The restaurants of Gdansk
Employing only experienced chefs and using the best in local ingredients, Gdansk venues have raised the city to the very top as far as Polish restaurants are concerned. Not only do the summer terraces of popular eateries in the main city swarm with customers – so are lesser-known places outside the city centre, new breweries and even more elegant hotel restaurants.
The culinary image of modern Gdansk is made up of unique ideas and the experience of local chefs, who do not hesitate to use classic ingredients when defining the local food scene, resulting in dishes to match the highest expectations. Indeed, these ingredients go beyond the traditional Baltic herring, plaice or cod, and include freshwater fish from local farms and lakes, superb Kashubian beef, Pomeranian goose, and farmhouse cheeses, as well as herbs and vegetables from the Zulawy area. Kaszëbskô malëna – a type of strawberry protected by an EU mark of quality also grows nearby, while the local moraine hills and Sobieszew Island feature sea buckthorn. Prominent Polish chefs, such as Krzysztof Ilnicki, Grzegorz Labuda, Pawel Stawicki and Piotr Slusarz, are all known to make good use of this natural wealth.
What they offer are part of a wide range of culinary opportunities available in the city. If you are looking for something unique and slightly offbeat, visit Szafarnia 10. Grzegorz Labuda has surprised me there with his masterful take on calf’s head in the form of a cheek, tongue and collagen. Other great choices are the Pomeranian duck blood soup, beef marrow cream trout and rolls with sunroot, marzipan and buckthorn jelly filling for dessert. The marina and Dlugie Pobrzeze lie just beyond the restaurant’s glass wall.
Mercato at the Hilton hotel is a great choice for more elegant events. Pawel Stawicki, known for his love of perfection, is the man in charge. His dishes delight with their colours, forms and flavours. A plate of turbot garnished with juicy, green asparagus spears and zucchini, combined with a poignantly purple blueberry, tonka and white chocolate dessert is the perfect highlight for the most elegant of meetings. The chef’s seasonal tasting menu is an impressive display of what Mercato is about, and is a good choice if you are staying for longer.
For something less official, consider the Dancing Anchor restaurant at the Puro hotel – its distinct, post-industrial character and open kitchen is sure to impress. It is a great place for all things fish and seafood related, even if your group is on the large side. Marcin Malecki, the restaurant’s chef de cuisine, offers special meals for two – with Baltic fish or oysters, mussels and Norway lobster. Recommended classics include the cod and lobster ravioli, where the white of the cod provides an intriguing contrast to the black lentils it is served with.
The Kubicki restaurant is among the oldest in the city. Leaning against an exposed wall of an old castle and offering a view of the Motlawa, Olowianka Island and the Crane, it offers a new take on some local classics. Several of these are Kubicki’s classic snacks from before the war, and have remained unchanged. The Madeira duck, beef tongue and jelly trout served there are second to none, and it is very likely that they taste exactly as they did before the war.
If you are on the lookout for something less formal, drop by Senso, a restaurant hidden in the Scandic hotel. Piotr Sluszarz of Top Chef fame runs the show there. The menu includes some interesting dishes inspired by local traditions, such as the Kashubian mushroom soup and the Kashubian fish soup soured with pickle juice. Also worth mentioning is the Jurassic salmon in cucumber sauce.
Zafishowani is a restaurant on the bank of the Motlawa, which offers an impressive array of fish dishes. Daniel Chrzanowski, its executive chef, recommends the local fish soup, Kashubian vendace or Baltic herring, and a chocolate souffle with buckthorn ice cream for dessert. All this masterfully arranged, tasting sublime and in line with the latest trends. In summer, it is great to lay back on the restaurant’s terrace and enjoy the beautiful view of Olowianka Island.
If you are looking for venues with a much more relaxed atmosphere and situated in less obvious places, visit Niepokorni on Chmielna Street. The tartar, beef tongue and steak served there are excellent. An additional benefit is the walk along the post-industrial streets of the recently-restored Lower City, still relatively unknown among Gdansk’s visitors. Not far from here, on Torunska Street, an old Prussian laundry has been transformed into the Magiel restaurant, close to the Zabi Kruk harbour. In the summer, it is pleasant to lay back in one of the restaurant’s terrace deck chairs, though it is an even better idea to sit down at a table and order some juicy green cod in saffron sauce.
If you are meeting up with friends, consider Stary Manez situated in the rebuilt Wrzeszcz garrison – it is brimming with that big city atmosphere and pairs classic snacks from all around the world with local beer. This new part of Wrzeszcz features some excellent architecture, and you can expect to find all kinds of modern venues there – an attractive alternative to the Main City. Marmolada Chleb i Kawa, Gdansk’s first breakfast house, is located there, as well as Pawel Wator’s Elixir – a restaurant and cocktail bar, in addition to the famous Umam confectionery, run by Krzysztof Ilnicki.