Relocating themselves after years on Wilcza, the new-look Gemba on Chmielna transpires to be a… hidden Gem-ba!
We’ve had something of a rocky relationship with Chmielna. Once one of Warsaw’s key high streets, the last decade or so has seen it degenerate into a scuffed-looking space filled with shuttered shopfronts and tacky bubble tea joints. That said, a flurry of bars have given it wings, not least places such as Hopito, Hoppiness and Pinta. Found in a courtyard just off Warsaw’s most maligned piece of concrete (that’s the scandalously spartan Pl. Pięciu Rogów), the launch of Gemba give another reason to give the area a crack.
Formerly of Wilcza, Gemba’s seven-year tenure in south-central saw it acquire a cult reputation. Accessed over a steel walkway, this two-level space became synonymous with late nights. Often open waaaay after the other neighborhood bars had closed, it was a bar that many used to put the concluding final touches to an epic night out.
Shifting north in January, the Gemba you see now has lost none of its party-first spirit. Adopting a loose-fitting PRL style, interiors include wood-paneled walls decorated with pics of Pope JPII, sporting pennants and framed artworks from the heyday of the Polish School of Poster. Tricked out with retro wallpaper, the perches by the bar are the most sought, but spillover seating can also be found in a winter garden enclosed by green and scarlet drapes – very David Lynch.
Food & Drink
The choice of beers feels far more modest than their previous address, but the fridge covers all the bases with beers from solid breweries like Bernard and Obolon, as well as Polish craft from established names such as Pinta, Trzy Kumpli and Inne Beczki. There’s nothing too maverick here, but the choice is broad enough to satisfy a beer monster’s cravings.
Hovering around the PLN 30 mark, the house cocktails involve classics like the Manhattan and Old Fashioned, as well as more unusual options like Ewa Bem – Gibson’s gin, pink grapefruit, maple syrup and rosemary. Also making a big deal out of their Polish tapas, stomach liners come in the form of white sauage. Herring, Poland’s version of black pudding – a.k.a. kaszanka, and a quite fabulous tartar.
It Feels Like…
It doesn’t just look fun, it feels it as well. Busy through the week, as the rainbow flag attests this is an inclusive space that feels pleasingly international. Drawing a crowd that’s late-20s upwards, there’s a hell of a lot to enjoy here – DJ sets, jazz jams and ‘drag bingo’ serve to only reinforce that impression.
Those familiar with Wrocław will doubtless know the Neon Side Gallery – a courtyard filled with well over twenty neon signs dating from Poland’s years behind the Iron Curtain. Providing the paperwork can be provided, we’re told that this courtyard’s owner hopes to do something similar. We’re not holding our breath, but the idea alone is completely delicious.
Chmielna 21, facebook
(Photos: Kevin Demaria