduction of the first beer offered here over a hundred years ago. Actually, it is a rather innocuous modern lager beer with a hint of bitterness. The original beer was supplied by a brewery known as "Bragadion". I've also read that the house beer is produced in the building. Not so and never has been so. Please see below regarding the Ursus brewery.

There are other beers offered and it worth noting that they are all from the SABMiller stable. Firstly there are international "favourites" Peroni, Pilsner Urquell and Grolsch. I would think these are all brewed in Romania rather than their parent breweries. I find it strange that even though "Urquell" means "from the original source" it is nowadays brewed all over the place, even including Irkutsk in Siberia!

It gets a bit more interesting with the Ursus beers. Firstly there was Ursus Premium (5.0%), a rather malty standard lager. There was also Ursus Unfiltered (5.0%) which is the same beer that has not been pasteurised or filtered. It was pleasant enough, fresh tasting, but too sweet for my liking. The real revelation was Ursus Black (6.0%) which was extremely good indeed, a beautiful dark beer, with a really good hop smack at the end.

Caru cu bere 6Now, I have a theory regarding the house beer. The only draught beer from the Ursus range not represented on the bar is Pils (4.5%). I think this is it, not least because it tastes exactly like a Pils from a large brewery. This is pure conjecture of course and cannot be substantiated in any way.

So, as can be seen the beer range is average, with one gem. But of course the real star is the restaurant itself; a wonderfully atmospheric place that recalls the heady days of the end of the nineteen century. The food is a combination of German and rustic Romanian.

It should not be missed if you are visiting the city.

Important information:

Caru' cu bere, Strada Stavropoleos 5, Buchureşti, 030081. Tel: 021 313 7560

Open: Sunday-Thursday 08.00-24.00; Friday-Saturday 08.00-02.00

The restaurant is located at the west end of the Old Town which is a network of narrow streets crammed with restaurants and bars selling nothing very interesting for a beer lover.

There are two metro stations north and south of the area. South is the Piata Unirii station on lines M1 (red) and M2 (blue). North of the area is Universtatii on line M2 (blue).

Outside of both of these stations there are detailed maps of the old town, which will guide you to the restaurant or, of course, you could bring your own map. The routes to the restaurant are a bit too complicated to describe.