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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In a continuation of my birthday celebrations, K booked seats for us to dine at Belle’s Hot Chicken in Richmond for their special ‘All the Chickens Afterparty’ event held during Good Food Month. Now don’t be too impressed by his initiative – he only booked the tickets after I sent him a link to an article about the event in a spectacularly unsubtle manner!
The reason we were particularly keen to go to this event is because a series of random events have conspired over time to prevent us from going to Belle’s. We’ve tried to make plans for dinner at Belle’s numerous times, yet something always seems to pop up at the last minute to prevent us going. Not this time though!
This sold-out fried chicken five course degustation event was designed by head chef Morgan McGlone as a tribute to some of his favourite fried chicken dishes from around the world. Naturally, the majority of them are inspired by various American joints.
For the reader’s information, I’ve included Morgan’s descriptions from the menu in this blog entry in all italics after the photo of each course. I found the descriptions and explanations particularly useful in understanding his motivation for including particular dishes – whether it was motivated by personal nostalgia or pure reverence for the dish.
We started with a drink each – eating five courses of fried chicken is thirsty work! I went for a refreshing House Made Sweet Mint Tea with a squeeze of lemon for a slight tangy twist, and K opted for their Country Time Lemonade with Melbourne Moonshine. I found the Melbourne Moonshine mix a bit too strong for my liking, but K enjoyed it with the strong lemonade.
Batters Box is my favourite dive bar in the world. It was the bar that was closest to Husk in Nashville where we (line cooks and I) would go after service and talk about how much we hate our jobs and how tomorrow we are going to go right back to work. They serve the most insane buffalo wings there with a store bought blue cheese dressing. Tonight we are giving you the same style Buffalo Wings but we make the dressing here.
The first course was made of one of my favourite combinations – Buffalo Chicken with Blue Cheese. Honestly, blue cheese with spicy fried chicken is one of the best combinations in the food world. However in this case, I would almost say that the standout element wasn’t the chicken or the blue cheese dressing, but instead the celery salad. With a vinaigrette dressing and punctured with random bursts of red onion, it was a lovely refreshing little salad side that acted well as a palate cleanser.
Chicken and Waffles has been on the Belle’s menu since day one…though it might sound like a strange combination when you put them together they really do work; just ask Snoop Dogg! I like to eat this once every 2 months especially with Hot Tenders.
I’m a Chicken & Waffles fiend – as evidenced by visits to places like Mr Big Stuff. This was just perfect with a lightly battered chicken tender, a warm and fresh waffle, and oodles of sweet maple syrup. Note to self – this is available as a regular dish on weekends at Belle’s!
Fried chicken is thirsty work! Two courses in, I’d already drained my sweet tea, so I ordered myself the House Made Cardamom Lemonade (no moonshine!) to get me through the final three courses. This wasn’t quite as refreshing as the tea as the tangy cardamom lingers on the palate, but was enjoyable in its own right.
No one makes the Chicken in a Biscuit like Chick-Fil-A, you might not agree with their policies but there is no doubt that their spicy Chicken biscuit is the BOMB.COM! We are serving them tonight with buttermilk biscuits and a spicy thigh fillet, cheese and pickles.
I’ve never tried Chick-Fil-A before and to be honest, I probably never will given that I would still make a point of boycotting them the next time I visit America. Variations of their meals made by other people though? Fair game when it’s Chicken in a Biscuit made by Belle’s. While I still can’t get over the fact that an American ‘biscuit’ doesn’t have chocolate chips in it, one can’t deny that their biscuit/scones go great with a juicy fried chicken thigh fillet! Too bad it doesn’t have structural integrity, with the bottom half of the biscuit crumbling to pieces in my hand with every bite I took.
Danny Bowien and I met whilst I was working at Husk Charleston, we have kept in touch and have caught up all over the world recently in Copenhagen at the MAD Food Camp 2016. This year in February Danny did a dinner at Attica with my buddy Ben Shewry and we hosted the after party at Belles Fitzroy. These wings are the go to dish when you eat at Mission Street Chinese restaurant I hope tonight we do them justice.
