Juried
Awards

The Insider’s Best Of Warsaw issue called for tough choices and big decisions. With the year sounding so many gastronomic bugles, it wasn’t just those namechecked on the preceding pages that carried the city forward. Separate from our juried categories, the Insider is delighted to recognize the accomplishments of the Sensational Sixteen revealed overleaf…

About the Jury

Marta Glinka

Marta is a food writer, trends expert and marketing consultant involved in the food & beverage and horeca industry. She runs the popular restaurantica.pl blog and is the co-owner of warsawfoodie.pl, Warsaw’s most popular restaurant news site. In a freelance capacity she creates new concepts and brand strategies as well as food trend reports.

Daria Pawlewska

Daria is the editor-in-chief and publisher of KUKBUK magazine, where she says she “blends cultural and culinary flavors with her appetite for more.” Born from the dreams of three people, Bianka Pawlewska, Oliwia Gede-Niewiadomska and Daria herself, in its six years of activity KUKBUK has come to be seen as a leader on the domestic market. Created by a talented collective of ‘hungry hedonists’, the magazine is published ten times per year.

Marek Tretyn

Marek is an experienced traveler, food writer, restaurant critic and self-confessed ‘devourer of life’. After a long career (too long, he claims) holding managerial positions in the Polish media, he now works as an independent adviser and… blogger. After just one year of operation his blog, foodsnob.pl, has come to be revered across the market. He has collaborat-ed with the editors of Rzeczpospolita and Logo magazine.

WINNER

MOD

This isn’t the first time that the spotlight has shone on MOD, neither will it be the last. An incubator for the unorthodox, this cool and kooky venture pushes the envelope when it comes to being different: a boutique donut store by day, come evening it transforms into one of Warsaw’s best loved restaurants. Devised by Trisno Hamid, a Singaporean chef with a classic French background (his bio includes a stint in Le Gavroche), enjoy a menu that makes for ridiculously joyous reading: ramen noodles in a steamy yuzu broth; Angus beef rump steak served with tahini mashed potatoes and a big thump of chili and fig relish; and desserts such as a white chocolate parfait with cardamom and pear granita – taken on their own, there are elements that should never work, but whacked together they come alive to create roller coaster tastes that you’ll talk about after. Adding to the sense of being somewhere current, find a seriously cool vibe inside an interior featuring a retro mirrored wall, upside down plants and busy tables filled with the kind of people that you’d mistake for rising fashion photographers and contributors to Vice.

ul. Oleandrów 8, modoleandrow8.pl

Runners-Up

Kromki

Muranów: a.k.a. The Black Hole of Dining. Actually, that’s no longer the case, and that’s due to a flurry of openings in the last year or two. Kromki, no doubt, is the pick of the bunch. Set amid a row of kebab stores and booze outlets, the quality of this diamond in the rough exceeds all expectations. The menu – global with a local twist – covers every angle possible: from nourishing bowls of healthy goodness to ribeye steaks that land with a thwack.

al. Jana Pawła II 45A, kromkibistro.pl

Supperlardo

Supperlardo is nothing if not the embodiment of casual dining: featuring a bold mural painted by Swansky, a big gun on the city’s street art scene, this back street venue looks fresh, contemporary and even rather edgy. But it’s for reasons other than design that it’s caused an impact. Thrusting top quality cured hams to the fore, it’s demonstrated that pedigree meats aren’t just the preserve of the premium-priced restaurants. For that, we salute them.

ul. Chmielna 13A, fb.com/Supperlardo

Mięsny

What’s not to like about a butcher, deli and bistro all rolled into one meaty treat. Set down a leafy side street in posh Saska Kępa, this Saska Keeper presents a handful of wooden tables inside a monochrome-floored, white-tiled interior adorned with an azure-colored neon and graphic illustrative wall art depicting tasty farmyard animals – if you’re vegan, shoot yourself now. Typed onto a sheet of paper, the menu is an atavistic joyride that arouses primal, caveman urges: sweetbreads with chestnut puree; bone marrow with parsley salad; duck rillettes; and Red Angus steaks of every description. Nothing disappoints.

