Poznan in 2015

Greetings all,

As is usual at this time of the year, I’d like to look back and tell you what’s been hot and what’s been rot in Poznań over the last twelve months. You always need some negatives to accentuate the positives, but generally, particularly when you consider the strife that’s going on in other parts of the world, I feel very very lucky to be living in this beautiful, safe and prosperous city. And I still get the same buzz of excitement when I head down town as I did when I first came here sixteen years ago.

But anyway, moving on to specifics, let’s start with the Poles’ favourite pastime, complaining! In no particular order, here’s the things which have wound me up in Poznań in 2015..

1. The decline of the Old Town – this was something I mentioned this time last year and if anything, things have got worse. Dilapidated buildings, cheap and tacky bars, seedy gogo clubs, poor service, inflated prices – all of these things distract from the undoubted beauty of the place, a real shame for the city.

Beautiful Old Town

Beautiful Old Town

Old Town at dusk

Old Town at dusk

2. Malta Festival – like the Old Town, Malta Festival is one of those things which people from outside Poznań readily associate with the city. It is, therefore, sad to see the slow scaling down of this annual cultural event. When I first started writing this blog back in 2011, Malta was huge, with numerous big name music acts and a spellbinding closing procession with a finale in the Old Market Square. By comparison, 2015’s offering was lame.

Malta 2

Scaled down

Scaled down

Malta 2011

Malta 2011

3. Rondo Kaponeira – apparently (according to the taxi driver I spoke to today), these improvements to Poznan’s central transport hub are the longest ongoing building works in Europe! Started in 2011, they’ve been held back by extreme weather, funding problems and most interestingly, the discovery of a huge German wartime bunker. I just hope that in 2016, they’ll finally get it finished and all the disruption will be over. We’ll see..

Kaponeira works

Kaponeira works

Phew, now I’ve got all that off my chest, let’s do something much more pleasant and talk about the good things which have been going on in 2015, again, in no particular order…

1. Food glorious food! – I spend a lot of time on these pages reviewing eateries, and that’s for good reason. Virtually every week something new and exciting opens up and it’s with great pleasure that I get out and do these reviews for you. And 2015 has had a bit of everything to offer – gourmet kebabs at Kraszkebab, fine dining at Wieniawskiego, picnicking at the Breakfast Markets. In a complete reverse of my Malta Festival observation, the foody scene in 2015 is umpteen times better than it was in 2011 and I’m sure that in 2016 it will be even better..

Kraszkebab-169x300

Wieniawskiego

Wieniawskiego

Breakfast Markets

Breakfast Markets

2. Expats for Children – the most heartwarming event of the year me was a charity football tournament organised by a fellow expat in Poznań. The worthy cause was a local community outreach centre for children from difficult backgrounds and the money raised enabled them to take the kids on a summer holiday at the seaside. A video was doing the rounds on Facebook, showing their reactions when they saw the sea for the first time in their lives, wonderful stuff and a credit to everyone involved. There’s more of the same planned for 2016, watch this space…

Good cause

Good cause

3. Poznań’s hospitality to refugees – future history books will look back at 2015 as the year that Europe was flooded (forgive the metaphor) with refugees, such has been the scale of the crisis. And while I understand that for some people this causes fear, fear that somehow our culture will be diluted by such large numbers of immigrants, for many others it has brought out the better side of their characters. I was really proud of the Poznanians, including the Mayor who came out and publically supported the idea that Poland should accept its quota of refugees. Good on them!

Iconic

Iconic

Hospitable Mayor..

Hospitable Mayor..

Well, that’s all for now and the only thing left for me to do is to wish you a very Happy and Successful New year! Watch out for the fireworks…

All Shiny and New

Greetings all,

Poznan, much as I love it, sometimes looks more like a building site than anything else. Alongside the numerous public works and renovations to the city infrastructure which are going on at the moment, there also seems to be an endless demand for shiny new apartment blocks. And while most of these new developments are reasonably tasteful, if not blended entirely seamlessly into the city’s architectural mix, there is one recently built block where the architects have been particularly sensitive.

Tasteful development

Tasteful development

Teatr Nowy

Teatr Nowy

The ‘Kamienice Za Teatrem’ translates as ‘The Tenement Behind the Theatre’, and has been named as such because it’s been built in the style of surrounding early twentieth century temements, and is tucked behind the Teatr Nowy on Ulica Dąbrowskiego. Now the reason I bring this up is that a friend of mine who bought an apartment in the said development a couple of years ago mentioned that a pretty decent restaurant had opened up there recently. So as it’s just a short walk from my home, I popped down there a few evenings ago with my better half.

