Don’t be fooled by the city center postcode, Zielony Niedzwiedź is a destination restaurant that feels isolated from the world – no rolling up to the door via taxi here, instead diners sneak down a park pathway before arriving outside a modern block of brick and glass. Set amid the greenery, the appearance of this slick, shining structure is quite startling: strollers stop in their tracks and people wonder just what it is.
The Green Bear Café is not, however, some walk-in stop-gap aimed at afternoon ramblers. Quite the opposite, in fact. In its short life it’s already become regarded as the hottest address in town. Proof? It’s here Wojciech Amaro – Poland’s Michelin darling – enjoyed a star studded birthday dinner. But while he is absent on the Insider’s visit, not all the local ’slebs are in hiding – lurking by the entrance are two talk show hosts I’m assured are high profile (“she’s great,” whispers my girlfriend, “but the bloke is a complete dick”).
To a degree, such clientele are reflective of the venue: there’s an unmistakable sense of smug satisfaction, and that sense of vanity and ego hangs heavy in the air. But unless you are particularly insecure that is no reason at all to dislike a restaurant. And yes, the doubts that we have are dispelled in a flash: first, thanks to a waitress who is all candy sweet charm, and second by an interior that’s a sensory pleasure. It looks sensual and seductive, all clean lines and soft lights.
Then there’s the starters. I could say we enjoyed them but that wouldn’t convey the real reaction that they wrought. Hers, a fish soup thick with sealife immersed in a clear, distinct broth. Exceptional. Me, a beetroot soup with a thick, creamy texture and a gingery snap that lingers on the palette. I come close to swooning. It isn’t good, it’s magic.
With the mains, I allow the price tag to sway my decision – my eye is on the bison (zł. 120), but instead I pick the less exorbitant roast beef (zł. 83). I breathe a sigh of relief when my date orders the lamb (zł. 35). The dishes are simple, almost primitive in style: robust hunks of animal served alongside caramelized root veg. But meat this good does not need any further complications, and we finish the main act with the plates spotless and gleaming.
As we ponder the next move, a surprise lands on the table: complimentary slices of bison meat and a dab of house mustard. This is, I confess, my first experience of eating this distinguished beast, and I can’t get enough. It’s lean and delicate yet unmistakably meaty. I love it, and immediately regret not ordering it for main. Next time, it’s the bison steak and bugger the expense ceiling.
So far, brilliant, but we give them one final chance to get it wrong: dessert. Of course, they finish with a flourish and leave us all smiles. There is a cheesecake so soft and creamy it’s like eating a cloud. Then there’s the sea buckthorn meringue, a faultless piece of culinary engineering. As we leave, I regale the GF about an eighties British advert whose tagline went something along the lines of ‘Follow the Bear’. I feel I have now, and you should as well. (AW)