ul. Walecznych 64, miesny.pl

Mokolove

Once the sous chef of Nolita, those expecting Łukasz Pacewicz to simply ape the style of his former boss have been surprised. Fine dining? No way. Speaking of warmth and comfort, the menu promises dishes such as pumpkin pierogi, roast beetroot salad, or filet mignon with Bearnaise sauce. Despite sounding a little like something you’d try to fix at home, the standard is such that you leave feeling they’ve achieved something new.

ul. Różana 14, fb.com/RestauracjaMokolove

WINNER

Ceviche Bar

Argentinean chef Martin Gimenez Castro has given Warsaw a lesson in Latin that it won’t forget in a hurry. Run, you suspect, as a form of self-expression, it’s in Ceviche Bar that he injects his passion and personality into running an address that blasts straight through the grind and the gloom of everyday Warsaw. Cooking beneath a mural of Maradona (boo!), Gimenez Castro’s food is a collision of rich, zingy tastes and incredible sensations. But you knew that anyway, right? Wrong. At least, that’s the case if you gave Ceviche Bar a skip in 2018. That was the year the chef upped the ante, broadening the menu to pay heed to the significant impact that Japanese migration has had on the South American palate: resulting from this, find a thrilling fusion of two disparate culinary cultures coming together in one giant, tasty jolt. In here, special things happen.

ul. Twarda 4, cevichebar.pl

Runners-Up

Kanapa

Ukrainian food as cooked with finesse and a flourish inside a swish, fancy villa that once housed the Syrian ambassador. Spaced over three floors, consider Kanapa a thoughtful essay in classy, antique elegance. As for the food, that’s the polar opposite of the grey gloop and humble flavors you might mistakenly expect from Poland’s eastern neighbor. At times audacious (e.g. butter that oozes wax-like from a lit, flickering candle), the tastes are a balance between traditional and original. When skies are grey, revert to the borsch: served in a hollowed-out cabbage, it’s a complex, heartwarming expression of the Ukrainian soul.

ul. Narbutta 10, fb.com/kanapa.restauracja

Tahina

Hooray for the little guy! In a city where money talks, this tiny, neighborhood underdog emerged as one of the unlikely stars of 2018. Run by Marta, a Pole, and Ouce, her Iraqi husband, this simple-looking spot has heart in abundance. Delicious tahini bowls and glorious slow-cooked beef lavash aside, there’s a value to this place that goes beyond the food. A place of warmth, hospitality and casual conversation, it’s an address that you feel joins the neighborhood together.

ul. Wilcza 26, fb.com/TahinaWilcza

La Sirena

La Sirena won’t inspire you to visit Mexico, it’ll inspire you to stay in Poland – yep, it’s that damn good you’ll wonder why you bothered getting tickets to Acapulco. An exaggeration? Sure, but not one that’s made lightly. Emphatically established as the best Mexican that the country has ever seen (and ever will!), La Sirena’s strengths lie in a menu that feels imaginative, intelligent and deeply informed. Going way beyond the standard burritos and quesadillas, here’s a restaurant that illustrates the true depth of this venerable cuisine.

ul. Piękna 54

Kumin

Disclaimer: as we prepared to go to print Kumin was closed. Not for the evening, you understand, but firmly bolted until further notice. Hoping to reopen at a new, bigger address in mid-April, the excitement is palpable: judged upon previous visits, no-one in Warsaw did a better job of replicating the aromatic taste of Middle Eastern-style lamb. With a bbq grill promised at their forthcoming location, expect the quality to reach impossible new highs.

fb.com/KUMINrestauracja

WINNER

Rozbrat 20

In the shape of Rozbrat 20, Warsaw has a gift that keeps on giving; truly, no matter how many trips you make, it’s just gets better with each visit. As a restaurant, it’s a model for all to follow: they’ve got the intuitive service; a modern design that’s easily understood; a wine list of note; and sensible price points that are never extreme. Most of all, however, they’ve got Bartosz Szymczak.
A former protégé of Tom Aikens, no ceiling can contain this chef’s outrageous talent. Defined by its playful inventiveness and walloping tastes, his food is a harmonious hymn to his exceptional skill. On the Insider’s last visit, the standout was a soft pork belly served with quince, turnip and a pour of apple cider: immediately, we knew the direction our side would be voting come discussions with our jury. Criticisms? None. Need to know? Go there. There are many who call this Warsaw’s best restaurant, and being here, you fully understand their argument.