Inviting

Inviting

To get to ‘Avocado Restaurant and Wine‘ you have to walk down a passage off the main street Dąbrowskiego, and to be honest, if you hadn’t been told it was there before you’d never realise the place existed. Once you’re inside the courtyard though, you’re immediately impressed by the shiny new apartments and the fancy, inviting restaurant staring right at you.

Avocado

Avocado

Avocado, like most new ventures these days, markets itself as offering seasonal, locally-sourced and home-produced food. The short menu offers creative and healthy looking dishes covering all the veggie, meat and fish bases. The waiter was very helpful in explaining the finer points of the menu and I ended up going for a bavette steak with a bacon gravy and potato croquettes. My better half went for the pike-perch with prawn and crab mousses, couscous and parsnip.

Beef and croquettes

Beef and croquettes

Pike-perch

Pike-perch and cous-cous

And when the dishes came they looked every bit as good as they had sounded when being touted by the waiter. Really, in terms of presentation, and I would include the interior decor in this, Avocado gets full marks. And it all tasted pretty good too, and I could certainly vouch for them producing everything from scratch.

Presentation

Presentation

My only complaint was that the Bavette steak was a bit chewy, and having cooked this particular cut myself on occasion I know that’s an easy mistake to make! Still, you don’t expect it from a professional chef. My partner’s fish and seafood mousses were delicious though, and overall we were more than satisfied with what we got for our cash.

Shiny

Shiny and new

New

Empty

I did notice that Avocado was very empty on the Sunday evening we were there, and I think that in their current location they may struggle to get enough custom to survive. And it would be a real shame if they didn’t make it, as I think they’ve got most things just right. So if you’re in the area, perhaps at the theatre, then give them a try..

Bye for now…

The goose is getting fat: What’s on in December 2015

Greetings all,

In Poland, Christmas starts refreshingly late and the shops and public spaces don’t deck themselves out in tinsel or churn out carols and Christmasy pop songs until well into November. For this, I’m eternally grateful. But as we’re now well into December, I’ll allow myself to get all seasonal with my recommendations on how you can spend the next week or two in Poznań.

Poznań Bethlehem

The most obvious destination is the Stary Rynek (Old Market Square) for the Christmas markets and ‘Bethlehem in Poznan‘ attractions, which kicked off at the weekend. I was there on Sunday, along with literally thousands of others, and it’s a great way to get in the festive spirit, drink some hot mulled wine, buy some goodies for your loved ones, or send a latter to Santa.

Christmas in Poznan

Christmas in Poznan

As usual, the Stary Rynek will also be hosting competitors from around the world at the STIHL Ice Sculpture Festival, starting this Friday at 5pm and running through until Sunday. The weather should just about be cool enough for the sculptures to hold up and there’ll also be concerts, a laser show, a winter village (inside the City Hall’s courtyard) as well as the aforementioned markets to keep you entertained.

Poznan Ice Festival 2015

Previous winner

Previous winner

There are also good alternatives to the Old Market this year, however, and I’m proud to announce that my local market square in Jeżyce will also be holding a Christmas Market this weekend where you’ll be able to stock up on locally produced food and booze as well as handcrafted toys, cards and gifts. It’s the first time they’ve held such an event there and not only do I think it will be better value than the Old Market, but I also reckon it will have a cosier, more seasonal vibe.

Jeżyce Market

Jeżyce Market

Arts and Crafts

Arts and Crafts

Though perhaps not as aesthetically pleasing as the Jeżyce or Old Market Squares, the World Trade Centre will be the place to go this weekend for the best choice in original Christmas gifts. The ‘Festiwal Sztuki i Przedmiotów Artystycznych‘ (Arts and Crafts Festival), which is held annually, showcases the best in handcrafted items, artwork, artisan food and drink, antiques and toys. In previous experience, it really is the place to get that special gift for your Mum, in-laws or whatever, and there’s plenty of grub, booze and games to keep the whole family entertained.

Shopping heaven

Shopping heaven

Grub

Grub

Similarly, the Breakfast Markets (Targ Śniadaniowy)  people, who organise wonderful outdoor foody fests throughout the warmer months, will be holding an indoor Christmas market at the Nowa Gazownia (New Gasworks) concert and exhibition centre on the following weekend, 18th-20th December. From the gastronomical perspective, this may well be the pick of the bunch.