Oh man. These Mission Chinese Chongqing Wings had my lips burning with every bite. There’s a crazy good amount of spice on this fried chicken, with the type of spice that really lingers on the palate and brings tears to your eyes. This is where the pickled cucumber salad comes in handy as it helps to cool your palate, especially with the fresh coriander and spring onion in the mix as well.
Hot Quail is a dish we put on at the start of the year. Chef Scott and I wanted to try frying other types of birds and this was the one we loved the most. It is served with a red eye mayonnaise which is a play on Red Eye Gravy…the pickles in this dish extinguishes the heat of the Quail.’
We finished our degustation on the Belle’s Hot Quail, but unfortunately, I was so stuffed by that point I couldn’t manage much more beyond the quail breast. I have to say that I definitely prefer chicken over quail – I find that quail is still a bit too ‘game-y’ for my liking. That cauliflower salad was beautiful though!
Having a five course fried chicken degustation brings to mind the crazy Fried Chicken Crawl I did through Sydney a few years ago. It’s not something you would want to do every week, or even every month. As it is, I think this one single night of fried chicken bliss probably increased my rate of heart disease threefold! As an occasional treat, or as a fitting end to an ongoing 30th birthday celebration though, it’s a pretty mind-blowing and button-popping experience.
I’d love to return to Belle’s to try some of their more standard dishes. Their fried chicken expertise is evident and as much as I enjoyed their degustation, I’d like to try some of their standard dishes like Chicken Ribs in Peach BBQ sauce…mmmm yum…
Belle’s Hot Chicken is located at 107 Swan St in Richmond (and other locations too – Fitzroy, Windsor, Barangaroo, Tramsheds).
Yes we had Shake Shack, one of the great four American burger joints, while we were in London. Forget the English fish and chips or the pies and mash, once we walked past Shake Shack near Tottenham Court Road, our hearts were set on trying it out. After all, who knows when we’ll get a chance to go to America given that we’ll be virtually broke after this European trip?
The Shake Shack on New Oxford Street looks very new – and indeed, once I looked it up, Google informed me that it had only opened up two months earlier. Despite its novelty, the restaurant was surprisingly quiet when we went. Of course, we were there quite early for a pre-theatre meal which may explain it. I certainly hope that it’s not a sign of how successful Shake Shack will be in its international endeavours!
From what I can tell, the menu seems to be fairly consistent across different countries. There are some nods to its new location with the use of Scottish Aberdeen beef, some English sausages in its hotdogs, and a “New Oxford Street” concrete drink with proceeds to a local charity. For the most part however, the basic burger recipes remain unchanged from the American originals – the signature ShackSauce is still widely used.
Between the two of us, we ordered a basic single ShackBurger, a vegetarian ‘Shroom Burger, one serve of the fries, a Fifty/Fifty lemonade and iced tea blend, and Creamsicle float using Shake Shack’s signature ‘Frozen Custard’.
The fries were tasty but nothing on the fries we’d tried at Five Guys in Belfast. The Fifty/Fifty drink included the fizzy sweetness of lemonade and the strong flavour of pure iced tea which was a surprisingly excellent combination. Enjoying my Creamsicle float was like being a child all over again – mixing the ice-cream into the lemonade to create a fizzy volcano-esque mix that spilled over the top of the cup.
The burgers are where it’s at though. The ShackBurger essentially defines a good simple cheeseburger. Kids these days are all about the monster stacked burgers with fifteen different ingredients that defy gravity but there’s something to be said about a nicely grilled beef patty, some healthy green lettuce and a slice of tomato, and a soft toasted brioche bun. Simple. Tasty. Winning.
The vegetarian ‘Shroom Burger was surprisingly tasty with a thick and juicy breaded and deep-fried portobello mushroom that perfectly mimicked the juiciness of a beef patty. I guarantee that even non-vegetarians will find the ‘shroom burger to their liking.
Having now tasted both Shake Shack and Five Guys, I have to say that Shake Shack wins it in the burger stakes. Simple is best. Shake Shack does simple well, while Five Guys tries to impress with an overload of ingredients. Please come to Australia Shake Shack!