I’m not really sure where I stand on hotel restaurants. I’ve been to some great ones in Britain, but they’re usually frilly boutique manor houses nestled by a lake. Warsaw’s hotels, on the other hand, remind me of those bloated, bulimic weekend brunches: of getting lashed on house fizz while food dies under heat lamps. One by one though the city’s luxury hotels have switched onto the fact that their dining rooms don’t have to be vapid spaces serving soulless food.
Consider Sofitel a prime example. Designed by Didier Gomez, the revitalized restaurant area gets it right with low seating and warm colors: lots of glossy modernity but also intimacy aplenty. It’s far removed from the heartless corporate spaces that the five star mob once embraced. So they’ve nailed the interior, but what of the food? That’s left to Maciej Majewski, a French-trained chef whose menu mixes seasonal Polish produce with Gallic techniques.
Operating from an open kitchen, Majewski and his boys aren’t kidding when they claim their menu concentrates on the creation of ‘fine, true, identifiable flavors’. Starters are awash with big tastes, including a sharp apple chutney that plays well with the pâté en croûte. The spring niçoise, meanwhile, finds glistening pieces of tuna and egg tempura amid a mass of greenery. It’s a victory.
The pace is kept with the mains: sea bass with scorched leek and a luxurious fish velouté, not to mention a suckling piglet fillet. It feels perfect paired with a splash of beefy jus, yet never overwhelming. Is there room for dessert? Hell yeah! On this side of the table that means mascarpone cheesecake with splodges of passion fruit gel: it’s creamy, perky, light and smooth – everything I want and more. But that’s not to say I can’t resist a nip at the dessert sitting opposite: a deep chocolate mousse paired with refreshing peppermint ice cream. Again, it’s happiness on a plate.
Suspicions were rife when the Sofitel made a noise about their new-look restaurant, but who’s laughing now. Suspend your disbelief that a chain hotel can get it so right, Warsaw has changed and so should you. Go there. Eat. Enjoy. (AW)