Games

Games

Christmas Breakfast Market

So, if you want to get into the festive spirit and get your Christmas shopping done already, there’s no shortage of places in Poznań to do so. Then again, if you’d prefer to give it some Bah Humbug! and skip the Christmas shopping altogether, there’s a whole world of alternatives out there..

Enjoy!

Back to School

Greetings all,

One of my clearest recollections of English literature classes at school was of my teacher wandering around quoting fragments of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and chuckling to himself over Elizabeth’s relationship quandaries. Meanwhile, myself and 30 other pubescent boys, whose idea of a relationship didn’t stretch much further than a snog and a fumble on the back of the bus, stared out of the window wondering when we’d ever get to the twentieth century and some juicier material – George Orwell and the like.

Teenage boys' favourite..

Teenage boys’ favourite..

On the other hand, one thing I remember enjoying was the annual school trip out to the theatre to watch a show based on something we were reading in class. Shakespeare’s plays, for example, which are godawful to read as texts, come to life on the stage and make you realise what a genius the man was. And I’ve always imagined that the Poles have a very similar relationship with Adam Mickiewicz – who is universally considered the nation’s greatest writer.

Adam Mickiewicz Square, Poznan

Adam Mickiewicz Square, Poznan

Mickiewicz was writing over 200 years later than Shakespeare, and Poles tell me he’s relatively readable. Even so, I can’t envisage myself sitting down to work my way through volumes of his Romantic poetry. I’ve also avoided going to watch any theatrical performances of his work, fearing my Polish wouldn’t be up to the richness of his language. That was until, as I mentioned a few weeks back, Teatr Nowy started offering a selection of plays with English subtitles.

Radosław Rychcik

Radosław Rychcik

Dziady

Dziady

One of November’s offerings was Radosław Rychcik’s interpretation of ‘Dziady’ or ‘Forefather’s Eve’, a work of dramatic poetry regarded as Mickiewicz’s finest. Apparently, this particular version had made quite a splash on the Polish theatrical scene due to its surprising use of elements of American pop culture to portray an early nineteenth century poem, and this added to my excitement about finally encountering the Polish Bard.

Pop culture

Pop culture

And I wasn’t the only one who was excited. Just about every other person in the audience, save my better half and a couple of schoolteachers, was a suited and booted A-level student buzzing about being out on the town with his or her classmates. This did make me feel a bit uncomfortable, like we’d gatecrashed a sixth form disco, but I wasn’t going to let that put me off the show. And it did confirm my suspicion that the Poles only read or watch Mickiewicz when forced to at school!

Country Squire

Country Squire

Gustav

Gustav

Dziady tells the stories of a number of ghostly characters who are stuck in a purgatory-like netherworld, due to sins committed or unfulfilled desires in their earthly lives. One of such characters, the messianic Gustav, is representative of both Mickiewicz and the Polish nation, whose suffering and sacrifice (this was written at a time when Poland was partitioned between three neighbouring empires), is all for Europe’s salvation. And the underlying message, as befits the ultimate Romantic poet, is that love will conquer all.

Marilyn

Marilyn

Gruesome

Gruesome

And Rychcik’s version of all this is spellbinding – the pop culture elements adding a dark, twisted feel to the early parts of the play. One scene in particular, where a hotel bellboy is hanged on a noose by characters straight out of Grease, was utterly gruesome. Rychcik also presents black Americans’ struggle for civil rights as analogous to Poland’s past struggles, and for me this device works very well.

Aunt Jemima

Aunt Jemima

Klu Klux Klan

Klu Klux Klan

As with the other performances I’ve been to at Nowy Teatr, I was really impressed with the quality of the theatre – the acting, the costumes, the lighting and most of all in this case, the stage settings. Some sets had so much depth that your eyes were spoilt for choice, making it difficult to know where to look. In fact, if I were to criticise anything, it was that at times there was too much going on.

Depth

Depth

Dark

Action

This was certainly a problem if you had to continuously look up at the subtitles, the text coming thick and fast, and by the intermission I was mentally exhausted. A short break did the trick, however, and I managed to stay the full three hours and can now boast that I’ve done some Mickiewicz. If that all sounds a little daunting, however, not to worry, December’s subtitled repertoire includes a production of ’12 Angry Men’ (Dwunastu Gniewnych Ludzi), which if it’s anything like Sidney Lumet’s film, should be both compelling and easy enough to follow..

12

Bye for now…

**photographs from teatrnowy.pl**

Don’t mention the G-word!

