We have been going to the BBC proms at the Albert Hall for years – a bonus is that we can walk there from our home in about 15 minutes.
Wandering down Exhibition Road on the way back we always noticed that there was a Polish restaurant which we were told had a good reputation housed in a lovely listed building opposite the Science Museum.
In the 48 Proms seasons we have visited the Albert Hall, for some reason or another, we never made it to this restaurant. Last Friday, after a particular harrowing day trying to deal with the incompetence of British Gas who were supposed to deliver a new meter and failed to do so, we decided that we needed a treat so we went off to the Albert Hall to catch a great concert conducted by Bernard Haitink. And magnificent it was too. Walking back we felt that we deserved another treat and so wandered in to the Polish restaurant for the first time to find that they had a table available for us.
We had a table in a magnificent 60 foot long room with a high ceiling and crystal chandeliers and the whole place oozed class. The menu is undoubtedly Polish – or at least consisted of those comfort dishes designed to ward off the effects of an Eastern European winter. Dumplings, Pancakes and Blinis abound as well as dishes of herring and pickled cucumbers and of course the mandatory Barszcz beetroot soup.
But there are other interesting dishes on the menu. I had smoked eel with Salat Olivier (Russian potato salad with pickled cucumber) and a mustard and horseradish dressing – very delicate and very tasty and Sonia had a steak tartare with quail’s eggs, gherkins, shallots and herbs which gave it a slightly spicy flavour. I followed with veal escalopes with fried Kopytka (elongated potato gnocchi), mushrooms, cranberries in a Madeira sauce, which was slightly sweet. Sonia had Pelmeni – small dumplings filled with veal and pork. Both were cooked to perfection.
The wine list is quite international although it leans very much towards old world wines – a lovely glass of Viognier from Coudoulet was superb with my eel, but the rather dry Alentejano from Monte da Ravasquiera was a bit of a clash with the Madeira sauce. My fault for not sussing this out beforehand.
All in all this was a very satisfying experience and the bill of £65.53 for the two of us (including the “optional” 12½% service charge) was not unreasonable.
The building also houses the Polish Hearth Club – Ognisko Polskie – which was founded in 1939 as the intellectual hub for Poles arriving in London whether as civilians, members of the armed forces, diplomats or politicians. The initial flight was from the terror of the Nazis, and then two weeks later from Soviet aggression, and was founded by men of letters, writers, poets and artists
Snugly located (literally and significantly) between the Goethe Institute and the Church of the Latter Day Saints in Exhibition Road, the restaurant last year took on a new lease of life as a sister restaurant to Baltic in the Southwark/Waterloo area. The charming terrace overlooking the gardens of Imperial College and the extensive Vodka list are two additional reasons for giving this place a visit, but it’s worth a trip alone for the food and the atmosphere. Service by charming young ladies was pretty efficient.
Ognisko Polish Restaurant
Address: 55 Exhibition Rd, London, SW7 2PN
Phone: +44 20 7589 0101
Hours: 11:00 am – 11:00 pm daily
Wine List 11
Value for money 12