Ever since Chlodna 25 closed, I’ve been looking for that perfect little café/bar retreat where I can show up on a quiet afternoon, open a book about serial killers, and then waste the day like a true gentleman of leisure. A few places have stepped into the breach, not least the fabulous Panstwo Miasto. But there is another place that’s getting my custom lately, and that’s a place most people will never have heard of: Czesc.
Set down a gusty tunnel underneath an office/residential compound, it’s easily missed – you need to know it’s there. I’ve fallen in love with it, which is a bit of a surprise. I didn’t think I’d like it, primarily because the first thing you see when you order at the bar is a sign that reads: ‘Enter as strangers, leave as friends.’ I’ve seen signs like that before, and they’re usually in an Irish bar in Prague or a scumbag hostel in Krakow – in short, the kind of place where you actually leave with either a black eye or bed bugs. So the surprise is that in Czesc, they are good to their word: the welcome is real, the warmth is genuine.
Ok, there’s nothing radical about their vision: they’re not trying to change Warsaw in the same way places like Charlotte or Panstwo have. But you know what, I get the idea that wasn’t the plan anyway: they’re just happy running a top little hangout.
And a top little hangout it is, the discovery of which I owe to a mate of mine out walking his chubby little corgi. Sometime last month I received an urgent text to meet him – and pronto: “Look, I’ve found a brilliant place and it sells proper cider.” Rubbish, I thought, I know all the good places and have never heard of this mob. Well, a month on and I’m a regular.
There’s an unassuming style to Czesc. It’s a small white room hung with changing art and photo displays (right now, one man’s journey to China – and back!), and colored by low-slung armchairs and bunches of cushions. But there are eccentricities as well: shelving is provided by up-cycled crates, while the toilet is decorated with a Space Invaders motif. It’s not about big, bold statements, rather fine, little details: for instance, Rwandan drip coffee; rare vodka from the mountains; boutique cakes and bruschetta made with love. And then there’s the beer. The fridge is good but the real clincher is the taps: which for the last month have been gushing with Weston’s Cider (now replaced by an equally good Irish cider, Kepplers I think!?), Racoborskie and my beer of the year: Artezan Pacific.
As all that suggests, it’s a versatile place. You’re as likely to see a local mums and tots gathering as you are singletons staring into a smoothie. You’re as happy to spend the afternoon here dicking about on Facebook, as you are carousing with your mates on a Thursday night session. And it’s downside? There isn’t one.
Czesc ul. Grzybowska 2 (through the side passage), www.czesc.waw.pl