I know one should try the local cuisine. I once ate a deep-fried locust. So it’s a bit pathetic that I tend to shy away from trying the local cuisine in eastern Europe. It’s mostly because I grew up in central Canada where perogies, kielbasa and borscht are normal foods you bring to a community dinner in a church basement. They are very popular on the Prairies and exotic in other parts of the world but I would much rather indulge in cannelloni or tod mun pla.
One of the wonderful discoveries I made while I was living in Germany was the abundance of great Italian food outside of Italy. It would be good for the Italians if they could figure out how to form a responsible government and act a little more German but it means there are lots of Italians escaping to places with better economic prospects and they bring their food with them. So, in eastern Europe, the first thing I look for is a good Italian restaurant 🙂 There was one in the hotel so I didn’t have to go far and the meal was delicious.
I did come to Krakow to do more than just hang out at the hotel, though. Even if it was a great place to hang out… The first night I had done a tiny bit of wandering before succumbing to jet lag and just eating at the hotel and going to bed. On my journey I had spotted a restaurant just across the street from the hotel that looked intriguing. Modern Polish with a little Italian thrown in. It’s called Magnes and apparently it’s quite new on the Krakow scene. The chef defected from one of the other grand dining restaurants in town to open his own place. It’s astonishingly good. I could have eaten there every meal and been perfectly happy (but then what would I write about 😉 I need to take more notes on WHAT I eat. I enjoy being in the moment though and letting my food be nourishment rather than art.
The food at Magnes was so amazing that I actually took some notes! So I can recommend the beef carpaccio with parmesan. It was such a bright red I wondered if it was beef or if it was game. It is possibly the best carpaccio I have ever had. It melted in your mouth. There was the typical shaved parmesan on top but also some rucola, romaine and cherry tomatoes topped off with a sublime vinaigrette dressing. The server brought me an equally delicious Primitivo to accompany it. That was followed by squid ink tagliolini with shrimp and white asparagus. For a pleasant change, the white asparagus was cooked perfectly instead of to mush.
Magnes would have been enough to have me recommending Krakow but apparently Krakow is full of serious foodies. What is wonderful is that there is lots of choice so, if you are on a tight budget, you can head to a milk bar. If you are used to splurging on chef’s tasting menus, you can do that too – but the bill will make your wallet dance.
I try to mix it up a bit so the next night I went to Aubergine, which had been recommended by In Your Pocket. Unfortunately, it seems to have closed (most of the information is in Polish so it’s a guess).
For my final night, I went big. The Pod Roza Hotel is part of the Likus Hotels and Restaurants empire. It’s high end Poland. I saved money on the hotel so I would have more cash for food 🙂 The restaurant in the Hotel Copernicus doesn’t have a Michelin star yet but it tastes like it should. You can actually eat Polish food and it’s delicious. No perogies and kielbasa here… I was subjected to borscht – and herring – however. The chef tried hard but I am still not a fan of either…
But then there was foie gras with chocolate, raspberry and ice cream that got the taste of the herring out of my mouth. It was inventive and sublime. It’s a tiny place and you have to eat what the chef has prepared. There are three options – five, seven and twelve courses. Five is plenty! The chef changes the menu every month and apparently it is inspired by Polish royal cuisine. But re-interpreted for modern royals. It’s one of those meals that is an experience, not just something to eat. The mango/coco mousse in a broken eggshell came with eating instructions! Since champagne goes with everything, I drank some delicious champagne from a house I did not know but the service was stellar and my server did not steer me wrong.
After writing this and reliving all the wonderful flavours, the leftover pizza that will be dinner tonight seems a bit sad. If you want to live like a young royal on a middle class salary, book that flight to Krakow. It’s not your grandfather’s Poland anymore 😉