Review: Na Bednarskiej Pierogi, Warsaw Poland

As much as we relied on suggestions from locals about restaurants to try while we were travelling around Europe, this method wasn’t always entirely foolproof. People have different tastes, and what’s good for one person, isn’t good for another.

Na Bednarskiej Pierogi in Warsaw was the perfect example of this. It had been recommended by one of the guides we’d met as a place that serves good pierogi, but honestly it was a bit disappointing.

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Our visit started off promisingly enough – as we walked into the restaurant, a group of local office workers were walking out. That’s always a good sign of a cheap and reliable local restaurant! However, things got a little more disorganised from there.

There was only one person in the restaurant when there would normally have been at least two or three. This meant that the one waitress would take two or three orders at a time, go to the kitchen to prepare the meals, serve them, and then go back to the counter to take more orders. While she was very friendly, the whole process was remarkably inefficient and a bit frustrating.

Meat Plate of pierogi, 23 Polish Zloty
Meat Plate of pierogi, 23 Polish Zloty

K ordered the Meat Plate, made up of a variety of different pierogi off their menu. My pick of the bunch was probably the red-skinned spicy Diavolo pierogi, made of pork, beef, paprika, onion, marjoram, and plenty of pepper and salt! While it wasn’t as spicy as I would have wanted it to be, it was still a lot spicier than standard Polish cuisine. Like the pierogi we had at Polakowski in Krakow however, I thought the pastry was much too thick which made the whole dish a bit too stodgy.

Daily Meal soup (18 Polish Zloty)
Daily Meal soup (18 Polish Zloty)

I had originally wanted to order some pancakes, Volhynian, with bacon and potatoes. Unfortunately, the restaurant was out of stock so with a bit of panic as I was forced to make a second choice immediately, I opted for the Daily Meal of soup, dish of the day, raw salad and compote drink.

The soup was a mix of pork and vegetables with a bit of cream in the mix. Unfortunately however, it seemed to be the case that the restaurant had chosen to use more offcuts than the nicer parts of vegetables – so the ends of carrots, and the thick parts of celery. It was as though they had taken all the offcuts that would normally be used for making a nice rich stock, and just added cream to the mix to turn it into a soup.

Daily Meal Dish of the Day
Daily Meal Dish of the Day

The Dish of the Day was just as disappointing. While seated in the restaurant, I heard the distinct hum of a microwave, and a cheery ‘ding’. Less than a minute later, this clump of reheated microwaved faux-paella was placed in front of me along with three slices of cucumber as the ‘raw salad’ of the day. Suffice to say that I ate some truly terrible Weight Watchers meals two years ago when I went through my extreme weight-loss period and I would rate this paella in that category.

Locals may like it, but I honestly can’t rate or recommend Na Bednarskiej Pierogi. The daily meal special is extremely disappointing and the pierogi can be a bit hit and miss with their thick pastry. Go elsewhere for a good meal in Warsaw!

Na Bednarskiej Pierogi is located at 28/30 Bednarska ul in Warsaw, Poland.

Review: Croque Madame, Warsaw Poland

If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of pastries and other baked goods. Just call me the carb-monster, I’ll answer to that name! Europe has been a dream come true for me in that regard, with excellent pastries, bread and baked goods to be found in every country – each with its own unique twist.

While in Warsaw, we got into the habit of stopping into Croque Madame, a little café on the main shopping street, more than once for a mid-morning snack to keep us going till lunchtime.

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The first day we stopped by on a Sunday, the tables outside were all full of guests enjoying a leisurely Sunday brunch. It was quieter on subsequent weekdays as you can tell from the photo above.

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As a café, Croque Madame offers a fairly small range of treats. Coffees and teas are on the menu of course, as are a selection of tarts, pies, pastries and cakes. If you’re after something more savoury, they have a small range of ready-made baguettes (get in early, they sell out quickly!) and salads too. However the real drawcard seems to be their gelato which is popular with many customers.