ul. Rozbrat 20, rozbrat20.com.pl

Runners-Up

Kieliszki na Hożej

Pristine in its whiteness, the corner tenement housing Kieliszki looks like a big wedge of wedding cake – a more glorious sight you won’t find on Poznańska. Justly, the interiors are every bit as delicious with their glimmering glass and geometric patterns. All this though pales into insignificance on account of a menu that’s noted for its rich, strident tastes and loving presentation: on this juror’s visit, that meant suckling pig bathed in mustard home brew, and a walloping dessert of honey cake and plum jam. Our experience was not some one-off: in an area thick with good restaurants, consider Kieliszki as one of the best.

ul. Hoża 41, kieliszkinahozej.pl

Dyletanci

Entered into the Michelin Guide for the first time in 2018, Dyletanci’s inclusion in the foodie’s bible was further evidence of the trajectory its taken in the three years it’s been open. The epitome of the neo-bistro style, find an attractive space that’s been seamlessly designed to feature a wine store, kitchen and dining room(s) that somehow feel organically joined. The atmosphere is lifted by faultless cooking that combines a little bit of Polish with a little bit of eclectic: it’s a combination that works and often magnificently well.

ul. Rozbrat 44A, dyletanci.pl

Bez Gwiazdek

Hailed as one of the biggest restaurant fads of recent times, the neo-bistro movement has seen many of the top chefs of today hide the white tablecloth, chuck their Escoffier cookbooks in the bin, and branch out to cook from the heart in informal surrounds. Certainly, that’s what Robert Trzópek has done. Famed for a tasting menu that changes each month to focus on a different region of Poland, his Bez Gwiazdek restaurant is the epitome of the new wave style. Dancing in tune with that, find eclectic wines, personable service and an atmosphere that’s sociable and easygoing.

ul. Wiślana 8, bezgwiazdek.pl

Ale Wino

You could eat in Ale Wino a hundred times – and we know some people that have – and still never be bored. That alone says much for the consistency and creativity of a kitchen that has come to be admired as the source of some of the best cooking in the city. Regularly adjusted to utilize the best items the season has to offer, chef Sebastian Wełpa’s menu is a triumph of expertly balanced tastes. Rounding out the experience is an intimate, labyrinthine design that’s ideal for when it’s cold and grim, and a shaded courtyard terrace that’s perfect for when it’s not.

ul. Mokotowska 48, alewino.pl

WINNER

Restauracja Warszawska

Even before the food arrives, you expect something special: entered via an unmarked side entrance built with Bond villains in mind, the basement restaurant of the Hotel Warszawa is a place that naturally elicits little gasps of awe. Immense in size, the slick finishes and immaculate raw materials are given emphasis by the exposure of the sturdy foundations on which this pre-war tower was built. Frankly, it looks fantastic.
Then, the kitchen: in charge is Dariusz Barański, a man whose talents were formed at blue ribbon venues such as La Gavroche, Claridge’s and Sketch. An evolving work with bits added and subtracted on any given day, his menu is simple, brief but outstanding in its merit. Since opening, crowd pleasers have included a golden schnitzel the size of a tricycle wheel; marinated eel with mint; and spicy pork dumplings in a punchy essence of paprika. On the face of it, it all looks quite basic. But it can’t be, for if it was as easy as it seemed then everyone else would be doing it as well. They’re not, because they can’t.

pl. Powstańców Warszawy 9, warszawa.hotel.com.pl

Runners-Up

Europejski Grill

The long-awaited debut of the Raffles Europejski hasn’t disappointed. A sumptuous design by Lazaro Rosa Violan sets the stage for a memorable menu high on important-sounding dishes such as Antonius caviar; smoked mallard duck breast; and ‘heritage dishes’ like sweetbread schnitzel. Naturally, given the address, enjoying the precise compositions is a well-tailored crowd that expects nothing but the best. No corners are cut to ensure that’s exactly what they get.

