Poznań: Hungry? Read this!

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Have some potato in Pyra* Bar

Pyra Bar, Ulica Strzelecka 13

While on holiday in France Mikołaj Janowski ate a gratin with potatoes, bacon, soured cream, onion and cheese. Then he came back to his student digs on Ulica Kwiatowa. As in all student's digs, there were plenty of guests. Inspired by his French culinary adventure Mikołaj peeled some potatoes, cut them into slices and baked them with various toppings and fed his friends the inexpensive, satiating gratins.

This is how the idea of the Pyra Bar arose. Pyra specializes in potato gratins: meat ones, like the Kurczak Cukinsyn (Chickenson with chicken and courgette) and vegetarian, like the Porcięta na Camemberta (Leaking Camembert with leek and Camembert cheese). Zboczek (Pervacon) is a Poznań version of the French gratin that started it all; the only difference is that instead of expensive French cheese the cook uses mozzarella.

A bar with such a name could not omit the traditional Poznań "pyry z gzikiem" - baked potatoes with cottage cheese mixed with onion and chives. There are also "plyndze" - potato pancakes, served traditionally with soured cream and sugar, or more sophisticated ones with Greek yoghurt and honey, with leczo (a kind of Polish version of Hungarian lecho) or plum jam. You can finish your meal dinner with a glass of rhubarb compote.

One of the Pyra Bar's rooms is set up in the style of a communist eating-house. In the others there are comfortable couches and board games for guests. Pyra Bar couriers deliver their gratins to nearby offices only by bicycle.

Let the Dark Restaurant surprise you

Dark Restaurant, Ulica Garbary 48

Here only the principles are clear: you're not allowed to smoke, use a mobile phone, the backlight on your watch or a match. Before you sit at the table, you tell the waitress what you don't want or you cannot eat. Darkness envelops the restaurant, and the food is a surprise. Perhaps blind they will give you "ślepe ryby" ("blind fishes") - This is a traditional Poznań soup that has nothing in common with fish. Potato, meatless, with no fatty droplets winking up at you from the dish, simply blind fish. After dinner you can talk to the chef about what you ate. Apparently hardly anyone is able to guess what they had on their plate.

Compose your dinner within the quarter

Kwadrans (The Quarter), on the corner of Ulica Fredry and Ulica Kościuszki

Do you prefer to decide for yourself what to eat? Go to Kwadrans bistro. Speed is one of the main advantages of the restaurant: you choose your food and serve yourself. The steak or the pork hock? Potatoes or pierogi (dumplings)? And perhaps instead of the meat you prefer to put more vegetables on your plate? Take your tray to the scale. Whatever you've taken, you pay just 2.95 zloty for every 100 grams.

A taste of Paris

Francuski Łącznik (The French Connection), Plac Spiski 1, Ulica Słowackiego 18, Ulica Dominikańska 7

Femme Fatale, Ulica Matejki 67

Zygmunt Kołodziej, owner of Francuski Łącznik, which specializes in tarts and quiches, spent twenty years in France before coming to Poznań. In France it wouldn't be polite to receive a guest just with a bowl of peanuts. The French always have something delicious to hand: a crumbly tart, spicy quiche or delicate pâté. But since there isn't always time for cooking, they buy these dishes at delicatessens.

Kołodziej prepared a similar offer for the citizens of Poznań. But instead of delicatessens these popular quiche cafes were opened.

It is worth tasting the lemon tart which brings out the best in a lemon (and it doesn't have anything to do with the lemon boiled sweets). The quiches with nut fillings and purple-sprouting broccoli are very popular. The pâté topped with a delicate orange jelly is excellent.

Kołodziej carefully chose the locations for his cafes. You will eat the delicacies from Francuski Łącznik in the prettiest corners of Poznań.

The wing or the kebab? - Poznań street food

Through the centre of Poznan runs a unique gastronomic trail. Crossing it is a real draw for fans of the sophisticated tastes of garlic sauce and meat well-done. You can't get lost on the trail because every point is marked with greasy spots on the pavement, and remnants of the sauces and salads which the gourmets drop during their grande bouffe.

It's the chicken-kebab trail. It starts near Most Teatralny (the Theatre Bridge). There is a stall with a long tradition called the green hut. It doesn't serve dishes straight from the canon, i.e. roasted chicken and pseudo-oriental kebab, but specializes in delicious french bread pizzas. Let's move on in our culinary adventure. It's waiting for us near the Nova Auditorium of the Academy of Music in Ulica Święty Marcin. But we haven't come here for a concert or to admire the modern architecture of the building! Next to it there is an equally elegant construction made of clinker bricks. In a former newsagents kiosk there is now a kebab house where young musicians and elegant music lovers can get a snack during the intervals during concerts. The setting up of this stall caused a bit of a stir. All the enthusiastic chomping got mixed up with the voices of complaint among the city's aesthetes. but who cares, the meat's cooking, the grease is dripping, and the customers await.

