Warsaw’s stunning Old Town is a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site and one of the most popular places for tourists to visit in Poland. From the Royal Palace to the Old Town Square to the famous mermaid statue, this is a beautiful part of the city to explore. It was destroyed during the Second World War but has since been magnificently restored to its former glory. Delve into the culinary delights by paying a visit to one of these recommended restaurants.
Elegant, colourful and cosy, Polka makes customers feel like invited guests in a friendly, old-fashioned Polish home. The restaurant belongs to Magdalena Gessler, a famous chef and journalist who led the Polish edition of the reality show Kitchen Nightmares and was a judge on MasterChef. Offering a wide variety of Polish dishes made from eco-friendly products either baked or roasted, Polka’s best plates include traditional pork chop coated in breadcrumbs and served with onion and mashed potatoes, black pudding with apple and potatoes and a crispy duck in honey served with pan-fried beetroot or red cabbage.
U Fukiera, another restaurant owned by Magdalena Gessler, is located in the Old Town’s market place, in a tenement house that was used for wine production in the 16th century. Today’s restaurant successfully draws on the rich history of its surroundings, and has hosted a number of famous personalities, such as the queens of Denmark and Spain, Claudia Schiffer, Roman Polanski and Naomi Campbell. The tasty menu includes cold and warm starters, salads, and main courses of Polish fish, crab, trout, salmon, herring, along with a variety of meats.
For a journey back in time, dine out at Zapiecek. This vintage Old Town restaurant is on the famous Ulica Piwna (Beer Street). It is located in a very handy location, just a few minutes’ walk from many of the key sights in Warsaw. On the menu, try the bigos and the pierogi ruskie. In the winter, the famous grzane piwo is also on the menu and goes down a treat. There are also some Polish desserts available such as szarlotka (apple pie). The restaurant dates back to 1960 and also has outdoor seating during warmer months.
It often comes as a surprise to visitors that just metres from the walls of Warsaw’s Old Town, you can eat a full lunch with a drink for under 10 złotych (US$2.70)! Welcome to the Bar Pod Barbakanem, with its distinctive orange-walled exterior and good Polish food at cheap prices. This place can get busy in summer months, but it is worth it – a really good place to visit to understand what a Polish Bar Mleczny (Milk Bar) is all about.
The name of this restaurant refers to Poland’s famous legend about a dragon Basilisk, who lived in a cave and whose very sight could kill people. Bazyliszek’s old-fashioned wooden ceiling and the monochromatic, brown decorations create a calm, mystical atmosphere, while the menu comprises traditional Polish cuisine, such as żurek(a sour soup with smoked bacon, egg and white sausage), as well as foreign dishes like Italian pasta.
Shabby Chic is a small and cute café serving breakfasts and brunches all day, with delicious coffee, a great selection of organic teas and fresh homemade desserts on the menu. The staff are exceptionally friendly, and the atmosphere is very cozy, with the interior designed to make everyone feel like they are relaxing at home (think floral patterns on the walls and potted plants). During the warmer months, Shabby Chic welcomes its visitors into their garden to enjoy the charms of the Warsaw’s Old Town al fresco.
Location-wise, Restauracja Przy Zamku is as good as it gets. Translating as the ‘restaurant in front of the castle’, you will be eating directly in front of the famous Royal Palace in Castle Square. Views aside, the menu contains some truly epic options, at an expected high price due to the location. Starters cost upwards of 27 złotych (US$7), with main courses from 48 złotych (US$12). For a starter, try the game pâté (made from the meat of deer and wild boar) served with cranberry and horseradish sauce or the selection of Polish craft cheeses with buckwheat honey. For the main, indulge in the expensive but delicious roasted quail with traditional polish apricot stuffing, which is served with Polish pierogi fried in butter. There is also a fantastic range of desserts, wines and Polish beers and spirits.
Take the backstreet to the right hand side of the Warsaw Barbican Gate entrance, and you’ll uncover this gem of a place. With over 15 craft beers on tap, Restauracja Maryensztadt Craft Beer & Food is a new bar that specialises in craft beer and European food in a cosy and modern setting. The venue has an excellent range of locally crafted beers, all detailed on the wall on a blackboard-style menu. Beers range from hoppy ales to frothy stouts to sour beers. The food menu focuses on unusual dishes, and quality over quantity. Elegant little plates are filled with fine vegetables and meat dishes including corned beef with carrots, potato and broccoli or kapusta (black pudding) with spices and vegetables. The venue has indoor and outdoor seating as well as free Wi-Fi.
Portretowa is a great traditional Polish restaurant offering simple food and a cosy and friendly atmosphere. The restaurant is quite small with only a few tables inside, yet this provides a great intimate atmosphere, and the staff is very welcoming and ready to help. The menu is typical of the country, including dishes such as goulash, pierogi and lots of deliciously cooked meat options. Sample their roasted duck and the apple pie dessert and you won’t be disappointed.
Kmicic is located on the longest street of Warsaw’s Old Town, Ulica Piwna (Beer Street). The walls of the restaurant’s vintage, golden interiors are filled with old, pre-World War II photographs. Kmicic has on its menu the unique, traditional Polish cold starter, beef tartare, as well as a variety of meat dishes, notably goose thigh stuffed with buckwheat groats and smoked bacon, served on honey beets or the venison steak with cherry sauce, pear and drop dumplings. Delicious.