Stolica proves there’s more to Old Town than meets the eye…
Few areas in the capital have a higher density of restaurants than the Old Town, but quantity is no guarantee of quality. Far from it. In a district top-heavy with below-par options aimed at onetime guests, Stolica stands out as one of the proud few venues that’s truly worth the visit. Evoking the spirit of the inter-war epoch, diners creak through a heavy wooden door before entering an elegant space decorated with paintings of Warsaw’s past. As bow-tied waiters glide as if in tune with the classical sounds, there is a sense of being enveloped in a private little world that’s been lost to history.
Set on the scenic corner of one of the Old Town’s lesser known squares, Stolica is an enjoyably nostalgic ride through bygone times. Fittingly, this atmosphere is reflected by a menu that celebrates the tastes of classic Poland with no quarter given. For starters, keep winter at bay with a rich mushroom and crayfish soup typical of Mazuria, or else opt for the chef’s signature tartar: made using deer, and accompanied with the requisite sprinkling of marinated pickles and red onion jam, it’s a vibrant dish that feels representative of a nation. Plant a Polish flag on it and it could easily fulfill an ambassadorial role.
Mains are big both in size and in taste. Cooked with nothing less than complete competence and confidence, the lamb shank could fall of the bone with a shake of the wrist. Served on a bed of pillowy horseradish puree, this is food exactly as it should be: warming and delicious. But picking out a star dish isn’t easy work. The pork tenderloin, with a pumpkin rubbing and pinches of fried kale, reveals much about this kitchen’s commitment to quality product.
To cook classic dishes that are iconic of the country is no easy feat: there are traps to be avoided. Many choose to over elaborate in their push to impress; others, to simplify and deconstruct in a manner that loses the very meaning of the dish. Here, in Stolica, such hazards are side-stepped. Retaining the very essence of the traditional Polish kitchen, think of this as a restaurant that eschews silly fads to candidly stick to what all restaurants should do: that is, to feed its guests with quality food. It’s a philosophy others would do well to follow.