En route Prague at the moment…
Warsaw was the biggest surprise of the trip so far, we were relatively unsure what to expect and initially the only reason Warsaw was on our list was because of Atelier Amaro, an experimental ‘science meets nature’ restaurant in one of Warsaw’s parks. I’ll get back to the restaurant experience in a minute but it should be said that if any of you ever get a chance to visit Warsaw, do it. We stayed in the Old Town. The Old Town was exquisite, it was relatively quiet compared to the touristy areas in Brussels and Bruges, it’s difficult to explain but Darren and I just felt there was an air to it, something special (corny I know).
On to the restaurant experience, we both feel that it needs to be written about. We made a reservation before we even had accommodation in Warsaw and pretty much anywhere else in Europe (an example of chef priorities). This was something we were beyond excited for. It was a beautiful evening in The Old Town when we left there were a couple of ominous looking clouds in the sky but nothing too serious. The plan was to Uber to the restaurant but because we had to spend a fair portion of the day recovering from our Polish vodka experiences we thought the evening walk would be good for us. It started pouring with rain very soon after this decision and we decided to just make do with the one small umbrella we had, in hindsight this was not a smart move and we should have just taken the Uber. In our soaking wet power-walk-panic we missed the door of the restaurant, and found ourselves walking around in circles in the outside garden (which can be seen from the inside of the restaurant- not our finest moment) only to do a full loop back to the door which amazingly (said with sarcasm) we managed to see this time.
Part of what we liked about the restaurant was that we didn’t know what to expect, there was no suggested dress code on the website so we opted for smart casual. We came through the door like a bit of a hurricane, furiously trying to wipe our now soaking wet and garden trodden shoes on the entrance mats and apologizing profusely for being wet and a bit disheveled. We lifted our heads to find the two or three tables already there staring at us in their seriously smart suits, fancy dresses and shiny shoes.
Feeling out of place, we sat down and I looked at Darren, his white shirt was now completely see through on the one side, nipple and all (I can’t help but laugh now). An extremely serious looking waiter immediately approached us and said to Darren: “Sir, could you please come with me”. Darren had already expressed his doubt to me regarding his shoe choice for the evening. He got up and whispered to me “it’s my shoes” and followed the waiter to the back of the restaurant. At this point I was left alone at the table and I was convinced our restaurant experience was over before we even got to have a glass of wine. The two scenarios in my head played out as follows: One: They politely informed Darren that his shoes and his technically half naked body was inappropriate for their fine establishment and he agrees that we made a mistake and we leave quietly, Two: they politely inform Darren his shoes and his technically half naked body is inappropriate for their fine establishment and Darren, for lack of a better word, decks the guy, knocking him out and we are escorted out by Polish police and put on a Michelin restaurant blacklist.
I was green when he got back to the table, it’s not an exaggeration to say my legs had gone numb but it turns out they had very generously offered him a dry, pressed beautiful collared shirt (it was in better condition than Darren’s 3 weeks in a backpack shirt to begin with). I think the entire staff body had a good chuckle but the experience began and we quickly relaxed. There was one waiter that took a little longer to warm up to us completely but I think that’s because Darren was now wearing his clean shirt for the next day.
The menu was a ‘9 moments’ menu, it had an extra four amuse bouches to start and an extra sweets course at the end. Every course was exquisite, there was not one course that we thought was a miss, we did have a few favourites.
We began with a beautiful ‘on the beach’ sand box filled with little treats, the stand out being a beetroot cone with beer ice cream. A big favourite was the chicken, lard and boletus presented sticking out of a tree trunk. Think salty crispy chicken skin, fatty lard with wild mushroom powder (the team forages for mushrooms three times a week) and beautiful bursts of acidity in between- heaven.
When asked if there was anything we did not eat I was so busy checking the menu for herring that I missed the black pudding part, normally not a favourite of mine. They had incorporated black pudding with chocolate and walnuts and made it the filling for two paper thin burnt onion biscuits. Presented on a hand made tapestry, the complexity of flavors and technique was brilliant.
This next dish was the most interesting plate of food Darren and I have ever eaten. Described on the menu as “broad bean/lavender/rabbit” we were surprised when the waiter explained to us that the dish was rabbit kidney with snail and snail eggs which are a Polish delicacy. The kidneys had been disguised as broad beans and were in hiding among some real broad beans. We are both very open to trying anything but I think there was slight panic when we heard the snail eggs part. Once again the dish was beautiful, another surprise.
The ethos of the restaurant is to bring science and nature together with a focus on fresh, exiting Polish ingredients. This was certainly delivered and we loved hearing that a large amount of the produce is personally foraged for in the woods. It was so evident in the “wild strawberry/tomato/wood sorrel” dish which was finished with a tomato and verbena consommé. The nasturtium ravioli filled with pea and mint hummus served with polish cheese fondant was another example of this ethos. Exceptional.
Nearing the end we were presented with one of the best lamb dishes I have ever eaten, no words I can use would do it justice so I’m not even going to try, just believe me. I drew hearts on my plate when it was finished and sent it back to the kitchen with compliments.
Both desserts were innovative, beautiful and fresh (translucent cheesecake- gasp-), a perfect way to end off the meal.
The service throughout the evening was exceptional, completely faultless in every sense of the word. It was a privilege to be invited down to the kitchen to meet the chefs and to chat to them about their work, their foraging and their Polish produce. We hope to one day be back to see the team again!
As for our travels, we’re going to be in Prague for the next couple of days so will keep you posted.