Not to be mistaken for a fuddy-duddy museum experience, Muzealna captures the essence of modern Polish food and design…
Location, Location, Location
Dating from the inter-war years, the modernist edifice housing the National Museum in Warsaw strikes nothing if not a powerful pose – passing it outside, it’s impossible not to be intrigued by its stoic and monumental form.
The largest of all of the capital’s cultural institutions (at least for the time being), its austere sense of majesty harks to those golden years of Poland’s Second Republic. Approaching, its dimensions seems to swallow you whole, and as the automatic doors swing open you enter inside the main foyer – a marble affair often brimming with unruly school groups going wild on their big day out.
Lying to the right-hand side, find Muzealna squirreled down a staircase that opens onto the -1 level. Though hardly challenging, count finding it as a mini-adventure that will appeal to exploratory senses.
Design figures highly. Minimalistic at first sight, this sun-kissed chamber is sprinkled generously with works attributed to some of Poland’s top design pioneers. “We wanted the interior to connect to the National Museum,” reveals the co-owner Tomek. “Not by referencing the old masters, but instead by referring to the museum’s Gallery of Polish Design.”
As such, examples of the applied arts are copious in their number: a communal table manufactured from upcycled fishing nets; colorful 3D-printed totems by UAUPROJECT; cupboards by Maria Jeglińska; customized seats by Studio Rygalik; elegant vases by Malwina Konopacka; and a host of other little add-ons that add punches of individualism to this sandstone-colored room.
Though seemingly buried in a cellar, this turns out to be Muzealna’s biggest trick: floor-to-ceiling windows run down an entire flank allowing for plenty of natural light to come gushing in.
Food & Drink
The wine angle is covered by Damian Zakrzewski, a sommelier whose choices have been described as “daring and confident” in the past. Poland features highly on his list, but aware of the nation’s youthful limits there’s also several wines from more expected sources. Despite this, there’s a clear preference towards the smaller vineyards.
Now, no-one would be critical if you simply ambled in for drinks, just bear in mind that overlooking the menu should be an offence made punishable by law. For this, blame Przemysław Suska, a rising star with the world at his feet.
“We wanted the Polish element to go further than just the design,” says Tomek, “so like the interior we feel that Przemek’s menu offers a contemporary look at what this country does well.” Modernizing classics like gołąbki, Suska’s approach sees this stuffed cabbage dish forego its traditional meat and rice elements, replacing them instead with bulgur and mushrooms.
A little playful in his reimagining of the Polish kitchen, Suska’s other triumphs include a herring served with labneh and tarragon mayonnaise as well as a duck main course in a sweet fruit sauce composed of prunes and sundried fruits – when no-one’s looking, you lick the plate.
But it’s not just domestic classics that have been retuned. International dishes are also given a Polonized spin – instead of beef wellington, guests can order a beetroot wellington that will instantly charm with its bold rustic tastes and magical puff pastry coating. Usually considered a heavy, meat-driven cuisine, at Muzealna the menu is as light and airy as the restaurant itself.
And, of course, then there’s the most important course of all – dessert. Featuring three options, these include, at the time of writing, a deconstructed cheesecake with salted caramel and burnt white chocolate as well as the classic Warsaw ‘wuzetka’ cake with cocoa sponge, spiced Chantilly, marmalade and chocolate. But the big win is the meringue, a gorgeous assembly of coffee cream, milk ice cream and fluffy meringue.
Owned by the same team behind Ale Wino and Kukułka, it’s no surprise that their latest venture proves such a hit.
Final Bits & Pieces
Despite the premium location and sky-high quality the prices have been kept sensible: as things stand, you’re looking at starters that average out at the thirty mark, and mains that start in the mid-40s and peak in the low-60s. Desserts, they’re approximately PLN 25. For the more frugal, lunch deals are a snip at 30 for two-courses and 36 for three.
Do, also, keep the owners on your watch-list. As it turns out, they’ve not yet finished with the National Museum. Opening sometime in the near future, we’re told to look forward to a funky cocktail bar set in what was once Café Lorentz. We don’t need to tell you, we’ll be the first ones there…
Photographs: Kevin Demaria
Al. Jerozolimskie 3, web