The Insider discovers small is beautiful while getting down and dirty in the town’s top dive bars… by Alex WEBBER
Disenchanted by the repetitious nature of Warsaw’s drinkeries? That’s not much of a surprise if you’re sticking to the tried and tested paths. Yet even Nowy Świat, the principal culprit when it comes to spiritless, soul-sapping venues, is littered with outstanding secrets mere meters from the masses. But while the pavilion bars snuck through the passage at Nowy Świat 22/28 are no secret, the area has its share of tiny goldmines that easily go unnoticed.
First up, take Żyrafa: sucked inside it’s green/blue glow, visitors all but collide against the bar with a swing of the door. It’s just 15 sq/m, but that doesn’t stop drinkers rolling in. “There have been some nights we’ve had 30 people in here,” says the barman, a thought that both terrifies and exhilarates in equal measure. Yet not only does it have an atmosphere, it’s as clean as crystal: a place you’d comfortably linger with (slightly) more glamorous friends.
The same can’t be said of Pyk i Łyk. Thundering through a flimsy entry flap, customers are met by an even smaller area that’s devoid of furnishings aside from shelves of vodka and a bar that’s been painted to depict dripping blood. Yikes! Decorated with bizarre montages of hard drinking rockers (and Homer Simpson…), the place looks like it should be condemned: hold your nose and glance down the toilet for a true glimpse of hell. However, Pyk i Łyk is far from horrific. Once the initial shock factor subsides, and visitors settle into their vodka rhythm, it reveals itself as a bar of greatness. “No wi-fi,” shouts one sign, “talk to each other and get drunk.” It’s that kind of place.
With shots downed, and farewells made to the Black Sabbath roadie behind the bar, cross the street to reach Ulubiona on Nowy Świat 27. Set inside the archway, look for a heavy door next to a dented ashtray seemingly unemptied for the last couple of months. Shadowy and shabby, the final bar on this crawl of the unknown is perhaps the most subdued. One barfly strums a guitar, while another looks engrossed in a solo game of chess. An intensely personal experience, it’s a bar that compensates for its lack of glitz with a stoner-style ambiance that soon sweeps over all.