I’ve recently started a small diner’s club with a couple of my friends from work, where we would go to a nice restaurant once a month or so, eat good food and try anything that we’ve never tried before. This month’s choice was Baltic, a Polish bar/restaurant, on Blackfriars Road, Southwark.
We’d made an early reservation for 6:30pm, thinking that we’d arrive early, have a few drinks and then enjoy our meal at a leisurely pace. In hindsight it was a brilliant idea, but not because of that reason. By the time we left at 9:30pm, the restaurant was absolutely packed and lots of people were still waiting for their tables, a great indication of how popular this place has become.
We began the night with a lovely round of Polish vodka-based cocktails. There was a lot of choices and having no idea what anything was like, I plumped for a Ginger and Raspberry Mule. If you like ginger and ginger beer, you’ll like this cocktail, it was a nice blend of the two with a hint of citrus. If we were on a cocktail themed evening, we’d have definitely stayed for more. But we were here for the food and at 6:30pm our Polish adventure began.
Our group of three had decided to share a selection of starters and we thought that we’d try sampling at least one dish that we had never eaten. On this occasion our choice dish was… Ox Tongue. Now, when most people think about a tongue dish, they see a single 6 inch long organ that’s been boiled and dumped on to plate like beached whale. This was not the ox tongue that arrived at our table. Fine slices of tongue, fried and simply presented on a place with garnish and a dip. And it tasted great! Just like beef with none of that rough offally texture, instead a slight crispiness that gave it that extra edge. The other starters? Potato, cheese and spring onion Pierogis, deep fried dumplings with said filling, yummy simple comfort food. A Blinis selection of smoked salmon, mushroom caviar and marinated herring. As someone who’s not that great a fan of seafood, I was actually pleasantly surprised, although I wouldn’t be able to finish it.
So, to the mains. Calves Liver, Bigos and Golonka were our choices. The last time I ate liver was as a child when my dad would force feed us the 1980′s style overcooked slices of liver, stir fried with green beans and in a sauce. He would say it was beef in an effort to trick us in to thinking it was the same meat in Cantonese style beef, Oh the lies!! I’m happy to report that the calves liver was nothing like that. Cooked a little on the rare side it had none of that overdone organ texture and had a lovely flavour.
Bigos is a Polish style stew with venison, pork, beef, sauerkraut and potato dumplings, it tasted great and was perfect comfort eating for a cold January evening.
My dish was the Golonka, roast pork shank with braised sauerkraut and potato. Big enough to serve 2, it was like having a gammon/ham joint where the meat just fell off the bone and nicely balanced with the vinegary sauerkraut. Very tasty, very juicy, very filling.
Filled to the brim, could we even contemplate a desert course?.. Yeah we could!! Rhum Baba and a slice of Makowiec. The Rhum Baba was a moist light sponge that almost melted in your mouth, it has an almost custardy flavour and reminded me very much of the chinese chiffon cakes you buy from chinatown. The Makowiec, a poppy seed cake, a little less sweet and maybe slightly dry. Next to the Rhum Baba it had no chance, but maybe on its own you’d give it a good chance. Both different, but both tasty nonetheless.
So overall, great drink, fantastic food and there was definitely nothing wrong with the service. It’s not cheap, but it’s not too expensive either, the quality of the food definitely goes a long way to justify the prices. Baltic, I like.