Warsaw’s culinary scene has inspired foodies for decades, with internationally renowned establishments as well as socially and artistically engaged restaurants garnering praise. Fascinating stories, original locations, and creative décor fuse seamlessly with the delectable flavors of Polish and imported cuisine in Warsaw, as a visit to any of these ten restaurants will reveal.
The ‘Red Pig’ is a quirky PRL-themed pub. PRL stands for the Polska Rzeczpospolita Ludowa, which is what the country was called during Communist times. While it is a pub, the food menu is vast, quirky and excellent. The menu offers two options – the cheaper one is ‘for the proletariat’ and the dearer option ‘for dignitaries and the bourgeoisie’. That said, it is a very famous bar and restaurant that has been visited by countless celebrities and it is one of the rare PRL pubs in Warsaw, the country’s capital city. If you check the endless array of photos on the walls, you will see which famous people visited this place. The interior is red with lots of memories of a bygone era. The beer garden out the front permits smoking and has a vintage Polish car from the 1980s, a Black Volga, notorious for being the car associated with the KGB and abductions during Communist rule.
El Popo is a little slice of Mexico nestled into the streets of the Polish capital, and it dates back to 1992. Delightful cocktails with salt-rimmed glasses, a Mexican chef, live Latino music and dancing (Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays), sensational Mexican food and a cosy décor ensure this is a great advert for Mexican cuisine in Warsaw. If you’re feeling peckish, go for a starter, a main course and a dessert all washed down with a good cocktail and a strong shot of tequila. Try the handmade tortilla stuffed with pieces of chicken breast and vegetables with salsa and guacamole, served with spicy sauce. Indulge in their trademark margarita and ‘water’ down your spicy tacos with an excellent michelada. El Popo is the oldest Mexican restaurant in Warsaw and is well known as one of the leading Mexican restaurants in Eastern Europe.
For the best chain of Polish restaurants, dine out at Zapiecek. While the company has premises all over the country, the Nowy Świat venue is in the heart of central Warsaw and there are a few more scattered around the Old Town. It is situated in a very handy location, just a one-minute walk from the metro, and within a few minutes’ walk of many of the key sights in Warsaw, such as the Chopin Museum, the Copernicus Monument and the Presidential Palace. 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.
Another superb Warsaw venue with a historic feel about it is the Bar Mleczny Prasowy, which dates back to 1954. It’s located on the main Marszałkowska Street in a grey building and serves up a delightful range of pierogi in a very typical ‘Milk Bar‘ atmosphere. Inside is a bigger interior than most Milk Bars, as Bar Mleczny Prasowy needs to satisfy the hordes of customers on weekdays, particularly during the 12–2pm peak times. Enjoy one of the cheapest places in central Warsaw to eat, with pierogi from 6 złotych (US$1.68), soup from 3 złotych and kompot for 2 złotych.
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 in MasterChef. Offering a wide variety of Polish dishes made from eco-friendly products either baked or roasted, Polka’s best plates include a 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.
Rozana is an elegant old-style restaurant that specialises in Polish cuisine. It is located a few tram stops from the centre of Warsaw – get out at Rakowiecka and walk to Chocimska Street. The place certainly has an old authentic vibe reinforced by their traditional ingredient combinations – mostly meat and potatoes with vegetables – and there is often a pianist playing the little old piano. Try their goose or duck, as the Różana chefs really know how to cook these treat dishes. For a sweet treat, there’s also a dessert platter with a great variety of cakes.
The Kameralna, as we now know it, is a reconstruction of a much older establishment, the so-called Kamera: once the heart of Warsaw’s Bohemian life, it used to be the meeting place for writers and artists from all over the city. Kameralna’s atmospheric lighting, as well as its original use of brass and wood elements, make it a haven for foodies and design fans alike. The menu is dominated by Polish delicacies, such as melt-in-your-mouth apple-stuffed duck or rich goulash served on top of a potato pancake. Don’t miss out on the classic shot of Polish vodka, best served ice-cold with pickles on the side. There is also of course a tasty range of Polish soups and pierogi.
A restaurant with a difference, but one that is firmly embedded into Warsaw’s culinary history is the Wedel Chocolate Lounge. Chocolate lovers will surely enjoy the delicious handmade pralines, cakes and truffles at this elegant restaurant and café, set up by one of the oldest Polish chocolate brands – Wedel. The Szpitalna Street location is a definite must-see thanks to its opulent 19th-century interior with Art Nouveau elements and mahogany furniture, which will make you feel like you’ve travelled back in time. Wash your sumptuous chocolate treats down with a strong liqueur or a custom-made mocha and you’ll be in chocolate heaven.
U Kucharzy translates as ‘in the chef’s place’ and is a charming Michelin-starred restaurant located not far from the Old Town. The restaurant is located in a beautiful 17th-century Warsaw Armory building and combines traditional Polish food with a pinch of French elegance. If you visit for the first time, try their lowly zrazy(braised beef) and pierogi, with some apple pie enriched with fresh prunes as a dessert. The restaurant often hosts live music performances. It is advised to book a table in advance, as it gets really busy.
Belvedere has one of the finest settings of any restaurant in Warsaw. It is located in the famous Łazienki Królewskie Park, which is a modern-day oasis with spacious, greenhouse architecture, lush greenery and peacocks strolling around its lawn. The kitchen professes a modern approach to Polish cuisine, where simple, traditional dishes are presented in unexpected ensembles. The gilt-headed bream with shrimp mousse and pumpkin purée, elderberry and cardamom, or the duck breast with black lentils, apple coulis, fried kumquat and passionfruit sauce are bound to tickle any epicure’s appetite. In the summer, Belvedere opens its Champagne Garden, where guests can enjoy Champagne and elegant bites in the surroundings of the beautiful park. Its tranquil atmosphere makes Belvedere the perfect place for a romantic dinner or quiet lunch.