Glinting like a gastronomic jewel, Restauracja Forty hits its peak as summer reaches its stride.
Not often, but it happens, that along comes a restaurant that fills your world with dazzling new colors – and God knows, don’t we need a bit of that following the lockdown in Spring. Of course, that Forty would be good was kind of expected. Fired out from the same canon as Ale Wino and Kukułka, the latest project from this celebrated team was well on its way to conquering Warsaw when along came that virus whose name we shan’t speak – and dammit, just as we were preparing for our inaugural visit. The best things, though, are well worth the wait…
A Sense Of Place
If you’ve not visited Fort Mokotów before, shame on you. Like entering a secret world, a potholed lane flanked by scraggly bushes opens up to reveal a Tsarist era complex whose battered brick fortifications have since been turned over to house ad agencies, art studios and assorted creative think tanks. There’s restaurants, as well, in fact it’s a thriving little hub of hangouts and suchlike. And among them there’s Forty.
It’s not so much a garden that Forty have, but a whole bloody park. But while it’s the size that impresses it’s the quality that makes the impact – so perfect that it registers as unreal, on quieter days, say a weekday afternoon, the silence is broken only by the rustling leaves. Exquisite in its greenery and immaculate on the eye, it’s impossible to believe that all this awaits just minutes from the center.
Quite literally everything has gone wrong this year, so it’s safe to assume that the weather will as well. That being the case, shift indoors when the inevitable summer tornado strikes to find yourself enjoying a gorgeous interior designed by Studio Rygalik. Effortlessly soothing, what could have ended up as just another post-industrial cavern instead comes across as something original and fresh.
Sure, you’ve got the peeling plaster ceilings and great big iron girders, but these work in tandem with personalized signature features such as an elaborate glass installation hovering over the chef’s table and tables crafted from demolished old barns. Despite the enormity of the place (and yes, it is BIG), there’s a harmony at work that’s unusual for Warsaw.
The Important Stuff
Food! On first look, you wonder what the hell the chef, Daniel Uliczny, has done with the menu – of the mains, there are just two. This though is not a plunge into madness, but a clever trick to divert guests towards exploring the portfolio of starters.
Moderately priced on our visit between zł. 12 and zł. 34, these are a beautiful adventure that marry seasonal produce with unexpected forays down uncharted paths: oyster mushrooms, for example, served inside pillowy bao with rice mayonnaise; a sorrel soup so vivid and refreshing as to defy expectations; and a strip of barbecued trout glistening with a teriyaki sauce and accompanied by an artsy pinch of greens.
Neither is this a chef too clever for his own good. When it comes to asparagus, the product is left to sing for itself – cooked perfectly, it’s sensitively elevated with the addition of a chimichurri sauce and a discreet dab of labneh: simple and effective. The same sentiment applies to dessert: lime sorbet on a bed of granola – easy peasy on the face of it, but executed to such a high level as to elicit squeaks of pleasure.
The typical Warsaw restaurant feeds you, then can’t wait to chuck you out: “we’ve got your money, now see ya’ next time, sucker.” Forty is one of the very few where customers are likely – and encouraged – to hang around for more. And you certainly will want to.
The wine, as expected for a place with familial ties to Ale Wino, is a key component of their offer, and here you’ll find around 150 and thirty by the glass. But really, forget them: instead, saddle up to the circular bar and get personal with a cocktail list that stands chin-to-chin with the best in town. At zł. 39 a pop they’re also among the most expensive, but created to this standard you’re unlikely to give a hoot.
Our faves: Brother Scoby (homemade kombucha, bergamot and lemongrass and ginger gin) and the Hazelnut Fashion (bourbon, cedar nuts, Capuchin balm): whichever you choose, it’s quite a finish to an extraordinary experience.
Schooled under the brilliant Sebastian Wełpa at Ale Wino, head chef Daniel Uliczny has already proven himself as one of the finest upcoming talents in the country and for that reason alone you really must visit.
Yet for all of that, Forty is about more than just the food. And it’s about more than the drinks and the beautiful design. That the waiters appear so emotively connected to the project in itself says much. And it’s through these unsung foot soldiers one senses the mood, vibe and passion on which Forty thrives. A sanctuary from the complete s**t we’ve all been through over the last few months, it’s a place to escape and feel good about the world.
ul. Racławicka 99, website