Warsaw Markets and Countryside

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.

Nocny Market

We had the fortune of glimpsing something extraordinary – the Nocny Market or the Night Market that lasted three seasons and came to an end this October before making way for the builders. An unused railway platform Warszawa Główna, got converted into a happening night market. It attracted a tribe of ethnic food vendors serving quality food, and also evolved into a cult meeting place for every type of visitor – from hipster, jaunty to the most regular. The original platform along with the neon lightings had been retained as is, while bars and trendy restaurants, concept pop ups, art display and a terrific crowd added to the electrifying atmosphere. In Poland, a lot of nostalgia is associated with neons – not necessarily in the most positive way. In fact, there’s also a Neon Museum (only museum of its kind in Europe) housed in the chic Soho Factory complex in Warsaw, that’s dedicated to the documentation and the preservation of Cold War era neon signs and electro-graphic design. From subs, grilled meats, pizzas to sushis, the food choices at Nocny Market had been extensive and exciting. We too succumbed to the adrenaline of the place and ended up tasting fried Larvae from an Oriental joint (below)!

Steamed baos and fried larvae at Nocny Market in Warsaw.

From hipster to the family person, from art displays to original Neon lighting, Nocny Market had evolved into a cult meeting point in the last three years.

Polish bloggers Tomek Czajkowski and Ani Szczotka, authors of Magiczny Skladnik (we all dined together in our farewell dinner at Tarzyki gastro bar), captures the last few hours on the platforms from this season. Do check the video, it brought back fond memories of our visit to Nocny. We simply had to contact the Nocny market authorities and were assured that the Night Market will be back in 2019 – at a new location.

Nocny Market
Address: Towarowa 3 str., Warsaw

Neon Museum, Warsaw

We believe that if you want to know how a city truly ‘tastes’, you have to shop like a local. And in Warsaw, Hala Mirowska is the place, specially for fruits, vegetables and fresh flowers. A major landmark in the city consisting of two brick halls (the other being Hala Gwardii), Hala Mirowska or Mirów’s Halls, formerly Trade or Marketplace Halls, were constructed between 1899 and 1901 that functioned as Warsaw’s largest market until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Hala Mirowska also served as a bus depot during the post-war period and one can still spot some bullet holes on the walls. Summers are marked by seasonal flower stalls lining outside Hala Mirowska, manned by elderly country folk who also sell fresh mushrooms and other foraging that grow in the countryside and still in use for traditional cooking. We were fortunate to visit Poland during one of their best summers, and were witness to the flowers and other produce in their finest glory (along with an impromptu shower!).

Flower stalls in Hala Mirowska in Warsaw, manned by elderly country folk.

Hala Gwardiie is the twin building of Hala Mirowska and was created with inspirations from popular food markets around the world, for example, Lisbon Mercado da Ribera, the London Borough Market, the New York Chelsea Market, the Lyon Les Halles De Bocuse and the Mercado Boqueria in Barcelona. Hala Gwardii too served as a bus depot post-war and eventually became a sports hall used by the military Sports Guard Club and still has a boxing ring inside (after the Second World War, the Guard Hall served as a temporary bus depot, and after handing over the Warsaw Gwardia club, it became the center of Polish boxing. It was here, that under the watchful eye of legendary Coach Feliks “Papa” Stamma, that Polish boxers trained and won international boxing matches and achieved historic success during the European Boxing Championships in 1953. Info: here). Hala Gwardii re-opened to the public in September 2017 after years of lying empty. It specialises in selling specialty products and on the day of our visit, we came across many fine products like lavender, specialty coffee beans, ethically produced honey, hand made soaps, procured from locally or imported from foreign markets. The food stalls serve food from around the world – Italian, French and Asian, not to forget some of the dishes that are local champs. For example, the Polish footlong Zapiekanka made of half of a baguette or a long roll of bread, topped with caramelised onions, sautéed white mushrooms, cheese and other ingredients. It is toasted until the cheese melts and served hot with ketchup. Zapiekanka is associated with the austere times of Poland’s Communist regime during the 1970s and is a popular street food in Poland today. We also tasted a Flammy, the German pizza and Kielbasa, a type of meat sausages that is a Polish staple. Flammy or Flammkuchen is a speciality of the Alsace, Baden-Württemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz region. The crunchy bread dough is made of wheat flour and is rolled out very thinly in the shape of  big rectangle and covered with thinly sliced onions, creme fraiche, salsa, cherry tomatoes, rucola, basil pesto snd other ingredients and cooked in a wood-fire oven.

We visited Hala Gwardii when they were celebrating a French weekend, on the 13,14 and 15th of July! Apart from French flags fluttering through the hall and a focus on French cuisine and French artisanal products, there was a huge French/Polish mural that was being coloured by hundreds of contributors.

