Krakow is a relatively undiscovered gem when compared to other European cities that have made its mark on the tourist map, but that’s only a matter of time. And what a sparkling gem it is! In this three part post, we explore various aspects of Polish cuisine, the second part of the post exploring heritage and traditional dining experiences.
Part 2 of 3
Step into heritage and history
Taste heritage and history
A special dining experience awaited us at the Jewish style restaurant Klezmer-Hois (the House of the Klezmer) where we tasted traditional Galician Jewish cuisine. Housed in a 16th century historic building in the heart of Krakow’s Kazimierz (the former Jewish district), the original Jewish café built in 1902 by Gosia & Wojtek Ornat,still evokes a sense of drama, romance and a solemn ambiance of pre-war tradition of the Jewish district. Concerts of traditional Jewish music are held here every night by Magda Brudzińska Klezmer Trio, who is considered one of the best and well known amongst the European bands performing traditional instrumental and vocal Jewish Klezmer music. This historic restaurant has once been a meeting point for artists, musicians, actors, directors, painters and poets from all over the world and has hosted stalwarts like Andrzej Wajda, Roman Polański, Steven Spielberg, Ben Kingslay, Ralph Finnes, Prince Charles and many others and the long corridors still reflect that associated pride.
Uninitiated to Jewish cuisine, our hosts – Syzmon Gatlik of Krakow Municipality and xxx chose our menu with utmost care as some dishes required an acquired taste for the cuisine. While there are many distinctive styles in Jewish cuisine like Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrahi etc, many of the characteristics of Jewish cuisine in Poland have originated organically as an evolution from Polish cuisine. Our appetisers consisted of Gefilte fish – sweet medallions of carp fish with matza; Karp po żydowsku, a Jewish style Karp; Sałatka z bobu i kaparów, a salad with Broad Bean and Capar; different types of Pates made with duck and goose. For mains , we were served the popular Gęsie szyjki nadziewane, the stuffed goose necks; Kaczka z jabłkami, Duck with Apples; the famous Kasza gryczanaor Buckwheat; Rosół z knedlach, the popularBroth with Matza Ball. Klezmer Hois observes the rules of Kosher and the owners also own another restaurant Ariel, in the very centre of Kazimier. Ariel is the oldest Jewish-style restaurant, café and gallery and was established in a tenement house erected between the World Wars, occupying the place where an old 18th century “Rabbi House” used to standand the interiors are decorated with paintings of rabbis.
The Kazimierz district of Krakow has many Jewish cafes and restaurants and though there is no Jewish population living in Kazimierz anymore, there are many Jewish-themed restaurants in this region that are very popular.
Address: Szeroka 6 str., Krakow
Frenzy Cafe – Cafe Szał
“If I had to choose just one, then I would want you and everybody else to find one hour of time to sit in the main market square, in one of the cafes. I have my favourite – on the terrace of the clothhall, and just look at how the city looks, how the horse carriages move around and appreciate what is the beat of the city.” Well, that was Syzmon Gatlik, from Krakow Municipality, when we asked what him was that ‘one thing’ in Krakow that you wanted to tell anyone visiting the city. And true to his words, we were transported to as different period in time as we make ourselves comfortable in the rattan armchairs in Frenzy Café (Cafe Szał)’s terrace of the cloth hall in the Main Market Square. The panoramic view of the market square, the hustle and bustle of the cafes and restaurants surrounding the square, the rhythm of the horse carriages, live music floating from afar – it’s a mesmerising setting. Choose from their signature Guatemalan coffee, Mocha, Iced Latter or from their large selection of pastries, icecreams, salads and sandwiches.
Frenzy Cafe – Cafe Szał
Address: Main Market Square 1 – 3, Krakow
Wedel Chocolate Lounge at the Market Square
Wedel is the oldest chocolate brand in Poland dating back to 1851. Although there are many Wedel Chocolate Lounges across the country, we recommend a visit to the Wedel Lounge that is located in a historical building in Krakow’s Market Square. From savouring chocolate drinks, cakes, pralines, and good coffee, you can also buy pralines and chocolates of top notch quality to take home as edible souvenir.
Wedel Chocolate Lounge
Address: 46 Rynek Główny Street
Słodki Wentzl cafe
Established in 1792, the Słodki Wentzl cafe in the Old Town was a popular meeting place of artists, and especially painters from Krakow in the 19thcentury. This historical café has been given a fresh life by the Polish celebrity culinary hero Magda Gessler, of the popular television show “Kuchenne Rewolucje” or Kitchen Revolution in English (some say similar to Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares). The café specialises in making cakes, pies, pastries, ice cream (some allege that the café serves the best icecream in town!), sundaes and cocktails. Today, the café has another branch in the popular shopping mall Galeria Krakowska but we rate the ambiance of the former much higher, from touristy point of view.
Słodki Wentzl cafe
Address: Rynek Główny 19 (Wentzl Hotel)
Taste of Tradition
Pod Wawelem Kompania Kuflowa
Pod Wawelem Kompania Kuflowa is a traditional beer hall with live music and the staff wears traditional costumes. The menu offers traditional Polish and also Bavarian dishes such as cabbage and mushroom pierogi, sausages, mixed grill, roasted duck, schnitzel pork chops etc. On of the highlights of this restaurant is the view of the Wawel Castle from the restaurnat’s garden.
Pod Wawelem Kompania Kuflowa
Address: Świętej Gertrudy 26/29, 33-332 Krakow
The name of this restaurant is inspired by the popular Polish mountain lake- Morskie Oko (Morskie Oko is the largest and fourth-deepest lake in the Tatra Mountains) and the interiors reflect a highlanders’ mountain lodge from Zakopane with wooden tables, fireplace, dinner served in candlelight, and Highlanders’ live singing. The staff wear traditional Polish attire and menu reflects the Polish cuisine from the mountain region – pierogi dumplings with cabbage and mushrooms and butter, veal fillets with forest mushroom sauce, mountain style grilled sheep cheese served with cranberry jelly or the famous soup from the region – regional Kwaśnica sauerkraut soup with rib served with bread, Traditional Polish soup with egg, sausage, served in bread, or the Spring beetroot soup with chard and potatoes. Portion sizes are generous and think of rich homemade gravies and sauces served with succulent meat, deer steak or your Boar loin!
Address: Plac Szczepański 8, 31-011 Kraków
How to get there ~ Where to Stay ~ Visas ~ Currency ~ Language >> Details here
Disclaimer: Debbie and Ishita were guests of Krajowy Osderek Wsparcia Rolnictwa (the National Support Centre for Agriculture in Poland), Poland Tastes Good and the Krakow Municipality with the mission to learn and share about Poland and its food, cuisine, culture and culinary traditions. This compilation has been drawn from their experiences – some of them hosted and some self-paid. For more info, visit www.kowr.gov.pl