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The return of Robert Sowa meets with acclaim…

Warsaw, in case you haven’t noticed, has entered the Age of the Chef – and boy don’t we know it. Everywhere you eat, there you have it, the name of some cook being pushed in your face. It matters not if they’re actually any good, just so long as they’ve had a three-minute slot on morning TV: looking around town, you sometimes wonder how little it now takes to get a restaurant with your name up in lights. In contrast, Robert Sowa is a man who has earned his stripes: largely credited for the post-communist modernization of Polish food culture, his tenure at the top has made him a household name, not to mention one of the few chefs in the country who genuinely merits the media spotlight.

Opened towards the tail end of last year, that his latest venture is full on a Wednesday afternoon is a testament to the enduring pulling power of Sowa’s name. Reinventing the space once occupied by the grubby, not to say slightly shady Patrick’s Irish Pub, N31 introduces itself with a flourish of class: charcoal surface colors, fancy linen and tasteful lighting. From the start you get the sense of a place that people book into knowing they’ll impress. But if the place is right, is the cooking? Or is this a chef sailing along on his past reputation? If there are any doubts, these are brushed aside once the courses drop anchor. This is food as it should be: understandable and full of the big, raunchy tastes beloved by the Polish businessman. It’s cooking with logic, where the right techniques are pitted against the ingredients that suit them.

N31
ul. Nowogrodzka 31, n31restaurant.pl

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Saddle of roe deer with morel mushrooms, potato pancakes and Rubin cheese mousse. The most enjoyable main of the lot hits a home run with its sheer depth of taste.

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Grilled goats cheese with caramelized figs, pepper jam and roasted beetroot: a subtle starter for discriminating taste buds. It’s the pepper jam that’s the real hook, and that finds itself discreetly sponged up by any bread spare.

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Saddle of roe deer with morel mushrooms, potato pancakes and Rubin cheese mousse. The most enjoyable main of the lot hits a home run with its sheer depth of taste.

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Duck breast with sweet potato puree, Polish butter dumplings, quince ginger sauce and caramelized carrot: the splodgy presentation aside, this is a memorably rich course that the duck deserves.   

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Halva mousse with roasted sesame seeds and raspberry coulis: this has become known as something of a signature dessert of Sowa’s, and it’s been mastered by dessert chef Krzysztof Kopciński.

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