We go down Ulica Święty Marcin as far as Plac Wiosny Ludów. This is where the gastronomical salon with the city's finest eateries is situated. There's the stall with the melodious local name "Tej" that serves vegetarian pittas. Real "meatarians", though, will hot foot it to the other side of the square, where, in a gap in the Kupiec Poznański mall there is the legendary stall of Mr Dariusz Bąkowski. The place is famous for the most delicious roast chicken in Poznań. It's owner is a proud, stubborn man, whose history of rows with the city's bureaucracy is a subject for another book. Suffice to say, the gap in the mall is not his only exploit. For years Bąkowski has been threatening to close the stall and build something more permanent instead, which scares the local gourmets to death.

Next, the chicken-kebab trail winds through the old town streets, among which Jaskółcza and Wielka require the most attention. Here the local specialties are served by native Turks and Tunisians, trying to prove that their kebabs are better than the Polish ones. Can it be true? Go and try. Bon appetit!

Set off for something sweet

A Sunday sweet expedition is a duty of everyone in Poznań. There are two ways to do this. Indoors - you buy cakes after church and go home to eat them. And outdoors, when you eat the sweets in the cakeshop.

What sweet do people eat in Poznan?

On 11th November, to celebrate the name day of the Ulica Święty Marcin (St. Martin Street) it's obligatory to eat these special croissants called "rogale marcińskie". They're made of puff pastry with an almond and white poppy seed filling. During the celebration there is also a colorful parade.

The croissants face a stiff challenge from cakes called in Polish "brzdące" means "toddlers". It's a delicate sponge cake interlaid with chocolate-cream with waves on the top. They were created by the Bakery in Jeżyce district. Unfortunately it doesn't exist anymore. Luckily, other confectioners have discovered the secret recipe and you can buy a "brzdąc" everywhere now. Just like "szneka " with "glanc " - a sticky bun with crumble - but only the slang name is unique to Poznań.

Around 1st November, in the cemeteries, traders open stalls selling "rury" (pipes). A "rura" a slightly rounded shape and tastes like gingerbread, but less spicy. In the Stary Rynek (the Old Market) you can buy cakes similar to "pipes" colourfully iced in the form of huts, birds or cars.

It's not easy to pick a cake shop. The choice is wide. If you like retro, visit Hanusia at Ulica Żurawia 5. Hanusia specializes in doughnuts.

If you want to sit down for your sweet - visit Kociak. It's a cafe at Ulica Święty Marcin 28 and is over 50 years old. It specializes in ice cream desserts which lots of nice frozen balls of ice  cream. Try the chocolate Palermo, piled high with whipped cream, an ice cream bomb in three flavours and full of pieces of fruit and nuts and several more balls of ice cream.

Cheers...

...with a jug of beer

At the beginning of the XX century Poznań was a city beer. There were over a hundred breweries operating in Poznań because every self-respecting pub brewed its own beer. Today, only the Brovaria restaurant in the Stary Rynek (the Old Market) cultivates this tradition. What's more, in the old Poznań every pub exclusively imported at least one beer from Germany. So there were a few hundred kinds of beer available in the city. It was the most popular drink in Poznań at the time and the average citizen drank over two litres a day.

Today the beery pride of the city is the breweries of Kompania Piwowarska SA on Ulica Szwajcarska, where you can visit the Lech* Visitors' Centre. You can see past and present methods of brewing beer and taste some of the delicious drink fresh from the brewery. Info on the free tours is available at www.zwiedzaniebrowaru.pl website.

... ...or a glass of vodka

Old Poznań drank not only beer, but vodka, too. For example, the vodka from the famous distillery of Hartwig Kantorowicz on Ulica Grochowe Łąki 6. The building still has the same chambers as in the times when vodka was produced there. Today the National Court Register has its headquarters there.

When "The Journal of Skills, Inventions, Artistry and Handcrafts" organised a competition for a vodka with a delicate taste and great strength, Kantorowicz entered. The jury, after tasting his product, shouted: "Wyborowa!" ("Excellent!") The vodka acquired this name and, in 1927, became the first brand named alcoholic drink in the world. Wyborowa vodka, also internationally popular, is still produced in Poznań (near Malta Lake, just behind the Maltanka railway station).

By the way, the Kantorowicz family is an interesting one. Hartwig's brother Ernst, although being a poor student eventually grew into a famous historian of Medieval times.

* Pyra - a potato in Poznań.

* "Lech" is a one kind of beer that Kompania Piwowarska produces.

More tips: "Zrób to w Poznaniu. Przewodnik alternatywny. Do it in Poznań. Alternative guide"

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