Greetings all,

I’ve written a few times on here about the transformation of some of Poznań’s formerly rougher districts – like my home neighbourhood of Jeżyce – which have gone from places people deliberately tried to avoid to thriving centres of culture and gastronomy.

Jezyce-Bronx1

Due to the peculiarities of Polish post-war history, these inner city suburbs, which were once the reserve of the wealthiest Poznanians during both the period of Prussian rule and the Polish Second Republic, were used to house the poorest families during the communist era. The result was an unusual combination of grand nineteenth or early twentieth century architecture and gritty working class communities.

Grand architecture

Grand architecture

By the late 1990s, however, with all the social and economic strains of the transition to a free market economy, areas such as Jeżyce, Wilda, Śródka and Łazarz had acquired, perhaps unfairly, a reputation as being dangerous for outsiders. Indeed, when I first moved to Poznań in 1999, my address in Jeżyce was the cause of much astonishment to my students. They’d obviously never been to Wythenshawe!

Wythenshawe

Sunny Wythenshawe

Fast forward 16 years, past the housing boom of the noughties, the mass emigration to the UK and Ireland, the economic crisis and the return of many emigrants, these areas, Jeżyce and Śródka in particular, have been through the dreaded g-word. Yes, a Polish version of gentrification, regentrification if you like, has seen many young, well-educated types move in and set up homes and businesses.

Hipster Poznań

Hipster Poznań

Gentrification is a dirty word of course, particularly in London, where once proud working class communities have been priced out by beard-stroking, Amsterdam bike-riding, hipster clones, draining them of their vitality. And it would be a shame to see Poznań go down that path.

Gentrification

Gentrification

But while property prices are still competitive, certainly compared with anywhere in Western Europe, and the worst excesses of hipsterism are avoided, I see this process as nothing but positive. The choice of interesting places to shop and eat is increasing exponentially, many of the grand old tenements are getting some much needed renovation, and I haven’t seen any evidence that local families are being turfed out on the streets by profiteering landlords.

Architectural Features

Architectural Features

Take Łazarz, for example. Located just to the South West of the city centre and close by the train station, it was until quite recently possibly the least salubrious area of the city. But I’d heard rumours that a couple of cool places had opened up there in recent months, and last weekend I went for a wander around.

Places to review...

Places to review…

And what a revelation it was – most of all the architecture. Every corner you turn there’s a pretty square, an elegant row of tenements or some weird and wonderful art-deco detail. I’d even go as far as to say it trumps Jeżyce in this respect. And then there’s the proliferation of cafes and restaurants. As I made my way to the places I intended visiting, I passed by numerous other venues which looked well worth a review.

Project Wilson Interior

Project Wilson Interior

My first port of call was Projekt Wilson, a small cafe-restaurant right opposite Woodrow Wilson Park on Ulica Matejki. They do a short menu of home-cooked breakfasts and lunches, along with the usual array of cakes, pastries and sandwiches to go with your tea, coffee or alcoholic tipple.

Coffee and carrot cake..

Coffee and carrot cake..

And as with so many of these new places in Poznań, Projekt Wilson looks fantastic – smart and modern yet still warm and inviting. I sampled some coffee and carrot cake, and on the basis of that I’ll definitely be back for something more substantial from their menu. They also sell their own line of preserves, oils and sauces, encouraging the belief that they know their onions when it comes to grub.

Kuchnia Hygge

Kuchnia Hygge

The second place I stopped at, Kuchnia Hygge, is also a small scale cafe-cum-restaurant that does a limited day time menu and lots more cakes, breads and the like. And like Projekt Wilson, they have their own range of preserves and sauces on display. The main difference is in the decor, which in this case is much more Scandinavian. Lots of hard, natural surfaces and stylishly functional fixtures and fittings give Kuchnia Hygge the feel of an upmarket Ikea showroom.

Ikea showroom

Ikea showroom

Again, I only sampled a coffee and some cake – this time a brownie – but have every confidence that the rest of their menu is also top-drawer. So I’ll also be going back to Łazarz very soon – to Kuchnia Hygge, to Projekt Wilson and to all the other places I saw along the way..

The Great Indoors: What’s On in November

Greetings all,

It’s normally the routine on these pages for me to tell you about cultural events in Poznań after the fact – so I go to the concert, exhibition, play or whatever – and tell you about it when I get back. And sometimes, for example when an exhibition is running for a couple of months, this gives you the chance to check it out for yourself. On other occasions, however, it may be a bit annoying for me to rave on about a concert or play I’ve been to which has subsequently disappeared from the repertoire.

