WI: For those that haven’t visited, what’s the concept behind the restaurant…
DP: I wanted to return to the idea of ‘fire’, something that we first explored with Butchery & Wine. Mostly, I was excited about basing a restaurant around ‘fire’ and this location was ideal for that because it has great extraction and other such facilities that you need for such a project. For me, when I think of fire I think of people sitting around in the countryside and the good energy you feel when grilling sausages with your friends. In a way, I wanted a dining room that could capture that same kind of positivity.
Fire, of course, means meat!
Having opened five other restaurants before Koneser Grill I really wanted to get back to where it all began, meat, but to approach it from a different direction. We wanted to go for longer seasoning, expand on nose-to-tail ideas, etc.
All your other restaurants are on ‘the other side’. What inspired you to make the jump to Praga?
Being honest, when I was approached five years ago to open here I took my time making the decision as the complex was still basically a ruin with a hole in the ground! What swayed me was when I saw what the developer was doing in terms of the restoration and the attention to detail that was being invested in places like Zoni and the Vodka Museum. Wow. That was when I really began believing in the vision for Centrum Praskie Koneser.
And that’s something that’s been affirmed since opening…
It’s a little different from my other locations in that it’s a mixed-use project in a historic factory – but what they’ve done is incredible. Look at the Vodka Museum, I think when you look at its quality it’s in the same league as the Warsaw Rising Museum. Very importantly, they’ve brought together interesting people with big ambitions and you can see that with the hotel, the various stores, and the presence of cult Warsaw places like Syreni Śpiew – there’s a real reason to come here.
What is Praga to you?
It reminds me of Brooklyn or Brixton in that it hasn’t always had a great reputation. But look at it now. You’ve got beautiful buildings that survived World War II but didn’t survive what followed – but now, one by one, they’re being revitalized and looking better than ever. It’s proximity to the city center is important, but I also love the uniqueness of Praga: the local slang, the street art, the market down the road, and the little side streets where you can see all sorts of things! It’s interesting. It’s intriguing. The energy is good.
How did the restaurant respond to the lockdown?
We adjusted, and that meant transforming one of the VIP rooms into a delicatessen selling steaks, bone marrow, sausage rolls, cold cuts and those kind of things. Our head chef, Piotr Wójcik, isn’t just a great cook but also a very talented butcher.
Is the deli a temporary solution?
I hope it’s here to stay. We want to appeal to local customers as well and the delicatessen is a good way to get to them. Of course, if ever I see that the shop isn’t performing then I’ll have a rethink, but for the time being I’m really happy with the arrangement – it’s a difficult time for restaurants so we have to do whatever it takes to attract people.
How have things changed now that restrictions have been relaxed?
We’re fortunate to have a very loyal customer base. They were fantastic. I was getting so many messages saying, “Hey Daniel, the moment you’re back open book me in for 8 p.m.!” That was so nice to hear. We didn’t go down the route of selling vouchers or anything like that, but we were very careful to make sure we stayed in touch with our customers and they responded brilliantly to that.
So it’s back to normal?
You can tell some guests are a little wary when they enter for the first time, but after a moment you can see them relaxing. Everyone has to make their own judgement when it comes to eating out, but personally I don’t think it’s anymore dangerous than walking down the street. We’ve devoted a lot of time to hygiene procedures, and customers should be assured that we’re doing everything we can from our end to maintain the highest standards.
How do you see the year panning out for Koneser Grill?
I’ve always kept a crystal ball in my cupboard but it seems to have stopped working! Maybe everything will be fine, maybe things will get worse before they get better. Who knows. I think in that respect a little bit is in our hands, and a little bit is out of our hands – we’re doing everything we can that’s in our hands. At the end of the day, people love good food and that’s not going to change. And it’s good to remember that sunshine always follows the storm!
ul. Ząbkowska 29, konesergrill.pl