Krakowskie Przedmieście 13 (Raffles Europejski Warsaw), raffles.com/warsaw

White One

Looking impressive from the off, it’s a place of stylish fittings, glinting surfaces and big splashes of contemporary art. Straight away, you feel you’re somewhere that’s serious about itself. So it proves. Hotly tipped for big things in the future, chef Paweł Chomentowski has constructed a menu that’s cogent, compelling and not short on twists: the kind of dish you want to take home on a dark, lonely night, the Insider was knocked bandy by beef cheeks slicked in a chocolate / coffee sauce. It’s the daily-changing tasting menu, however, that really allows Chomentowski to flaunt his talent and fan his feathers. One to watch.

ul. Koszykowa 47, whiteone.pl

Supperlardo

A huge favorite of our jury, Supperlardo was but a whisker away from edging top prize. Founded upon a dual worship of bread and meat, the attention to detail is second to none. Demonstrating a fiendish devotion to first-rate produce, the menu is a riotously meaty romp that involves wood-fired hams, sandwiches composed of pork belly pastrami and salt-cured meats from Puławska and Mangalica pigs. Complementing the aforementioned is bread fermented for 24 hours and baked using only fresh flour from certified bio-wheat. The outcome, predictably, is really rather good.

ul. Chmielna 13A, fb.com/Supperlardo

Zoni

The tremors caused by Zoni’s opening have only just ceased. Reprising the techniques and foods of yesteryear, Aleksander Baron’s reinterpretation of historic Polish cuisine lends these bulky dishes of old a delicate, modern touch. Utterly intriguing, it’s little surprise that this bastion of Polish cooking became one of the most talked about restaurants of the preceding year. With Baron at the helm, expect the praise to get louder in 2019.

pl. Konesera 1, zoni.today

WINNER

Robert Trzópek

Tastes aside, visits to Robert Trzópek’s Bez Gwiazdek feel, almost, like an educational experience – one to savor and reflect upon long after the bill. “I hope I am teaching something,” says the chef, “I hope that I’m teaching people about the diversity of Poland’s cuisine, it’s different influences and the variety of its tastes. By in large, the average diner thinks there’s not much more to our kitchen than bigos, pierogi, schabowy and a few other standards, so at Bez Gwiazdek we like to serve lesser-know items such as siuśpaj, rosopita, hekele and others besides – we love giving these more forgotten dishes a wider audience.”
Intelligent as this philosophy has been, perhaps an even greater triumph has been in this chef’s sensitive handling of the ordinary and mundane. “At Bez Gwiazdek,” he continues, “we want to show that potatoes, cabbage and onions are nothing to be ashamed of – several times, we’ve treated products like those as the main component of a dish to demonstrate that they’re more than just a side of secondary importance – and in doing so, I think we’ve managed to surprise and amaze our guests multiple times.” Indeed you have.

Bez Gwiazdek
ul. Wiślana 8, bezgwiazdek.pl

Runners-Up

Aleksander Baron

He’s back! 2018 was the year Aleksander Baron returned to the trenches to reappear at swanky Zoni. Inspired by little-known practices lost to the past, his unconventional approach and fixation with the Baroque era (among numerous others) has taken modern Polish cuisine in unexpected directions. “The way I see it,” he says, “my food is minimalist; it’s about structure, consistency, season and terroir. Through that, I hope to show the essence of the product and the ballet of colors and tastes.” Mission accomplished.

Zoni
pl. Konesera 1, zoni.today

Bartosz Szymczak

Where chefs are concerned, creativity can be a curse. How many have lost their heads by choosing theater and fireworks over cooking good food? In Warsaw’s case alone, the number runs to dozens. Do not include Bartosz Szymczak on that list. Exercising a rare sixth sense, Szymczak’s menu feels bold and original yet clear and coherent and never excessive. This is a chef that knows when to deploy his creative streak and to precisely which extent. The result is food that always scores a perfect ten.