We didn’t try the gelato though. After having just visited Italy with their fabulous range of gelaterias, we feared that we would be disappointed with anything else! Instead, we tried a few of their pastries and sandwiches as takeaway items for mid-morning snacks over a few days.

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The first was described to us by the waitress as a “Polish cake with blackberries”. This proved to be a soft, sweet and squishy hybrid of brioche and a jam donut. While I liked the powdered sugar on top, the blackberries proved to be much too tart for my liking, with the sweetness of the sugar hardly doing anything to soften the tartness.

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Another choice was a savoury sandwich of brie, cranberry jam and rocket. It’s such a timeless combination – creamy ripe soft cheese with peppery rocket and sweet berry jam. Each element balances the other perfectly, creating a sandwich to die for on crusty seeded wholegrain bread.

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On another day, we tried a raspberry and custard pastry. Glazed with sugar on top, this was a delicious little doughy bun. The sweet custard helped to soften whatever tartness was left in the raspberries, and the sugary crust gave it a nice texture whenever you took a bite. It is quite sweet as a result though, and best suited to those with a sweet tooth!

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The last pastry we tried was a deliciously buttery raspberry croissant. Flaky and buttery, this croissant was lined with a thin layer of raspberry jam right throughout the pastry. Very simple, but the superb puff pastry makes it a treat to be savoured.

Croque Madame is popular with locals for their ice-cream, but their pastries are definitely worth trying as well! Either sit in the sun with a coffee and a pastry like the locals, or if you want to make the most of your time sightseeing in Warsaw, grab a pastry to-go as we did! There’s nothing quite like strolling the Old Town of Warsaw eating a buttery pastry and licking raspberry jam off your fingers.

Croque Madame is located at Nowy Swiat 41 in Warsaw, Poland.

Review: Familijny, Warsaw Poland

This is a review with a bit of a difference. I’m not really interested in reviewing the food that you can get at Familijny in Warsaw as it takes a back seat to what really matters at this canteen.

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Familijny is a canteen that welcomes all customers, no matter their nationality, race, age, financial status, housing situation. There’s even an English menu behind the counter for those who don’t speak Polish. Once you order, you will find yourself seated next to middle-class families, poor students, homeless people – all tucking into a plate of Familijny’s cheap and simple homecooked Polish meals.

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But not everyone is as fortunate. A single ‘meal’ at Familijny consisting of meat, potatoes or buckwheat and salad will set you back between 11 and 13 Polish zloty, or $4 in Aussie dollars. Nothing really for fortunate people like us. But for many of the Polish homeless community, it’s more than they can afford.

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As K and I sat in the canteen eating our meals, I noticed an older weather-beaten Polish couple sitting a few tables away, nursing two cups of coffee between them ($1 AUD). They had chosen a table near the clearing station, where diners deposit their dirty dishes to be taken back into the kitchen for cleaning.

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As dishes were placed there by diners, the couple got up and scraped together scraps from different plates into a full meal for themselves – half a dozen scraps of mashed potatoes, buckwheat and salad into a semblance of a meal. I felt incredibly guilty because by the time I’d noticed what they were doing, I’d already polished off my own meal.

I toyed with the idea of going to the counter and paying for two meals for the two of them. It would cost me nothing really, but at the same time, I wasn’t sure how it would be received. The couple were being very discreet about what they were doing and the staff at the restaurant were being discreet about waiting for a decent amount of time before clearing the dishes. All signs pointed to this being an accepted phenomenon, and I was afraid that buying meals for them outright would be a faux pas that would cause them shame or embarrassment.

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If I was to return to Familijny for a meal, I think I would do things differently. Rather than ordering one meal per person, I think I would make the conscious effort to over-order so that there would be a significant amount of leftovers for anyone who wanted to help themselves. If discretion is how things are done here, then that’s what I would do to help those who need it.

If you feel lucky in being able to travel, then spread your good fortune where you can. Visit a canteen that welcomes homeless people if you go to Poland and order more than you need. Your leftovers won’t go to waste.

Familijny is located at Nowy Swiat 39 in Warsaw, Poland.