Polish Fine Dining in
Co-written with Marta Karcz
It was only in 2008 however that the Gesslers took over Cafe Daquise on Thurloe Place, South Kensington, giving the foodies in
Marta writes candidly about her first impressions of the restaurant - the early, nostalgic smells of her childhood - vinegar, beetroot, fried onions and bread, coming back to her as we entered the dining room. The simple, if somewhat austere decor, reminded her of similar home style restaurants with antique, dark wooden cabinets contrasting with the plain white tiles, soft lighting, and the starched white linen. At the entrance, a large wooden table laden with desserts, cakes and bread helped to give an invitingly informal feel to the restaurant and a glimpse of the delicious food that was still to come.
We started with a mixed portion of "Pierogi" @ £10. These are freshly made dumplings with fillings of meat or cheese, potato and onion. Traditionally served with melted butter, fried onions and sometimes sour cream, they tasted authentic and were delicious. Both fillings were well seasoned but the cheese filled one was our favourite. It tasted of lightly caramelised onions, butter, black-pepper and with a tangy, savoury quality from the "twaróg" (Polish curd cheese).
The "Tatar" @ £10.50 (or Steak Tartare) was next. The beef fillet was patiently minced and seasoned with a myriad of ingredients including capers, onions, gherkins and an egg yolk by a chef at a small table next to ours.
The "Barszcz zabielany" @ £7 (Red Borstch)– was a creamy beetroot soup – served with a separate plate of generously buttered mashed potatoes studded with bacon and fresh dill. Rafal explained that the soup had been infused with orange and cloves and tasted sweetly aromatic.
He also explained that while eating "barszcz" we should take some of the potato mash on a spoon and plunge it into the soup so that we had a perfect mouthful of both. The mash was intentionally salty to contrast with the sweet beetroot soup.
For mains we shared "Kaczka Pieczona" @ £19 - roast duck with mashed potatoes, red cabbage, apricots, baked apples and cranberries and "Ges Pieczona" @ £24 - roast goose with stuffed buckwheat and served with red cabbage, raisins and fresh cranberries.
Once again, we witnessed a culinary performance – a couple of chefs came out of the kitchen with a table laden with pots and whole roasted birds, and gradually we saw our plates being filled with generous carvings of duck and goose, servings of mashed potatoes and cabbage, buckwheat, baked apples and the topped with the concentrated jus from the roasted meats and a luscious cranberry sauce.
Other dishes I was very interested in trying were "Krolik Duszony w Tymianku" @ £18 (saddle of rabbit stewed with thyme, served with egg noodles and carrots stewed with honey and ginger) or "Golonga z Dzika" @ £22 (knuckle of wild boar stewed in juniper and served with egg noodles and roast beetroot). There is also an evening three course tasting menu at £30 (starter, soup and main) or four courses including dessert for £34. The same tasting menu is also available at lunch time for £19.90. To view their full menu, click here.
By this stage we were replete, but succumbed to Rafal’s suggestion of pancakes with cheese filling for dessert. Unlike in
As a digestif, Rafal brought us a glass of "Wiśniówka" @ £3.50 – cherry vodka – which was the perfect end to a magnificent meal.
Likes: I liked all the dishes we ordered, but particularly the soups, roasted birds and "pierogi". I also enjoyed having my food served hot from the cooking pot, and the attentive, unhurried service we had. It does seem a little pricey, but then the ingredients are top quality and the portions are very generous. Gessler has nearly all of its produce imported from
Dislikes: The wine list is a let-down given the quality of the food. There are many bottles below the £20 mark which is commendable but the lack of detailed information about the provenance of the wines is unfortunate in a restaurant of this quality.
Verdict: I was very impressed by my introduction to Gessler and Polish fine dining. Good, authentic food with delicious and unusually interesting flavours in a very charming setting. I cannot think of a better cuisine for this wintry
...What Others Are Saying...
Jo Kruczynska on 20th March 2011: After reading your blog about Gessler at Daquise in South Ken, we took my Dad there for his birthday yesterday. It was such a lovely evening especially as the food is very traditionally Polish and brought back so many memories of my Polish Grannies cooking. They really looked after us and plied us with special flavoured vodka's. Thanks for the recommendation!