Apart from different types of food around the world, one can also feast on local Polish food like Salatka z Burakow, the Beet root salad. The Polish love their beetroots – and so did we. Specially the famous Barszcz aka borscht, the beetroot soup and Chlodnik, the cold beet soup.

Lunch at Hala Gwardii food court – Kielbasa or Polish sausages, Flamm or the German pizza, Polish footlong Zapiekanka and other dishes.

Hala Mirowska
Address: Plac Mirowski 1, Śródmieście, Warsaw
Open 7:00am – 18:00pm Mondays to Fridays; 7:00am – 17:00pm on Saturdays; Sundays – closed

Hala Gwardii
Address: Zelaznej Brama Square 1 Warsaw  00-136
Open 9:00 am – 1:00 am on Fridays and Saturdays, and 10:00 am – 23:00 pm on Sundays.

Rysiny is a small village located 15 kms (about 20 minutes by car) away from Warsaw and is worth the drive (during season) only to see the beautiful farms of the Majlert family. The farm with the historical name Marcelin-Tadzinek, continues the family traditions of farming dating back to the 19th century. The Maljert family grow vegetables that are ‘little known or forgotten’, combining the latest achievements of agricultural sciences with elements of organic farming. The nine-hectare farm is run by Ludwik Majlert, his wife Jola, as well as Magda, sister Ludwika, and her husband Witold. Ludwik Majlert is a kind host and proudly showed us his bounty – beets, rutabaga, fennel, kale and pumpkin etc and were told that 2018 season was very unusual. There were no frosts during April and May this time and a warm spring caused the vegetation to accelerate by two weeks. In fact, all the vegetables that they had cultivated burst at almost the same time! 2018 saw one of the best summers in Poland, and recently we got to know that for the first time in the history of the farm, the shop has been open for so long with the last sale happening recently as Saturday, 27th October 2018! A shop is located in a former barn in an old, brick building and sells most of the vegetables harvested from the field, either the previous day or the dawn on the day of the sale. In addition to their own harvest, they also sell white asparagus and broad beans coming from some of the farms who share the same ethos. Lunch takes place on weekends from June until September, alone or in a group. The day starts with a walking in the field and the menu includes mainly vegetables harvested from the field and usually consists of five dishes and a dessert. The farm also organises field trips for children from schools and kindergartens, introducing them to vegetables, health, ecology etc. While the Ludwik Market sells seasonal vegetables, in the nearby Rodzinne Gospodarstwo, the popular ‘fairytale flower house’ sells fresh fruits, specially berries during the season and flowers, with an option to feast at an outdoor cafe on freshly baked traditional sourdough breads, home made cakes and a sumptuous breakfast. The latter business is run by Ludwik’s uncle’s side of the family – Henryk, who started farming in Rysiny. (history of the Majlert family)

The farm with the historical name Marcelin-Tadzinek, is located in Białołęka on the north-eastern outskirts of Warsaw. The farm still continues family traditions of farming dating back to the 19th century.

Ludwik is a graduate of the Faculty of Horticulture at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, specialising in phytopathology. He loves field work: sowing, planting, looking after plants. Every season, he introduces some new vegetable for growing in his farms. His other passion is skiing and coaching and that’s what he turns in to every autumn, while his silver Lamborghini – one of his tractors, stays out until spring when he transforms into a farmer again!

The fairytale house in Rysiny in Warsaw’s Białołęka district. Today this is run by Henryk’s grandson Zdzisław Majlert with his wife Elżbieta and son Andrzej and daughter Anna Maria. The farm is open until mid-October so what does the family do during the winters? According to Anna Maria, “It does not mean that we are resting in the second half of the year. Already in January we are preparing for the next season. We must create a plan, what we will cultivate, what we will focus on, what we will leave. We order seeds, we make seedlings. In February, my dad starts a glasshouse, so-called a multiplier where we sow tomatoes, peppers, celery and other vegetables with a longer production cycle. To start selling pansies at the end of March, we must plant them now. The biggest challenge in changing the farm’s profile was to switch to cultivation without pesticides or artificial fertilisers.” We believe ecological cultivation, specially in today’s world, requires more financial expenditure. Does it pay off? Read the entire story here.

One can feast at an outdoor cafe on freshly baked traditional sourdough breads, home made cakes and a sumptuous breakfast.

Rodzinne Gospodarstwo in Rysiny is famous for its fresh fruits, specially berries in this season and flowers while the the Ludwik Market nearby sells seasonal vegetables and artisanal food products.

Ludwik Majlert Farm
Address: Wyspiarska 45 Białołeka, Warsaw
Shop closed is closed for a winter break. Next season opens in the second half of April 2019.

Gospodarstwo Ludwik Majlert
Address: Smugowa 30 b, 03-023 Warsaw
Closes 6:00pm

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