Warsaw transported us back to a modern European urbanscape – cafes, bars, restaurants and art galleries. The architecture reflects the city’s tragic history of vast devastation as well as a resurrected pride of post-war reconstruction. Described as Paris of the East, Warsaw was considered once as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Sadly, much of Warsaw was razed to the ground during the World War II. A complete reconstruction after the war led Warsaw to evolve into a significant cultural, academic, political and economic hub in Europe and the world map. Standing on Vistula river, the modern façade of the city is young, vibrant and evolving while it’s history and the past is preserved in old architectural landmarks and buildings, such as the historical Old Town which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like in Krakow, here too, we had the fortune of experiencing the gastronomic scene across different genres and style.
Krasiński Garden in Warsaw is a public park in the garden of a Baroque palace – the Krasiński Palace or Palace of the Commonwealth Polish. The park has been accessible to the public since 1768. Image: Pixabay
Our 9 days long culinary trip to Poland was beyond exemplary, and was curated by Monica Kucia, a popular food writer and organiser of events on Polish cuisine. Our culinary experience went beyond our initial perception of Polish food as we were introduced to a whole array of traditional Polish cuisine as well as modern Polish cuisine stirred up by new-generation chefs who prided in using seasonal ingredients of regional variety. There seemed to be a resurgence of discovering old Polish cuisine that was wiped off temporarily during the communist regime. Polish cuisine, once upon a time had not only been a reflection of its agrarian culture but also an amalgamation of culinary inspirations from the neighbouring countries and cultures as a result of its shifting borders though history. It was good to see that the pride was back amongst Polish people to learn more about their own culinary heritage.
Dyletanci – Restaurant Wineshop Wine Bar
The interiors of Dyletanci is smart and uncluttered with an envious display of wine bottles all around. The space is the result of Polish winemaker Dom Bliskowice and Chef Rafael Hreczanuk, whose culinary creativity has been inspired by the touch of the foreign land (he’s worked in England and Ireland for years). The menu celebrates the very essence of bistronomy – a simple menu featuring a range of French inspired dishes, with three appetisers, there main dishes, and three desserts. The menu changes daily depending upon the fresh produce available and the mood of the chef! The wine list is sourced by the owner directly and includes wines from his own vineyards and other small-scale vineyards specialising in traditional and organic production methods. We tasted the lunch menu paired with the finest wines from Dom Bliskowice and French wines – chilled smoked cod soup, chives and dill; tomatoes, sheep cheese, courgette and beef cheeks with five taste spice and signed off by a dessert created with cherries, yoghurt and puff pastry.
A specially curated lunch at Dyletanci using fresh seasonal produce and regional ingredients.
Simple, fuss free, honest food at Dyletanci – broad bean, basil, shallots as starters (left) and cherries, yoghurt, puff pastry (right). Dyletanci Images: Sana Chikhalia, food blogger who was part of our Dubai team. Do read more about Warsaw in her blog.
Zoni is a relatively new restaurant (it opened in June 2018) in a former vodka factory ‘Koneser’ in Praga. The menu at Zoni has been created by Aleksander Baron and is a sophisticated interpretation of traditional Polish food with an emphasis on high quality regional ingredients. Food here is simple, but progressively presented, along with vodka pairing. Baron himself is quite a culinary celebrity and considered a maverick chef, one of the new-generation Polish chefs who are breaking stereotypes and creating a new identity for Polish identity. With a background of studying art and history, Baron infuses culinary art into his dishes, even authoring a book on the art of fermentation – Kiszonki i fermentacje (2016) and another one on vodka and Polish food, for which he tasted 64 types of Polish vodkas in two days! and has been awarded at the 22nd Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. The interior of Zoni is visually stunning and dramatic, and one can still see the distillery in work. We dined on the 5-course tasting menu (190 zł without alcohol) and was completely astonished by the interplay of a variety of tastes and flavours. As Baron explained on his style of cooking, “To understand Polish cuisine, you have to understand Polish history. We were a big country from the Baltic to the Black Sea… and we have vanished twice from the map of the world! I have incorporated a few traditional dishes and given them a new look and feel. The first thing I emphasise on… are the products, they must be really good”. Our degustation journey of Polish progressive dining at Zoni started with an amuse bouche of Polish caviar and cream fraiche on hazelnut and buckwheat bliny; next came a peat aged cheese in white nettle, wood sorrel and Praga honey – the latter being a product of the unique urban beekeeping in the neighbouring Praga region. Sourdough dumplings in smoked butter and beet sour served in a traditional iron soup bowl with a snort was followed by a crispy grilled Zander fillet served with goose egg yolk and saffron, fermented garlic pesto and potato puree with horseradish. A bit of drama and intrigue are integral to Baron’s food as evident by the palate cleansers – Five Flavours – salt created with milky whey and beetroot sour, sweet from Warsaw honey sour, sour from fermented citrus, bitter from turmeric and wormwood and umami with fish sauce and charcoal. Unfamiliarity in taste in ultra-progressive can sometimes be intimidating – but for a food connoisseur, it’s an exciting exploration. In Zoni too, there’s an exploration of familiar and unfamiliar tastes, for example the Amber with smoked cream, conifer shoots and black salt, and one or two flavours of the Five Flavours. In more instance than one, the diner must use all senses (also fingers) to appreciate the food. Talking about of which, we come to the stunning dessert – a sticky Warsaw honeycomb served with quark and fresh cheese.
Read more on Warsaw’s unique urban beekeeping here.
ZONI Restaurant is situated in a historic rectification building in the former vodka distillery – Koneser – located in Praga district in Warsaw
Aleksander Baron, the maverick chef at ZONI which takes pride in its sophisticated interpretation of traditional Polish food
Peat aged cheese in white nettle, wood sorrel and Praga honey… our initiation into Baron’s dramatic presentation in ZONI
Located in the Mokotowska, Talerzyki is a gastro bar serving tapas style Polish dishes. The word Taleryki translates into ‘plates ‘and owner Marcin Koch, a graduate from Le Cordon Bleu Paris, has created his restaurant concept as a casual meeting place that serves great tapas style food along with cocktails and drinks. Marcin also owns the adjoining Koch Bazaar which is more formal than Taleryzki and offers a more extensive menu, wine list, sommelier etc. The menu that was curated for us was primarily vegetarian, although it boasts of a variety of interesting non-vegetarian items – Polish salad with home-made mayonnaise, home-made sourdough bread, stolnik (stuffed cabbage, a speciality of the mountain region) – sauerkraut, potato, mushrooms. The showstopper of the evening had to be the platter of fermented fruits and vegetables. Marcin being an old-style host, is warm and available almost every day to greet his diners. Speaking of his culinary inspiration, he shared that it was his earlier repertoire of work that had taken him from London to HongKong. At Talerzyki, we not only had the fine company of our gracious host but also culinary bloggers Tomek Czajkowski and Ani Szczotka, authors of Magiczny Skladnik.
Address: Mokotowska 33/35
Fermented platter in Talerzyki, a gastro bar in Mokotowska
Our farewell dinner at Talerzyki restaurant with our hosts from Krajowy Osderek Wsparcia Rolnictwa (the National Support Centre for Agriculture in Poland) and Poland Tastes Good. Marcin Koch is seated fourth from the right.
Disclaimer: Debbie and Ishita were guests of Krajowy Osderek Wsparcia Rolnictwa (the National Support Centre for Agriculture in Poland), Poland Tastes Good 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. All images have been taken by us, unless mentioned otherwise. For more info on Warsaw, visit Official Tourist Website of Warsaw