To remedy this I’ve decided to write a monthly ‘what’s on’ post, with tips on where to go and what to see in this fair city. And as we’re in the middle of November, with the nights drawing in and a definite chill in the air, today’s recommendations will all be in the great indoors, keeping you warm, dry and hopefully entertained.

off cinema

Now those of you into cinema could go to one of the many multiplexes in Poznan and catch the latest Bond film or whatever, and the Multikino at Stary Browar is my personal favourite, simply because of its central location. But if you prefer not to sit through 30 minutes of commercials before a film, and are also looking for slightly more cerebral content, then the Cinema Off International Festival of Documentary Film should be right up your street.

Zamek

CK Zamek

The festival, which runs from tomorrow through til Sunday, is in the form of a competition, with documentaries from around the world vying for the gold, silver and bronze castle awards. The castle is a reference to the location of the screenings – the wonderful Imperial Castle Cultural Centre, or CK Zamek. Along with the documentaries, there’ll also be special screenings, meetings with artists, an exhibition of film, concerts, film workshops, academic lectures and discussions.

miniaturki_kadr

And while you’re at the CK Zamek, you may also wish to check out one of the most prestigious art exhibitions to be staged in Poland in recent years. The exhibition “Painters of Normandy: Delacroix, Courbet, Renoir, Monet and others”, is a collection of representations of this region of France – coast, countryside and town. The collection’s permanent residence is the Abbaye aux Dames in Caen and will be on display in Poznań until 14th February 2016.

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For painting which is more contemporary with origins closer to home, you might want to take a look at my pal Wojciech Więckowski’s exhibition and concert on Friday at the Hotel Kolegiacki. As I discussed in a post from earlier in the year, Wojciech is a talented local lad who combines experimental guitar music with abstract visual art to great effect, and if Friday’s event is anything like the one I attended earlier in the year, it should be well worth a look.

Wojciech Więckowski

Wojciech Więckowski

Sticking with the musical theme, Roisin Murphy’s concert this evening at the World Trade Centre is, of course, the event of the month. But if you’ve missed out on that and like your sounds clubby, then you could get down to one of the gigs organised by SQ to celebrate its 10th birthday. Perhaps the pick of them is Warsaw electronic outfit XXANAXX, playing this Friday.

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Then again, if all this culture is a bit much for you, and you just want to get out for a good feed, then November could be the perfect time. The fairy tale themed 10th edition of the Poznań Culinary Fest runs all through next week, and gives you a chance to sample special set menus at some of Poznań’s finest restaurants for a set price of 15 złoty for a starter and main course. Just make sure you’ve got plenty of grub in the fridge to go back to, as in my experience these festivals, while a great way of showcasing the restaurants involved, serve the measliest of portions.

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And last but not least, for the simpler pleasures of a pint and good company, get yourselves down to the opening night of the new Tanner’s this Wednesday – it should be a cracker!

Bye for now…

A Tale of the Unexpected

Greetings all,

The location of my day job at the local university changed a couple of years ago, with my office and classrooms moving from Collegium Novum, in the middle of Poznań’s student quarter, to Collegium Chemicum, out near the World Trade Centre. And this means that I’m in the happy position of being able to walk to work, so no messing about with public transport or cycling in the winter snow and rain for me.

Collegium Novum

Collegium Novum

But I really miss my old classrooms and office, not because they were particularly nice, but because they were located within spitting distance of countless restaurants and cafes, so the only problem with finding a place to have lunch was that there was so much to choose from.

Collegium Chemicum

Collegium Chemicum

At Chemicum the opposite is the case. The closest options are the Greenway on Zeylanda, part of a chain of cheap vegetarian cafes dishing up huge portions of the blandest fayre you’re ever likely to taste, Bar Metka, which once had the Magda Gessler treatment but still looks thoroughly uninviting and the Cammero Steak House, which does awful steaks and passable burgers. Cantinette, a bit further up Zeylanda, has good value lunch specials and reasonable pizza, and is probably the pick of an uninspiring bunch.

Cantinette

Cantinette

Yet this round-up has one important omission, which until a few days ago I had no idea existed, Gajowa 12 on…..you guessed it….Gajowa 12! Now the reason I’d missed this place is that Gajowa, or Gay Street in English, is one of those unhappy (despite the name) streets that misses out on any through traffic. It’s a shame really as one side of this quiet street boasts a picturesque view of the old zoological gardens.

