Sundays for Luncheonettes are most likely to be spent in a museum and a downtown eatery. If the two are in close proximity, all the better. So hats off to Zachęta, Warsaw’s premiere contemporary art museum, for creating the perfect Sunday outing.
Open since mid-February, the bistro Po Prostu Zachęta belies its newness. Its location in the lower level of the museum has been completely renovated. Despite the grand vaulted ceiling, the restaurant offers a sense of substantial privacy to diners with tables nestled beside major columns in the dining room. They appear to have room to grow with a foyer and garden space for the future.
This is owner Darek Ryniec’s second foray into the business. The 37 year old former actor and English teacher cut his teeth on the original Po Prostu bistro in Mokotów, which is a quirky mix-up of a place with celebrity clientele and moms on the run, cool art for sale and eclectic live music in the evenings. With the first of his fledgling franchise, always bustling and inviting from early morning to night, Darek went beyond mere eatery and succeeded in cultivating a home away from home.
Zachęta’s recent remodeling deserved this type of good food partner. Selected after a lengthy competition, the restaurant model has been tweaked to accommodate the personality of its location, making it a bit more sophisticated but still cozy. Presuming that the client base will consist of more foreigners, the set lunch menu (zł. 29, on weekdays: a choice of soup and main) emphasizes Polish cuisine while offering a main menu that is definitely trendy European.
With dishes all but licked clean, we savored “Polish light” for lunch with slender goląbki (stuffed cabbage). They were not too dense, almost fluffy, and covered in a subtle tomato broth-like sauce. The barszcz Ukrainian-style (which is code for ‘with stuff’) was a meal in itself, with hunks of beef, broad beans, cabbage and tomatoes invigorated with allspice balls and marjoram. The staff is quick and polite, all well-trained professionals. Manager Lidwina Glińska is bursting with enthusiasm and graciousness. The kitchen is fast, serving up scrumptious dishes without missing a beat.