Rozbrat 20
ul. Rozbrat 20, rozbrat20.com.pl

Rafał Hreczaniuk

Beginning as a humble pizza cook in Chełm, Rafał Hreczaniuk’s career has led him through some of Europe’s top kitchens: the two-star La Fermata, one star L’Ecrivain and Chapter One, not to mention Wojciech Amaro’s Le Palais Du Jardin. “I like my food to be simple but to have big flavors and a personal twist,” he says, and that’s exactly what you’ll find at Dyletanci, a leading neo bistro that has done much to raise the profile of this immensely skilled chef.

Dyletanci
ul. Rozbrat 44A, dyletanci.pl

Sebastian Wełpa

A chef of bewildering talent, Wełpa’s seasonally adjusted menu has become one of the city’s great gastro glories. “What I hope to do,” says Wełpa, “is combine simple but high quality ingredients in unusual ways so they create unexpected and memorable experiences.” This he does, and with remarkable consistency to boot.

Ale Wino
ul. Mokotowska 48, alewino.pl

WINNER

Bez Gwiazdek

Switching his tasting menu each month to focus on a different region of Poland, a night at Robert Trzópek’s Bez Gwiazdek is a gastronomic foxtrot through the best the country offers – and now, that’s become quite literally the case. Supplementing the ‘standard’ tasting menu is a second choice allowing diners the option of choosing a medley of ‘Best Of’ dishes composed of past highlights. Which are what, exactly?
“Well,” confides Trzópek, “all of the regions are exciting and some are pretty obvious – for instance, most people familiar with Polish cuisine will know that Podlasie has great produce or that Silesia has real variety. So for me, I really like working with regions like Łódzkie – I’ve found some great books about the region’s cuisine and the stories around it inspired me to reinterpret dishes like bania soup, zalewajka and żulik to name just a few.”

ul. Wiślana 8, bezgwiazdek.pl

Runners-Up

Zoni

No chef has grabbed quite so many headlines in 2018 as Aleksander Baron, and his comeback at Zoni proved one of the most talked-about events of the year. Has the hype been warranted? You bet it has. Committed to the rediscovery of old techniques and ingredients, find a tasting menu riddled with surprises: for example, ‘dead man’s cheese’ or beef injected with Aspergillus. Being in a former vodka factory, the suggested vodka pairing menu adds a different angle to the evening.

pl. Konesera 1, zoni.today

Rozbrat 20

Dividing their menu into eight annual acts (e.g. hibernation; harvest; early crop, etc.), Rozbrat’s 6- and 8-course tasting menus are well-paced, harmonious and interlaced with moments of dash and flair. Light but full-flavored, these are dishes that amply demonstrate why Bartosz Szymczak has become one of the hottest properties in Poland. Expert and occasionally unexpected wine pairings and a relaxed atmosphere sign the evening off on a high.

ul. Rozbrat 20, rozbrat20.com.pl

Dyletanci

There are many things about Dyletanci that work, but it is the coherent relationship between food and wine that stands out the most. Though concentrating mostly on European wines, the choice is prodigious and features outstanding choices from France, Italy and Poland, matched against the skilled cooking of Rafał Hreczaniuk. The tasting menu lays bare his talent, with star turns in recent months awarded to the beetroot terrine with horseradish sorbet; and an A5 graded Wagyu in a rich red wine sauce.

ul. Rozbrat 44A, dyletanci.pl

Bistro Pod Sowami

An essay in neo-gothic indulgence, this revamped corner tenement has it all: a spiraling turret, reliefs of bats and griffins and then, crowning the top, a pair of stone owls ready for flight. There’s much to like inside, as well, starting with a tasting menu that’s been reduced down from 15-courses to a more manageable six. The pricing – a mere zł. 90 – marks it out as one of the most welcome deals you’ll find round town.

ul. Okrzei 26, fb.com/bistropodsowami

WINNER

Zoni

Of all the big, anticipated openings that 2018 brought with it, few rocked Warsaw quite like Zoni. Located in a former vodka distillery first built to keep the Tsar’s local garrison placated, the ambition of this project has underlined the importance now awarded to the nation’s own gastronomic culture. Christ knows how much money was spent, but it’s been a good job well done.

