When did restaurants lose their personality? When did they lose their soul. Although I can’t offer you a timeline, even the near-sighted would agree that a growing number of venues now look the same: pendulum lights, stripped wood floors, a splash of concrete and a spot of raw brickwork. It’s not necessarily a bad look, it’s just an approach that’s been exhausted beyond death. Instead, give me something with heart, give me something with character. Give me Pod Gigantami.
Merely entering this place is a grand affair: accessed down an imposing stone corridor, a heavy door thuds open to reveal a series of rooms that unravel like a scene in Dr. Zhivago. All pomp and splendor, huge portraits of monarchs in ermine stare down from the walls; pristine parquet floors gently creak underfoot; from another chamber, the sound of clinking glasses whispers through the air. Instantly, one is struck by the sheer excess and opulence. Over the top? Sure. But over the top in the kind of manner that suspends reality and places diners inside their own private fairy tale – in a city that’s becoming more homogenized by the day, that’s a rare and proud accomplishment.
Yet as much as the interior makes an impact it fails to steal the show. That belongs to Paweł Zieliński, a chef whose biography includes a stint at the Michelin starred L’Ecrivain in Dublin. Now back in Poland, his menu is a patriotic proclamation of all that is good. For starters there is a beef tartar with pickled, local mushrooms, mustard seeds, and a creamy confit egg yolk. Well-seasoned and textured as it should, it’s dish that gives you hope for all that lies ahead.
In my case, that means żurek with a small slab of pork belly, cep mushrooms, veal sausage and fresh marjoram. While the sheer amount of ingredients ensure no spoonful is the same, the tastes are coherent and complimentary. Filled with robust flavors, this sour rye soup does the job of shaking the cold chills from my brittle, wintry bones.
It also does a handy job of setting up the field for the main event: duck with cherry and cranberry sauce falls next into view, and continues on the theme of perfect seasonal food. There are two highlights here, the first being small pearls of apple that pop with sweetness, and the second the skin: braised then roasted, this technique ensures that the coat on my duck is all crispy crackle. This is a bird to love and cherish. There is dessert as well, a rich incident full of chocolatey goodness, but the truth is by this stage the cap is on my pen and my notepad tucked away. – this is not a time to work, it’s a time to sit back and savor. So I do… (AW)
Al. Ujazdowskie 24, podgigantami.pl