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: Ket Szerencsen, Budapest Hungary

Good reviews and a central location – that was reason enough for us to drop into Ket Szerecsen Bistro for lunch on our last day in Budapest.

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As we sat down and began to peruse the menu however, I started to notice little bits of racially-themed decor around the restaurant that began to make me feel uncomfortable. Then I saw their logo of two African faces with exaggerated lips and felt beyond uncomfortable. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t walk out at this point, but the situation was much too awkward as our orders had just been taken.

Sour Cherry organic fruit juice, 590 Hungarian Forint
Sour Cherry organic fruit juice, 590 Hungarian Forint

K and I had a lively debate over lunch as we pondered the question of whether we should have left without eating our meals. I’m definitely more sensitive to issues of race and gender than he is, but even he was uncomfortable with some of the drawings on the walls.

Breast of duck with pumpkin gnocchi and sage butter, 3290 Hungarian Forint
Breast of duck with pumpkin gnocchi and sage butter, 3290 Hungarian Forint

He enjoyed his Breast of Duck with Pumpkin Gnocchi and Sage Butter – a treat as we had been trying to avoid meats other than chicken since his diagnosis with gout. The grilled duck breast was succulent and tender which K enjoyed but I found a bit too gamey for my liking. The pumpkin gnocchi was much more to my taste, and the sage butter just heavenly. Sage butter is something that’s quite simple, but something we hardly ever make at home to go with our pasta. This has to change!

Chicken paprika stew, parsley dumplings, cucumber salad with sour cream, 2290 Hungarian Forint
Chicken paprika stew, parsley dumplings, cucumber salad with sour cream, 2290 Hungarian Forint

I ordered a Chicken Paprika Stew with Parsley Dumplings and a Cucumber Salad with Sour Cream (pictured below) on the side. I loved the richness of the paprika sauce, which went perfectly with the small herbed dumplings. The chicken was quite tender as well. The fresh cucumber salad is a must when you order the stew though, to help refresh the palate as the stew can be quite thick and rich.

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Guys, what would you have done in my place? Would you have walked out once you registered the racially-themed decor? Would you have made a complaint to management?

I don’t think their intention is malicious, but it is a rather jarring experience for people like myself who are hyper-sensitive to issues of race. The theming certainly hadn’t been brought up in the reviews I’d read prior to our visit, but I can’t have been the only one to make a note of it!

For what it’s worth, Ket Szerecsen does quite amazing food. The prices are a little high by Hungarian standards, but the quality alone makes it quite worthwhile. If you think you won’t be bothered by the decor, the food is worth trying.

Ket Szerecsen is located at 14 Nagymezo utca in Budapest, Hungary.

Review: Soul Press, Edithvale

When my friend Beth asked to take me out to dinner for my birthday, I said “Actually why don’t you take me out to brunch instead, and we can try that healthy cafe in Edithvale?” Most people would have said thanks for dinner, but I had to just take it that one step further. It all worked out in the end anyway. Beth had been wanting to try the same cafe, and we went to Costco Moorabbin afterwards which we had been talking about for a while (because clearly, neither of us have a life).

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The cafe in question was Soul Press in Edithvale, a second branch of the original Soul Press in Brighton. Like all ‘healthy eating’ cafes, they offer a range of super smoothies, acai bowls, pressed juices, and in this case – sushi burritos as well. To fit in with the other diners, I recommend wearing your tightest activewear to the cafe with your hair in a jaunty ponytail and a yoga mat under your arm.

Chai Latte, $4.50, and Beetroot Latte, $5
Chai Latte, $4.50, and Beetroot Latte, $5

I had wanted a matcha latte but they were unfortunately out of matcha on that Sunday morning – strange for a health food cafe! I had to settle for a Skim Chai Latte (too milky without enough spice) instead, whereas Beth tried a Beetroot Latte with coconut milk for the first time. I don’t think she’ll be rushing back to trying beetroot lattes any time soon, finding the beetroot a bit too sweet.

Avo Smash with chilli flakes and edamame and pumpkin seeds with optional goats cheese, $15.50
Avo Smash with chilli flakes and edamame and pumpkin seeds with optional goats cheese, $15.50

As a smashed avocado lover (it’s okay Bernard Salt, she’s already a property owner with a hefty mortgage), Beth immediately gravitated to the Avo Smash with chilli, edamame, pepitas and goats cheese. This was a great mix of textures and flavours – soft avocado, tangy goats cheese, crunchy pepitas, fresh edamame and crusty bread. A great blend.

Snickers superfood bowl with acai blended with banana and coconut water, topped with muesli, strawberries, coconut chips, banana, vegan Snickers slice, caramelised bukinis and bee pollen, $14.50
Snickers superfood bowl with acai blended with banana and coconut water, topped with muesli, strawberries, coconut chips, banana, vegan Snickers slice, caramelised bukinis and bee pollen, $14.50

I chose my first ever acai bowl – a Snickers Superfood Bowl featuring banana, coconut water, muesli, strawberries, vegan Snickers slice, and more. It’s the type of naughty sweet treat you feel virtuous ordering and eating, even if the fats contained in the vegan Snickers probably has more kilojoules than an actual Snickers bar. I quite enjoyed my first acai bowl experience and can see how people get addicted to them! Next time around though, I think I’d choose one that’s less of a mock dessert and has more fresh fruit toppings.

Soul Press isn’t far from where I live…yet, I don’t think I’ll rush back to eat there unless I was already planning on having a particularly healthy day with a long 15km walk along the beach. If I’m going out for a cheeky weekend brunch, I’d much rather spoil myself with a plate of Cointreau hotcakes or corn fritters at Hendrik’s Cafe in Mordialloc instead!

Soul Press is located at 265 Nepean Highway in Edithvale.