Almost British in its damp and inconsistency, this summer has teased, frustrated and only occasionally delivered. Regardless of this, the natives remain defiant and undefeated – the first crack of light, and out they come, scurrying outside to bask in the sun. For some, this has meant surrendering all privacy and descending on the riverbank; for others, city center terraces that bake in the heat. For me though, summer has meant rediscovering Warsaw’s wee band of suburban secret gardens.
Hidden behind a screen of greenery, Zielnik is one such place. Proper, prim and perfect, it’s a venue where the popping of corks and gentle murmur of conversation drift softly under the pristine white canopies – squint a little and you’d think you were at Wimbledon (the tennis tournament, not the football club).
Food-wise, the menu has a heavy Polish perspective, but one that feels contemporary and open to global influences: incorporating shallots, peppers and coriander oil, the crisp gazpacho is a prime example of this. So too is the Baltic salmon tartar: marinated for 24 hours with salt, sugar and coriander seeds, it’s served with mango, cucumber and avocado. A mix of domestic and international produce, it presents, in the words of our waiter, “everything we love about the summer.”
Chanterelles picked in Hajnówka return the focus to Poland: complete with caramelized cauliflower and a poached quail egg, it’s a dish that feels fundamentally and proudly Polish – the wild forest tastes given sophistication by the smooth, buttery finish. Mains are equally patriotic: presented on a wooden board, the spare ribs are sticky and succulent and served in a dinosaur portion; roast duck, it’s crackly skin perfectly browned, arrives ringed in vivid whirls of apricot and plum sauce; and finally, a Hereford entrecote cooked medium rare.
By the end, all that’s left are piles of bones and scrunched up napkins, empty bottles and smudged glasses – in fact, all the indicators of a tipsy afternoon in a cherished summer hit.
ul. Odyńca 15 (garden opposite in Park Dreszera)