Welcome to EAT THIS CITY, your weekly tour of the best restaurants in one of our favorite cities, as chosen by top chefs. This week, we’re going international! Grab your passports, check your baggage, and get set to jet set as we fly to Warsaw, Poland!
Meet Chef Sven Thomsen. No stranger to travel, Chef Thomsen spent the early part of his 26-year culinary career traveling throughout Germany, working in high-end restaurants (two of which were Michelin-starred), and honing his craft. By 1999, he could be found working at the Intercontinental Chicago, and from there, his skills took him to Scotland, and then aboard the sailing ship Sea Cloud, where he worked as head chef.
In 2005, Thomsen began his first position with Hilton, working as the executive sous chef for Hilton Munich City. Two short years later, he would take on the same position for the opening of the Hilton Warsaw Convention Centre, which was at the time the biggest combined convention center and hotel in Poland and the first of the Hilton brand in the country. In 2010, Chef Thomsen took over the executive chef position at the Hilton Warsaw, overseeing a team of 32 chefs.
2015 saw Chef Thomsen tackle new challenges — becoming executive chef for the Hilton Munich Airport — but Warsaw still holds a significant place in his heart and he goes back often because his fiancee lives there. Needless to say, he’s got fabulous suggestions for incredible date-nights in the city.
Ready to check out Chef Thomsen’s suggestions? Let’s go!
A small and cosy little restaurant run by a Polish-Italian couple, serving simple but very tasty Italian dishes. And just ’round the corner from where I used to live and work in Warsaw. Pizzas are especially good and a real-deal! Whether you go for a pizza rossa or biancha, you won´t be disappointed.
Ceviche Bar is not a typical Mexican or Pan American restaurant — this is the first restaurant in Poland specializing in ceviche. The menu surprises with a variety of fresh raw fish dishes cured with citrus juices and spiced with onions and chili. And the flavor combinations don’t disappoint! The choice of delicious cocktails makes the place an attractive spot not only for a light lunch, but also for an evening drink.
The place is a brainchild of Argentina-born chef Martin Gimenez Castro, the first winner of the Polish Top Chef.
Small and cozy place with a clean interior. Here chefs from Thailand are cooking fresh, original food using the recipes of their home country. The owner is a Polish Canadian who opened a second place in Poznan. The restaurant is almost full every night so book in advance if you want to go out for an Asian food night in the Capitol.
The burger trend also went through Poland big time. A lot tried… a lot failed. Warburger survived and even expanded recently. Great juicy burger, creative combinations, always a tasty bite to grab on the go.
Big varieties of French pastries and a wide selection of homemade ice cream. Great place to chill. Also possible to enjoy a sweet treat outside in the summer.
Senses is the second restaurant in Poland which this year was awarded the Michelin Star. The chef, Andrea Camastra, is an Italian-French guy who started two years ago with Senses. The kitchen is based on local produce and is partly a new interpretation of traditional dishes with a special twist. He has his own laboratory where extracts, experiments, and develops new creations. Even the china is customized and done by a small manufacturer in Poland. Go there, get surprised, and experience where Polish cuisine will go over the next couple of years.
The Spanish place in town. You know a chef cooks great and original when half of the customer base is Spanish. Here you can eat little tapas, delicious starters, creative mains, and tasty desserts. All based on traditional dishes with a creative twist. The owner and chef are both from Spain, and import meat, fish, and oils directly from home. By the way, it’s also a great place for a date night. They also run a tapas bar in the Hilton Warsaw…but this is where we come when we talk about guilty pleasures.
I am not a vegetarian, but I like this place. Tasty vegetarian and vegan dishes out of the Middle East and from Israel, served in this nice little cafe. Open for years, it was one of the first vegetarian restaurants in Warsaw.
What can it be…of course the brunch in my former hotel, The Hilton Warsaw. An institution over the last nine years. Various international and local dishes served every Sunday. Chefs will carve the juicy meat in front of you and prepare delicious dishes at the Life station. There is also a special corner where you can take care of your little ones, so you can have a relaxed brunch.
ICONIC FOOD OF THE CITY
Pierogi. Looks like a little half moon ravioli, and is not only the food of the city, but of the country. Stuffed with various fillings from meat, potatoes, white cheese, to cabbage, or maybe some sweet ones. You can boil them, and there are ones that you can deep fry. Served with a dip of sour cream, bacon, or parsley butter; the tasty traditional dips. If you go here [Stary Dom], take as a starter the traditional beef tartar. It will be chopped up and prepared right in front of you.
ODD CULINARY EXPERIENCE
Oscypek is a regional smoked sheep cheese from the Tatra mountain region. First time I had it, I tried it cold and it reminded me of smoked chewing gum. Later I figured you are supposed to eat it grilled and warm which makes it a lot better…still, you’ve got to like the taste.
The head chef is a young Spanish girl and she makes it feel like you are on vacation when you eat her tapas. Why guilty? It’s a lot of really good fried stuff…but it’s just great with a couple of glasses of wine. The place has a great atmosphere full of locals and foreigners.
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Golonka is a delicious baked pork knuckle, served with mustard, horseradish, and sauerkraut. Traditional, crispy, fatty, good. Believe me, that cures every hangover and wants you to have a beer or two with it. It is served at a very rustic restaurant across from where I used to live. All the wait staff is dressed in traditional clothes, so pretty fun for foreigners.
My favorite restaurant in Warsaw! Fine dining, but in a rather relaxed and more casual style. The chef, Jacek Grochowina, came back to Poland after several years spent abroad, to open his own restaurant. He brought back a lot of inspiration and ideas. Great food, perfectly executed, sometimes traditional sounding, sometimes very innovative and surprising, but always spot on in flavor, texture, and combination. You can watch the chef plating through a glass window which adds a nice touch to the dining experience. And yes, that’s the place for a date night!
It probably won’t come as much of a surprise that I asked my girl to marry me in this very special place. And by the way, she said yes :).
RESTAURANT RUN BY A FRIEND
PAPU is a small restaurant offering Polish cuisine with a fine-dining twist. Make a reservation, otherwise you might not get a spot in this cozy place where you can see, feel, and taste Polish traditions. It serves classical Polish cuisine at its best, from marinated herring to venison with potato dumplings and the traditional duck with red cabbage. Its owner, Mariusz Diakowski, also runs two other well-known restaurants in Warsaw; a much bigger and more casual restaurant, Stary Dom, and a smaller but very cute place with a great summer patio called Zielnik.
Mariusz is taking special care to make sure all the food is sourced from local suppliers. All cakes and pastries sold in the three places are prepared in a little bakery store (Cukiernia Stary Dom) also owned by him.
Thank you Chef Thomsen for taking us on a culinary tour of Warsaw!
Stay tuned for more EAT THIS CITY — where each week we’ll feature a premier chef in a different city sharing their insider eating tips! Missed a week? Check out Kansas City, NYC, Washington DC, New Orleans, Cleveland, Miami, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Sydney, Portland, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, New Orleans, Providence, Memphis, Orange County, Boston, and Detroit.
See you next week!