Pod Aniolami, Krakow 09-2012

After the joy of eating in a typical Polish milk bar (Bar Smak) and the disappointment in the street food (zapiekanka from Plac Nowy), it was time to upgrade and try some finer cuisine.

Pod Aniolami seemed to have a lot going for it, not least being the translation of its name "Under the Angels", the gothic cellar built in the 13th century, and of course the reputation for good food coming from multiple websites (especially meat and fish).

It isn't expensive per se (PLN130), just more than you'd expect from other alternatives and more local places. Like everywhere else in the world, you pay for location, service and quality. Pod Aniolami formed a good memorable meal and I would be happy to return, with more focus on their specialties.

- Homemade Lard with country wholemeal bread - lard & bacon bits spread onto bread forming a rich buttery decadent treat;
- Lettuce with Spicy Ewe's Milk Cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers & vinaigrette - token fresh salad with very soft mild cheese;
- Pierogi stuffed with meat/mushrooms/cabbage, cottage cheese/potato/onion, pan-fried with butter & onion, served with cranberries - pan-fried pierogi had the best outside texture as I'm not a fan of the thick boiled Eastern European standard. The cranberry sauce was the standard feature bringing the pierogi to life;
- Traditional Polish Red Borsch - clear, hot, thin, sweet beetroot soup. Very good;
- Veal Chops marinated in herbs, with forest chanterelles, green asparagus, garlic butter - decent veal although not especially tender, with nice crispy potatoes;
- Famous homemade Apple Cake with vanilla ice-cream, whipped cream, egg liqueur - deliciously soft warm mesh of apples, soft crust, cinnamon and fresh blueberries;
- Two slices of mild Polish highlander's ewe's cheese (oscypek) from Rantulowa;
- Prunes macerated in alcohol - intensely alcoholic with a touch of prune sweetness;
- complimentary mint vodka shot. 

Next time I would order the Homemade Lard, soup (such as borsch, zurek or fish soup) and a focus on the grilled dishes from a la carte. I wouldn't order anything with cheese and none of them seemed to really have any significant flavour. Given enough people (15-25) and notice, they also offer large fired items like whole young pig, boar's leg or Polish lamb all which sound delicious.

Plac Nowy, Krakow 09-2012

Plac Nowy is a known area for 3 things - meat and sausages at Grill na Kazimierzu, the Polish sandwich zapiekanki at every other vendor in the giant circle of the plaza, and being the area where people go at night for drinks. 

Sadly as I was there on a Monday night, there was no nightlife of people at all - irritating because the hostel staff specifically told us to go there for it. I don't think it had anything to do with not being local as we walked the entire area and even asked a bargirl in the one place we found open, who confirmed nothing happens there on Mondays/weekdays.

Still, two out of three is ok.

Grill na Kazimierzu

A little stand in one corner that has loads of bbq options cooking in anticipation of the crowds. The lady running it didn't speak English but there is picture signs for guidance or alternatively point at what you like on the grill. I tried a sausage (simple, standard, satisfying, nothing amazing) and a piece of the local delicacy bbq cheese (which is quite dry and not particularly tasty).


This Polish sandwich is what the afterwork crowd, the local youth, and the budget travellers seem to try. It is effectively a very long bread half topped with a plethora of options to resemble a pizza. Various meats, vegetables, cheeses and sauces are added and then baked to be warm and bread crisp. I hadn't researched if any one was particularly better than the others, but they all seemed to look the same. I chose one that had no English on the menu and had other customers there already.

My selection of chicken, cheese, tomato sauce and spring onion was pretty terrible. The bread was crisp but had no intrinsic flavour, the chicken didn't have much flavour either, the cheese was melted but bland. In the end it tasted like bread with tomato sauce and a jumble of flavourless meat/cheese. I ate a few bites and left the rest on a bench top for a friendly hungry soul to have.

Next time I would order from Plac Nowy only on a night when there was more atmosphere (likely Thurs-Sat). Kazimierzu will satisfy the basic sausage cravings. I would be willing to give zapienkaki another try, but I'd have to choose my vendor and toppings much more carefully.

A Blikle, Warsaw 09-2012

If you are after a mid-morning/afternoon snack, A Blikle is recommended in guidebooks and online. Warsaw seems to have quite a lot of decent looking bakeries and patisseries along the main road extending from Plac Zamkowy all the way down until Ul. Nowy Swiat. A Blikle seemed to be one with reputation.

I only tried a cheesecake slice with strawberry. It was satisfying with the cheesecake being very smooth but only a mild flavour and the strawberry jelly layer adding much more sweetness.

Most people seemed to be buying this item I'm unfamiliar with called paczek z lukrem, which seems to be a frosted donut topped with candied fruit. I didn't have the stomach space to try one, but it's on my list for next time.

Targ Rybny, Gdansk 09-2012

Fish is abundant along the northern coast of Poland and so it makes sense to try a well reputed restaurant built from the original Gdansk fishmarket. Targ Rybny (restaurant name the same as the road it is located upon) is a well-reputed seafood place and has made itself to #2 on Tripadvisor for Gdansk. The staff did inform me that Poland has no local shellfish, whether that affects your dish selections or not.

The setting is nicely located near the riverside so sitting outside on a sunny day is a perfect idea.

