Éric Boucher - 2008-09-08
There are, of course, the great classics of Polish cuisine, the barszcz, zurek, and kotlet schabowy whose very name can set the faint-hearted tourist aquiver. It’s a shame, because although certainly a “working class” cuisine, it is extremely tasty. Through opening up to tourists from all over the world, Cracow nevertheless provides an extensive gastronomic offer that is experienced in the standards of international cuisine. So there’s something for everyone.
Compendium of Polish gastronomy
Generally speaking, the charcuterie is excellent; be sure to taste, for example, the polendwica, smoked pork fillet. A seasonal dish not to be missed is bigos – a sort of very slightly sweetened sauerkraut combined with mushrooms and pieces of charcuterie. Among the soups are two classics: barszcz, a beetroot soup served with a small meat pasty, and zurek for those who like tart flavours. You will also see on every menu kotlet schabowy, pork chops in breadcrumbs, and will find it hard to resist the pierogi, large ravioli stuffed with cabbage, mushrooms or fromage blanc. For dessert, you can choose between delicious cheesecakes (sernik), poppy seed cakes (makowiec) and the famous pancakes with fromage blanc (nalesniki). Lastly, a product typical of the Carpathian Mountains, south of Cracow: smoked ewe’s cheese (oscypek).
Rynek Glówny 15 PL - 31 008 Kraków
Tel: (12) 424 96 00
This is the great classic establishment of Cracow and the inevitable stop for all important visitors, from George Bush to Steven Spielberg.
Carefully prepared Polish specialities made using top-quality produce, like the delicious goose breast with red cabbage and gnocchi with prunes. Very beautiful setting overlooking the main square (reckon on PLN 165 for a meal). Listed in the Michelin Guide.
Rynek Glowny 39-40 PL Kraków
Tel: (12) 433 7010
Original, albeit slightly over-elaborate decor, vaguely inspired by Art Nouveau. The dishes vary in quality, but we recommend two that are worth the trip. The tartare follows a veritable ritual: a chef in a hat comes to show you the piece of beef fillet (no beefsteak) and cuts it up with a knife in front of you. The preparation is a little different to what we are familiar with in Western Europe, but the chef lets you choose the ingredients and taste it first: egg, lemon, mustard, Polish gherkins, onions, mushrooms… and even sardines (PLN 29).
To finish your meal, plump for a very refreshing sorbet flavoured with lemon soaked in vodka: a particularly good combination.
Ul. Dominikánska 3 PL - 31 043 Kraków
Tel: (12) 357 33 55
A restaurant that could be described as trendy, with an attractive contemporary dining room that is refined but warm. The team in the kitchen are young, as you can see through the open kitchen and from the photos of chefs hanging on the walls.
Here you will find traditional products of Polish cuisine, but with a modern, international touch: excellent fillets of duck and venison. And don’t deprive yourself of the “Polish delikatessen” starters, like the marinaded herrings, tartares and soups.
Good selection of wines with nigh on 400 bottles from all over the world, notably Italian. Without a doubt our favourite restaurant.
Menu: PLN 42/PLN 85. Listed in the Michelin Guide.
Chopped herring, gefilte fish (stuffed carp), klopslers (meatballs), cholent (stew)… The menu of certain restaurants in Kazimierz is enough to make your mouth water, but the quality varies. Here is our selection.
Ul. Szeroka 20 PL - 31 053 Kraków
Tel: (12) 429 11 88
Probably the best restaurant in Szeroka Street (listed in the Michelin Guide). The menu looked more Polish than Jewish to us and includes pork-based dishes, but the food is finely crafted. The zurek, a sour soup made with fermented rye flour, hard-boiled eggs, pieces of sausage and marjoram, has a fine balance between the various ingredients. Whether made with cabbage and mushrooms or meat, the pierogi (ravioli) is better and made with finer dough than in many of the restaurants we tried. Good marks too for the marinaded fillet of duck with apples.
Terrace and klezmer concert in the evening at weekends. Reckon on paying around 50 zlotys (PLN) for a starter and a main course.
Ul. Szeroka 6 – 31 053 Kraków,
Tel: (12) 411-12-45
This restaurant, set in an old mikvah (Jewish ritual bath), probably offers one of the most authentically Jewish cuisines of Kazimierz, but we were disappointed by the cholent (Sabbath dish made with kidney beans, meat and potatoes) of rather mushy consistency. On the other hand, the zupa szabasowa wegetarianska (vegetarian Sabbath soup) proved to be particularly tasty.
So people come here more for the concerts and artistic director, Leopold Kozłowski, than for the cuisine. Born in 1918 near Lwów, this composer and conductor is the last authentic representative of klezmer music in Poland, and maybe even the world. He had a role in the film Schindler’s List and was also musical consultant for the ghetto music.
Ul. Grodzka 7 – Kraków
Tel: 012 423 81 59
This upmarket deli chain offers traditional Polish products of high quality: cheese, charcuterie, redcurrant, pear and rose jams, spirits, honey, cordials, fruit cakes, horseradish… All of these products are made from traditional recipes. We recommend the Polish charcuterie which is, generally speaking, excellent (particularly the hams, sausages and smoked pork fillet, polendwica). The Smalec – between potted meat and pork scratchings – is very fatty but very good.
Rynek Glowny 13
A luxury shopping arcade with post-modern architecture in the ancient basements of the town houses surrounding the main square. Here you will find good quality delicatessen with some Polish products.
There is no shortage of bars and cafés in Cracow. Here are a few suggestions to escape from the tourist traps of the Rynek:
The most beautiful and oldest café in the city, and probably in Poland, has kept its Art Nouveau decor. Try the tort Michalika, a sort of sponge cake with cream and fresh fruit: nothing exceptional, but it is the house speciality.
The terrace of the luxurious Stary Hotel, a magnificent mansion (15th-18th century) decorated in contemporary style, is also open to people who are not staying at the hotel. Ideal to escape from the crowds and have a drink or something from the grill in the evening, with a magnificent view of the roofs of Cracow and the Rynek.
Alternative (Kazimierz district)
Ul. Meisela 20 - 31 053 Kraków
You can have a beer outdoors in the flower-filled courtyard of the building where some of the scenes of Schindler’s List were shot.
Ul. Estery 5 - 31 053 Kraków
Strange atmosphere in this alternative place lit only by candle