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What’s for Lunch in Warsaw?

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In the words of my friend and former Warsaw-dweller “PK,” ‘Polish food is usually fried and made with pork or cream.’ You might be thinking, ‘Yum! What’s the big deal?’ But I have to agree with PK on this one. Polish cuisine leaves a lot to be desired from a health perspective. But it is cold. Colder than a well-digger’s ass, in fact, so I understand their obsession with insulating ingredients.
After getting my fix of pierogis yesterday, however, I was looking for something lighter today. I’m currently sitting at A. Blikle for lunch, a cafe that dates back to 1869. It’s a Warsaw institution, and the only cafe on Nowy Swiat to survive the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 when the street was reduced to rubble. You’d think that would be an accomplishment in and of itself, but the cafe was actually forced to close when communism reared its ugly head. Lucky for us, when communism became a thing of the past in 1989, A. Blikle reopened to its former glory.

Allow me to set the scene: the background jazz music is at a perfect acoustic level, and the dark wood molding that creeps midway up the wall meets a panel of jade green that’s decorated with black and white photos of days gone by. The granite and brass tables are regal, and every one is inhabited by pairs of chatting people. The waiters, dressed in vests and bow ties, bounce from room to room bringing liquid and gustatory treats to those waiting with baited breath. It is no accident this place survived the times.

I ducked in for the Żurek staropolski (old Polish sour soup) and the Tort “Generalski,” reportedly named after General Charles de Gaulle, a former patron of A. Blikle. The soup was light, but incredibly flavorful with slivers of kielbasa and hard-boiled eggs. The cake, on the other hand, was anything but light. A thin pastry crust laid the foundation for layers of chocolate pastry cream and cherry-soaked chocolate cake. The pale pastry dough blushed each time I pierced it with my fork from the oozing cherry juice. It was sinful, and I’m of the opinion that it was this cake that got them into trouble all those years back with the communists. It’s against the law for something to taste that good. The jury’s still out on whether or not my lunch fit into the “light” category, but that aside, I love finding places that combine classic cuisine with nostalgia and do it well. A. Blikle definitely satisfies both.

Over cups of tea and coffee, patrons licked their lips from the savory and sweet delicacies they ordered, and I looked on thinking about what this place must have been like in its true hayday. In my imagination, men were dressed in coats with tails and smoked tobacco pipes under their tophats. And the women wore furs, and had wind-swept hairstyles with red lipstick. You could sense that element of yesteryear glam. You definitely don’t need to be dressed for the opera to enjoy A. Blikle, so if you find yourself in Warsaw, and invariably on Nowy Swiat, head to #33 for an unrivaled slice of cake. You’ll be in for a little slice of history too.

A. Blikle

Next Stop: Dublin

One response »

  1. Great post. That cake looks HEAVY!


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