For variety I selected the Tapas Plate with specialties of Fishmarkt. Although clearly designed to be shared between a few, I had it all to myself. Two steamed clams topped with cheese & diced tomato, a crispy pancake from potato & zucchini with wheat seeds topped with caviar, smoked salmon, smoked herring, smoked cod and a smoked salmon mayonnaise mix. In the end a little too much smoked flavour for my liking; I was hoping for a bit more fresh ingredients.

Despite not being local, I tried the Refined Lobster-Cream Soup with Lobster Dumpling served with a nice G (or am I seeing imaginary things in my soup?). The flavour was rich to match the orange brilliance. Thick luscious and lovely with the lobster essence seemingly stronger the deeper I went into the bowl.

I asked them to recommend me a local fish for my main and so ended up with Cod Fillet Baked (with dried tomatoes & mozzarella, served on spinach with lemon sauce). I have to admit I wasn't particularly taken with the dish. The fish quality was a bit tough and reminded me why I extremely rarely order fish dishes as a main course at any restaurant.

Prices are expensive for Poland but with most main courses costing $12-15 (with the odd one being $18 or $30) it really isn't that much in the scheme of world restaurant life.

Next time I would order the Lobster Soup again. Bouillabaise could be promising too. The Tapas Plate I'd only consider if there were a group to share it with all whom liked smoked items. I'm not sure which main to choose - one was served in a fry pan which looked ok.

Bar Smak, Krakow 09-2012

"Milk bars" in Poland have nothing to do with milk and everything to do with homestyle cooking. This is a well reputed one especially for their version of soup.

It is in an unexpectedly good location, just east of the old town square. Yet despite this and the reputation, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the bar was full of Polish people. People come either alone for a quick meal or in small groups of 2-4 for a social catchup over food. Not a hint of English was detected until I opened my mouth to order.

I had read the Zurek sour rye soup was the main thing to try here and so how could I resist. For my first time, it was a pleasant experience - a tangy zesty light sourness flavoured with smoked sausage.

I asked for a recommendation for a main dish and so ended up with Barbeque Ribs (with Cooked Potatoes, Pickles). Thinking about it after ordering it doesn't sound particularly local at all, so I wasn't impressed with my decision making. The ribs were tasty, but a little tough such that the meat didn't melt off the bone as we all expect ribs to. I liked having the mash, shredded carrot and strong pickles to give make each mouthful different.

I would be very happy to return here.

Next time I would order the Zurek or try their take on Barszcz. I'd try a main meal that is more decidely Polish - I'm not exactly sure which that is, but Goulash or Bread-Crumbed Pork Chop sound like a great start.

Metamorfoza, Gdansk 09-2012

Polish food become an unexpected victory surrounded by the (as I found at least) boring productions of Germany and Czech Republic.

The basic soups and dumplings concept is taken a step further into the future at Metamorfoza. Perhaps location is the enemy of this place (which I was the only diner on a Thursday evening and there are currently only 4 TA reviews) as it isn't along the main nightspots near the river and main pedestrian roads. Additionally the food is expensive by Polish standards, but I wouldn't have expected that would deter overseas visitors.

Metamorfoza prides itself on quality ingredients, minimal additives to natural flavours and a scientific molecular base to its productions. It is somewhere to go when the food around you seems to blend into each other.

An aperitif of Molecular Goldwasser Jelly (with orange powder, lemon foam) ended up being a not liquid at all - a jelly of very potent Gdansk vodka that made my headspin and would be in the dreams of gourmet alcohol parties.

Complementary starter of Smoked Pork with crunchy crumbs made from bread (I am very reluctant to call them simply breadcrumbs) came with a few drops of citrus and raspberry (I think) sauce. Beef Tartare PLN40 (with molecular yolk, pine cone flavour) looked classic, with good quality finely chopped (not minced) beef served at room temperature, but with a "yolk" which was actually made of mustard locked in a thin film. Impressive skills. Raw onions, pickles and small mushrooms added to impressive presentation and allowed a variety of flavour combinations each mouthful. I didn't taste any pine cone flavour so I'm unsure what I missed.

Next came the masterpiece of the evening - Zurek PLN24 (Gdansk spherical malt rye soup) served in a method similar to soup at The Fat Duck and Martin Berasategui where the ingredients are presented in the bowl before boiling hot broth is delicately added. I tried zurek in a more traditional Polish milk bar and this was of another planet. Delicious slightly sour soup with a mild sweetness surrounded a nice selection of sausage, soft tender pork belly and mildly flavoured roe. Fantastic.

The main dish of Veal Shank PLN54 (with beef fond, pierogi with wild mushroom's, wild garlic) was slightly disappointing unfortunately. The veal was cooked too much for my liking and thus lacked the tender fall-off-the-bone qualities. The pierogi (ie. Polish dumplings) were decent but I couldn't taste enough mushroom flavour. The beef fond have the whole dish a standard beef gravy flavour that didn't stand out from what you'd get elsewhere.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Spherical Apple Pie PLN19 (with cinnamon sand) but I'm a sucker for any kind of apple crumble/pie/tart dessert. It ended up as a sand-textured base of cinnamon with crumbs, layered under chopped apricots, soft cooked apple both with and without a brown sugar coat, and topped with an apple foam. Interesting concept with the standard flavour from an apple crumble.

Next time I would order the Zurek - my goodness. Hopefully the other soups may be of the same creativity. The other four dishes were decent but not necessary to try again. Pick whatever interests you - I do find it odd that none of the dishes on the set course menu are available a la carte. They didn't sound as interesting to me as the others, but you may think differently.