Lest you think we only ate pierogis and galumpki in Poland, we did eat at several fine restaurants…or as they say, restauracja!
Polish service is paced differently from US service. In the US, almost as soon as you are seated the waiter gets drinks to the table and plenty of ice-water. In Poland, they let you sit a while, and when you place a drink order, you sit a while longer. We experienced this in every restaurant, in every town.
Further, ice is not something you can get in quantity in Europe. Occasionally we would get a waiter that would say, “Oh, you’re Americans? I got you.” and he would bring a wine bucket filled with ice. This was, however, rare. If you ordered a cocktail the three ice cubes in it might not make it to the table before they melted.
That said, once your experience had begun, the service and the food were always fantastic.
When we stayed in Czestochowa we were at an old Palace that had gorgeous grounds and a very nice restaurant. One day we had lunch, complete with a couple of nap-inducing bottles of wine and everyone’s meal was superb!
The Hotel Palac Czarny Las (Palace of the Black Forest) was our lodging in Czestochowa and the site of a fabulous lunch!
Seared duck breast on a ginger lentil sauce with small mushroom dumplings and baby beets at the Palac Czarny Las.
When we left Czestochowa, we stopped in a small town called Wadowice (vahd-0-veechay) and ate at a small cafe. Sitting outdoors on the main square we were pleasantly surprised that this humble cafe with record slow service turned out to be some of the best food of the week!
Lamb sausage with aioli on house made sauerkraut in Wadowice
One of the things the Poles do really well is mushrooms. Wild mushrooms of all kinds, porcini, chanterelles, boletus, they were everywhere and always good.
Veal scallopini with chanterelle mushrooms at Pad Aniolami in Krakow. The Polish really know how to get the most flavor out of a mushroom!
This is not a knock on any other city in Poland but the best restaurants for us were in Krakow. It’s a big international city and the quality of most restaurants seemed to be a notch above. From the moment you enter places like Pod Aniolami (Under the Angel)–and even before entering–it was beautiful. From the frescos on the outer wall, to the warm rich colors, this restaurant was a fantastic experience and one I would recommend to anyone!
Restauracja Pod Aniolami in Krakow
We also ate one night in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow. The place was the Restauracja Rubinstein, a 15th century building which had once been the home of Helena Rubinstein. The Jewish quarter is one of the most charming night spots in Krakow with outdoor cafes and roving Klezmer bands serenading. It didn’t hurt that we had perfect weather! The restaurant featured a Jewish menu which included four courses. Radek got that and we all got to sample it.
The Jewish menu at Rubinstein’s in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow.
I had been craving duck since we arrived because it was on every menu but each restaurant had sold out for the night. So I got a roasted half duck and it did not disappoint!
The roasted duck at Restauracja Rubinstein in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow was perfectly cooked with a berry sauce that was exactly in between sweet and savory with an herb finish.
A roving klezmer band entertaining us in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow
Mushroom soup with toasted almonds at Rubenstein’s in the Jewish Quarter of Krakow
Perhaps the finest dining in Krakow was Ancora. This restaurant had a high-end gourmet menu.
Slices of wild boar with tagliatelle in a green peppercorn truffle sauce at Ancora in Krakow.
Fried leeks with three dipping sauces at Ancora in Krakow.
While the food always looked good, at Ancora it was like a work of art on the plate.
Spanish sardines with caramelized juniper berries and chanterelles with a dill omelette at Ancora in Krakow.
While Ancora was easily the finest menu we saw, the finest experience was, hands-down, Wierzynek (ver-shevik). Dating back to 1364, it is the oldest restaurant in Poland. I had braised goose! It was smokey and slightly exotic tasting but cooked perfectly and as delicious as anything I had in Poland!
My meal at Wierzynek was the traditional goose, braised in mead with butter noodles and red cabbage.
Jane ordered the fish and was a little hesitant when it arrived the European way…completely intact!
…but she handled it like a champ, delicately removing the top filet and pulling away the head, bones, and tail in one smooth motion!
Another treat was traditional Sorrel Soup. Herbal and tangy, this soup was fantastic and I would order it every time!
We at at many other fine restaurants and Warsaw had plenty of them, but these were the stand-outs!