Designed in cahoots with Mirosław Nizio, it’s a space that impresses with an interior that revels in cast iron kilns, flooring produced from vodka barrels, long shadows and industrial bits and pieces that have been lovingly restored. Sprawling, historic and not short on statement, it’s a fitting backdrop for a restaurant that has quickly come to be seen as a fortress of Polish culinary heritage.

For that final point, credit goes to Aleksander Baron, a rebel chef with a mania for forgotten techniques, lost recipes and little-known ingredients. Two-year old fermented cabbage stump; dead man’s cheese; and calf brain mousse as a dessert are all evidence of his adventurous commitment to ripping up the rule book. Importantly, this is no novelty act, rather it’s glorious cooking that makes the heart roar.

pl. Konesera 1, zoni.today

Runners-Up

Zielony Niedźwiedź

Cooperating closely with farmers, producers and everyone else along the way, here’s a kitchen that looks to pay homage to seasonality and tradition. Over the course of 2018, highlights numbered Mazurian-farmed snails, their earthy goodness accented by additions of perilla, pear, chamomile and young onion, as well as baked pumpkin served in a vivid riot of autumn colors. Surrounded by feasting squirrels and tumbling foliage, the park location feels spiritually aligned with the brilliance of nature and the restaurant’s philosophy.

ul. Smolna 4, kafezn.pl

Polana Smaków

Compact and woodsy, Polana Smaków has lost none of its copious charm since trading a no-man’s land location for city center Warsaw. Few chefs do a better job than Andrzej Polan when it comes to making herring sexy, with his interpretation arriving with a homemade bagel and blobs of orange pumpkin. Desserts are a sin and have, in the past, included a boozy donut soaked in punch and puffed to extreme with a blast of vanilla cream.

ul. E. Plater 14, polanasmakow.pl

Bazar Kocha

Mimicking the look of a contemporary farmers’ market, awnings cover the counter at Bazar Kocha and pickled produce lines the shelves – what you see on them is available to buy. Loyal to the concept of terroir, the menu makes a strong case for contemporary Polish cuisine with a seasonally-adjusted choice that involves mutton dumplings; smoked eggplant risotto; or beef cheeks with a silky lovage mousse.

ul. Mokotowska 33, bazarkocha.pl

Bez Gwiazdek

Groundbreaking in so many respects, there are many that would argue this to be the most influential restaurant of the last couple of years. For sure, none have managed to capture the magic and diversity of Polish cuisine in quite the same way. Changing each month to highlight a different chunk of the country, think of Bez Gwiazdek as a personalized tour of the best Poland has. And your guide? Chef Robert Trzópek.

ul. Wiślana 8, bezgwiazdek.pl

WINNER

Damian Wajda

When discussion turned to ‘the chef of tomorrow’ our jury was so emphatic in its opinion that no other nominees were given consideration. In his role as head chef at Bistro Pod Sowami, Damian Wajda wooed our panel with his culinary invention and measured adventure. Their judgement was unanimous. But not so fast! Leaving in early in 2018 to pursue his own project in Kraków, we reached out to our panel to ask if they should possibly give thought to an alternative candidate based in Warsaw. “No way,” was the answer. That, in a nutshell, is all you need to know about the impact Wajda made during his stint at Bistro Pod Sowami.

“At Bistro Pod Sowami,” says Wajda, “I wanted to show that you don’t need ‘luxury’ ingredients to cook delicious, surprising dishes, and that ‘luxury’ could be created at the hands of a cook if he invested emotional value into the ingredients. That felt like a breakthrough.” Working in kitchens since the age of 14, Wajda cites Joel Robuchon and Marco Pierre White as his early heroes, though today is equally inspired by the simplicity and specifics of Scandinavian cuisine. “Albert Adrià is another influence,” he continues, “and I’ve tried to follow his philosophy of ‘be quiet, work hard’.”

Scheduled to open in May (“though maybe earlier,” he adds), Wajda hopes his Kraków project, Na POLE, will set new gastronomic trends by seeking out the true tastes of old that have slowly been eroded due to agricultural advances. Certainly, Warsaw’s loss is Kraków’s gain.

Na POLE
ul. Solna 1 (Kraków)