This had started life as a review of Sketch, a bold and brash bar a couple of doors down. Proving that not all tap bars are created equal, that they serve 21 beers is purely incidental. You get the idea that the mob who congregate would be happy if the pipes were hooked up to the udders of a cow – so long as milk was on trend.
A place of inflated egos and smug self-assurance, Sketch is a metaphor for a whole section of Warsaw: vapid, shallow and a touch overpriced. You stagger out bewildered – like you’ve been banged on the head. It fits well, however, in an area rich with rip-offs and insincerity. Fortunately, Bubbles is the opposite.
The first thing to strike you here is the ambiance – celebratory, but neither conceited nor contrived. Occupying a small, square room, it’s intimate and relaxed: a place busy with blackboards and bottles, crates and clutter. It radiates warmth and honesty. Coming from the glaring fakery of Sketch, we immediately feel at ease.
This is an unexpected sensation, for Bubbles is not named after Michael Jackson’s chimp, but in homage to champagne. Yet this is not your typical champagne bar – there’s no sneery attitude, and that applies to both customers and staff. Largely, that’s attributed to the owner, Tomasz, an affable chap with a genuine interest in people. His skills lie in making everyone feel important, and his good nature manifests itself in an atmosphere that causes guests to dally and linger.
It helps, of course, that Bubbles is largely affordable: sure, you can spend serious money here (some of the champagnes are exclusive to Poland and come with terrifying price tags), but there are more moderate choices as well: glasses of wine start at zł. 10, and a flute of champers from zł. 29. And then there’s the food.
I figured it’d be good after a friend told me she’d visited on Thursday and liked it so much she returned the next day. What I didn’t figure was that it’d be this good. Echoing Tomek’s character, there is nothing fancy or faddy about the menu, instead it’s an articulate work that celebrates slow food.
Opting to order a selection of starters, we kickoff with a tomato tartar that sparkles with freshness; kumpiak ham follows, aged for six months and full of herby kick; next, a gooey camembert crowned with cranberries. There are moments you think it can’t get any better, yet invariably it does. Snails, farmed in Mazury, arrive sitting in garlic butter, white wine and parsley. They’re big, meaty buggers and devoured with gusto. And there’s an alcoholic sorbet, created tableside by Tomek under a swirl of liquid nitrogen.
But the highlight is the Swiss raclette: its heavy odor fills the room like a soldier’s socks, but it’s pure winter glory. Presented on a wooden chopping board, this cheese dish is classic melty goodness, and served alongside a pile of potatoes, onions marinated with caramel and candied pumpkin. We revel in its glow and don’t want to leave. You won’t either, for Bubbles is a rarity: a place that makes both food and drink an absolute joy – book immediately. (AW)