Pl. Konstytucji gets the restaurant it’s been crying out for…
Those ‘Then & Now’ photo albums, I’m a huge fan. Who isn’t? So in one such collection on Facebook you’ve got Pl. Konstytucji. The ‘Then’ bit shows this square as it was, back in nineteen fifty something. There’s no cars, no billboards, and the trams look funny, but other than that you ask has it really changed that much. View it through sepia goggles and the Konstytucji of today isn’t all that different. If it’s real change you want to see around these parts, you have to explore the food angle.
Till recently dinner at No. 2 meant pierogi ordered in a sterile, waiting room environment. It wasn’t bad (if anything, it was actually pretty good), but you left feeling like you’d eaten not in a flourishing capital, rather in some canteen behind Tarnobrzeg train station: get me outta’ here, now! Over to the new tenants then, Varso Vie. Firstly, it’s a place you enjoy just being in. There’s a big dining room up top, yet despite the concrete color palette it retains a good buzz. It helps that on one side guests are flanked by punchy bursts of modern art, and on the other, an open kitchen that’s all clamor, commotion and general rumpus. You feel life.
As it turns out, we choose one of the two anterooms, settling inside a white chamber decorated with the erotic photography of Szymon Brodziak. His works are a cursory diversion for its all eyes on the table once starters roll out: wafer thin slices of cured venison alongside powdered juniper, drops of honey gel and cubes of beetroot; duck stomachs in a flaky puff pastry with a thick smear of thyme sauce; and beef tartar. Living in Poland, tartar is a dish I’ve learned to love, and this one is a champion. Smoked with cherry wood, and with a runny quail egg perched on top, it’s a pleasure mashing it all up with sides like bean sprouts, chives, capers and shallots. I give a look to the rest of the table that says, ‘you dare take any of this and I’ll stab ya’ with a fork’.
I find the tripe soup that follows less successful, but that’s largely down to an ongoing war with tripe that dates back to boarding school: I have an unforgiving memory, let’s leave it at that. My Polish colleague is less squeamish, singing the praises of the offal meatballs that float in the broth. For mains the duck confit is a solid performer, however, our table agrees that the prizewinner this round is the Baltic trout. It’s the combination that does it: a beautiful piece of fish on a pinkish mush of red lentils and mint.
Finishing, the three of us are left scrapping over two desserts. The meringue mousse with passion fruit and blood orange jelly is coveted by all, and before I know it I’m left with the crumbs. I can tell I’ve missed out on something great, but my vengeance is fast: next is a tower of mascarpone cheese layered on tulle tarragon chocolate with caramel foam. I make it my own. It’s perfect gooey pleasure, its richness balanced out by the neutrality of the milk ice cream: the kind of finale that warrants applause. There have been occasions where I’ve let a strong finish destabilize my opinion and cloud what’s come before. Not this time. Whether you go back to front or front to back, chef Waldemar Wiatr’s menu does little wrong; and a hell of a lot right. (AW)
Pl. Konstytucji 2, tel. 22 622 2472, varso-vie.pl