Looking back at all the food I wouldn’t eat as a child is actually shocking and if only I could go back in time and tell my stubborn younger self to suck it up and eat, or at least sample, all the food given to me. Some of my now favourite foods I actually didn’t try until my late teens/early 20s. It certainly wasn’t because my parents didn’t try; it was simply because I was fussy. Yup, a whole 20 years insisting pizza was gross without even trying it – idiot!
When I met Mr ESLT in my early 20s he was flabbergasted (no exaggeration) at the number of foods I had never tried and made it his mission to educate me, as he will eat anything, at least once. Therefore, he has made me try at least one new and local thing on every trip we have taken together since. Some of which have been hits – sausages in Germany, street food in Thailand and meze in Greece amongst others. Unfortunately, some have been misses – goulash in Hungary, Babi Pangang in Bali and basically everything in France (apart from croissants and pain au chocolat, of course).
So when we arrived in country 72, Poland at the beginning of the year, I was actually eager to try the local food as I had heard so many good things about it. Our destination was Gdańsk, a very pretty and colourful city on the Baltic Coast of Poland. A combination of cheap flights, reasonable accommodation and a personal recommendation from one of Mr ESLT’s colleagues who hails from the area made it a no-brainer. Having never tried Polish food before, after landing from an early morning flight, dropping our luggage at our hotel, our stomachs were rumbling so we headed in search of our first meal in the city.
There are so many restaurants to choose from especially on Dlugi Street, the long street made up of Long Lane and Long Market, that runs through Gdańsk, we were spoilt for choice. Also, even though we visited in January during freezing temperatures, most of the cafes had lovely little outside areas with awnings and heat lamps making al fresco dining possible. Here are three great dishes you have to try whilst in Gdańsk and where to try them….
The perfect winter warmer in Gdańsk is definitely a big sour rye bowl filled with lashings of hot soup. After walking for hours in below-freezing temperatures during our trip, we sought solace in the lovely Barylka Restaurant. We sat in the cosy ‘top room’ with lovely views over the Motława River and the ships on it including the mock pirate ship (there are two sister ships – Czarna Perła & Galeon Lew) which offer river cruises between Gdańsk waterfront and Westerplatte.
The żurek was more of a stew consistency rather than a soup, packed full of sausage, vegetables and hard-boiled eggs. It looked and smelt absolutely divine and Mr ESLT thoroughly enjoyed it and it filled him up nicely in preparation for our afternoon of exploring. I, on the other hand, opted for the French onion soup which was lovely but nowhere near as hearty as the żurek. However, for around £16 for two soups and four pints of beer, we certainly were not complaining.
I’d only heard great things about pierogi and was super eager to try them. So eager in fact I ordered them without even looking at the menu at Mojito Caffe & Restaurant, the first restaurant we ate at in Gdańsk. We grabbed some thermal blankets and wrapped ourselves up against the elements in preparation for our lunch. I had asked for vegetarian pierogi as my fussiness extends to the meat I eat, how it’s sourced and cooked.
When they were put in front of me I instantly thought they looked like something that could be ordered from an Asian restaurant and the texture and consistency really reminded me of Chinese dumplings. Biting into them I realised I had been giving a mixture including minced meat, mushrooms and a cabbage and cheese and mashed potato all of which were delicious, yes even the meat ones. Apparently receiving a mixture is common, therefore if you are a vegetarian you may want to double-check that you have received all veggie ones before digging in.
Traditional Pork Chop
I’m not the world’s biggest pork fan however after seeing Mr ESLT’s traditional pork chop he ordered at Mojito Caffe & Restaurant it was simply a schnitzel not a big hunk of meat on the bone. Therefore, the next day when we had finally decided on somewhere for dinner I ordered it too without reservation. Having passed Tawerna numerous times which is off Long Market on Powroźnicza, right next to the Green Gate, Mr ESLT was eager to go inside and see what it was like for himself. From the look of it outside we thought it was just a pub however when we walked in we soon realised it was actually a beautiful restaurant.
With dark wood panelling, it felt very romantic and intimate. We grabbed a table near the window, again overlooking the Motława River and perused the menu. We both opted for the traditional pork chop served with sauerkraut and rosemary potatoes. I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest sauerkraut fan, however, this was delicious, in fact, this was my favourite meal of the trip. I wish we’d had more time in Gdańsk purely so we could have returned to Tawerna and sampled more of the fabulous sounding menu.
There are of course a number of western dishes on many menus, meaning even if you didn’t fancy a Polish dish but your travel companion did, you could still eat in a Polish restaurant. There are Chinese and Italian restaurants in the city and we also found an amazing burger restaurant called Original Burger located on Dluga Street close to the Town Hall, which genuinely served up some of the best burgers we have ever eaten and believe me, we have eaten a lot. We also ate one evening in the Hardrock Café because, in reality, I cannot visit a city with one without paying a visit. Mmmm fajitas. The prices were also very competitively priced with other restaurants in the area meaning we shared a flatbread, had a main course each and four of pints of beer for around £40, the same has cost us double, if not more, before in other Hardrock Cafes in major cities.
Beer is always a big thing for us when we travel and we always like to try some of the local stuff. Gdańsk has a rich history when it comes to brewing with the city once being home to hundreds of breweries. Nowadays there aren’t any, meaning there are no true local Gdańsk beers. Therefore, we were unable to drink like true locals. We did however always choose Polish beer when ordering. Many people state that Polish beers aren’t great but we certainly did not have any issue with it. Most, if not all bars and restaurants serving either or both – Tyskie and Żywiec. We, of course, had to try both for blogging purposes and we both agreed our favourite was Tyskie. Also, beer in Gdańsk was very reasonable, especially compared to UK prices. We were paying around £1.70 a pint, meaning an extra one or two (or ten) didn’t break the bank.
This may have been our first visit to Poland but it certainly won’t be our last. Have you visited Poland what food (and drink) should we add to our ‘must try’ list for next time? What was your favourite dish? Please let us know.