If one was to pen a history of fine dining in Warsaw it would make a light read. With a few notable exceptions, in the twenty years that followed the changes of ’89, it meant bow-tied waiters and platters of game. It meant men with moustaches and hunched, elf-like pianists. Fine dining establishments were almost always defined by their collection of antique cupboards and floral diversions. Restraint, it seemed, was a four letter word.
But silently, almost, the last few years have seen evolution take its course. Even so, 2013 will be remembered as the banner year – the year Warsaw dining finally came of age. Yet before the foodie wave, there were already giveaway signs of what was to come. It was in 2010 the Insider first heard of Robert Trzópek, the talented face of Tamka 43. A one-time foot soldier at Noma and El Bulli, Trzópek’s return to Warsaw was met with fanfare. His restaurant was a hit. When he announced his departure earlier in the year, the capital’s growing group of gastronauts reeled. The blogs wept.
As of autumn, however, he’s back on the map. And not only is he back, but he’s got quite a team. What’s been assembled is the culinary equivalent of a Fantasy Football team. So for all that, its location is unlikely: buried deep in the office blocks of Mokotów. For the romantic inside me it’s a little unbecoming – like seeing a prostitute position herself by the doors of a casino. “You don’t need to do this,” you find yourself thinking, “with a team like yours you’ll get custom anywhere.” But this brazen bid to target the corporate wallet clearly works. We visit mid-afternoon, and the place is busy, maybe not packed but not far off it.
The design is muted: lots of charcoal grey and concrete surfaces. The menu too, is tastefully simple. My girlfriend mentions something about not being hungry enough for starters, too which I warn she won’t see any of mine. But despite my stern caution, she does. That’s my doing though. The ‘oriental salad’ is too good to keep as my private little secret. I feel a need to share the joy. I come close to swooning. But for all this, the sheer bewildering quality of the starter has a curious side-effect. The corporate circle jerk going on all around frustrates me immensely. I want to walk around shaking people by their Savile Row shoulders. “Stop talking about your bloody Q3 figures and talk about the food.”
Mains are equally as good. The filet Rossini is luxury: porcini mushrooms, truffles, foie gras, and a deep cognac sauce to go with the pink filet steak. Both plates are left spotless and we reflect on nothing else as we wait for dessert – which, as it transpires, is quite some time. The service is smooth, educated and confident, but dessert takes 20 minutes to arrive and at no time are we informed what the hold-up is for.
The reason eventually becomes apparent. The GF’s ‘Tarte Fine with caramel ginger sauce’ has been made from scratch. She revels in it. I too, am pleased: the selection of seasonal sorbets is pure food porn. I fall on it like a sordid pervert. The bill (about zł. 350 without wine) feels like money well-spent. True, you get the idea it could be more innovative, that Trzópek has been told: “look bud, no crazy stuff out there.” But is that a complaint? If so, a minor one. The Harvest is a pleasure and a triumphant return for one of Warsaw’s big names. (AW)