Guest Writer: Edd Morris
Krakow, Poland’s second city, is stuffed full of eccentric personality and medieval charm. Fueled by Zywiec beer, home-brewed vodka and huge portions of pierogies, Krakow has a hedonistic streak that you wouldn’t initially expect. It’s not quite the sombre place you might imagine on arrival – especially given that many tourists use it as a stopping off point to visit Auschwitz.
Cheap flights and cheaper beer are drawing dozy British stag-weekenders to the city, but it’s easy to avoid their caveman-style entertainment and have a great night out in some great places to eat in Krakow.
Best For Value: Starka (ul. Jozefa 14, Jewish Quarter)
You’ll find home-made vodka and generous hospitality in abundance at Starka. The bright crimson interior is offset with dark leather and delicate metalwork, and you’ll often be greeted like you’re a long lost cousin from Warsaw. The food is traditionally Polish, but with concessions to more modern tastes: for example, pierogi dumplings are delicately seasoned, and the pile of cinnamon pancakes for dessert will tide you to next winter. The prices are firmly in ‘value’ territory, and the home-made lemon and ginger vodka warrants a trip in itself.
Best For History: Ogniem i Mieczem (Pl. Serkowskiego 7, Podgorze)
Krakow’s reasonably priced on all fronts, but with money to burn for an extra special evening, Ogniem i Mieczem (Fire and Sword) should be top of your list. It’s inspired by the famous trilogy of historical Polish novels of the same name, and is effectively themed although stepping back into Polish and Ukrainian history. Pork is spit roasted on an open fire in the centre of the restaurant, bales of hay and milk-churns decorate the dining rooms, and waitress’ historical costumes are faithful to designs depicted in the books. There’s no better place to experience the history at Krakow’s heart.
Best For Vomiting: Pod Wawelem Restauracja (ul. Koletek 20, Stare Miasto)
Few restaurants in the world provide sick bowls for their customers. Pod Wawelem, however, has a specialized stainless steel ‘vomitaria’ in the men’s toilets. It’s a bizarre part of the restaurants’ ‘eat more than you can physically manage’ ethos: the plates of Polish food are truly gargantuan. A single serving of pork knuckle, its speciality, is sized for about six people. Alongside the piles of food, waiters ply customers with litre-sized steins of beer to wash it all down it. What it lacks in culinary finesse, it makes up in atmosphere – if you don’t feel a little queasy at the thought of it all.