Gajowa 12

Gajowa 12

Pleasant view

Pleasant view

And halfway up Gajowa, as I spied out of the corner of my eye one day whilst taking a slightly different route to work, is a hotel with an attached restaurant. You can’t really see much of either from the outside, but there was a board on the pavement offering a cheap lunchtime special so I thought I’d go in and investigate.

Ambient

Ambient

Art-deco

Art-deco

And having found the restaurant area I thought, Wow! What a nice-looking place. With the large windows facing the zoological gardens allowing loads of ambient light to stream through and the art-deco interior features adding a kitschy elegance, all the place needed was a few people to give it some atmosphere. Yes, I was the only punter in there apart from some bloke making a booking for a wedding party.

Original features

Original features

Expectation

Lonely expectation

Plants for company

Plants for company

Undeterred, I ordered the lunchtime special of potato soup with bacon chips and pork fillet in creamy mushroom sauce. The soup came almost immediately, was piping hot and tasted great. I waited a little longer for the pork but it was worth it as the meat was succulent, the sauce delicious and the accompanying vegetables nicely al dente. All in all it was a damn fine lunch for the measly price of 21 złoty.

Potato soup with bacon

Potato soup with bacon

Pork fillet with mushroom sauce

Pork fillet with mushroom sauce

So I’ll definitely be going back to Gajowa 12 to try out more of the menu, and if it’s as good as their lunch was, they’ve got a regular punter for a good few years to come..

Bye for now…

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Greetings all,

There are certain people and things in our lives which we can too easily take for granted –  a partner, a good friend, a member of the family, a job, a home, or even a pub. Yes, a proper pub for those of us from the rainy isles, is indeed like a good friend or member of the family. We come to rely on it always being there to give us warmth, company, conversation, entertainment and, of course, booze. And because of familiarity and the natural human urge to find fault, we end up criticising and disparaging it, imagining there is always somewhere better down the road to have a pint.

Tanners by night

Tanners by night

Welcoming

Welcoming

Opening night

Opening night

And Tanners Irish Pub performs such a role for us in Poznań. It’s our ‘go-to’ pub when there’s a decent football or rugby match on, when we’ve got friends or relatives over visiting, when we’re on a stag night, or just when we’re on our own and have a bit of time to kill. And to be honest, there have been times when, just for the sake of variation, I’ve wished we could go somewhere else on such occasions.

Łukasz

Łukasz

Watching the match

Watching the match

But a couple of weeks ago, when I heard that Łukasz, the man behind Tanners, had been unable to secure a new lease on the pub’s premises, I was genuinely shocked. Where were we going to watch the Rugby World Cup now? Where would we go to cool down after 5-a-side football? All of a sudden there was a big hole in my Poznań social life which no other pub could come close to filling.

Irish fans

Irish fans

Fiddly dee

Fiddly-dee

And it got me thinking about all the wonderful time we’ve had in Tanners – the madness of Euro 2012, countless St Patrick’s weekends, World Cups, fiddly-dee concerts, quizzes, comedy nights, Matt Kelly’s covers  – the list goes on and on. I know it’s a cliche but Tanners really is the only place in the city where the bar staff know you by name, and where the owner will always come over, shake your hand and ask how life’s treating you. In short, where you’re made to feel like a human being rather than just another punter.

Comedy night

Comedy night

Audience participation

Audience participation

Matthew Kelly

Matt Kelly

So imagine my relief when I heard that Łukasz had found an alternative venue for the pub – Ulica Wroniecka 21/1 – and that he was planning a grand reopening on the 14th November (this may be subject to a week’s delay). So the big hole will be filled again and my life will be complete!

Bye for now..

Hungry for more…

Greetings all,

For someone who’s keen on dining out and always on the look out for new restaurants, ‘Restaurant Week Polska‘ is right up my street. Set up last year by a group of passionate foodies to promote the continued development of the Polish culinary scene, they hold a number of Restaurant Weeks each year, whereby some of the best and most original restaurants in Poland’s major cities offer special, discounted three-course menus at a set price. The hope is that people will be inspired to try something different – a new part of town, a new cuisine – and go back for more.

images

And at the moment we’re in the middle of the autumn Restaurant Week, with Poznań, as you’d expect, participating fully. If you want to take part you should direct yourself to the website where you can choose your city, style of cuisine, restaurant, 3-course menu (there’s usually a traditional and a vegetarian option), date and time – all at the click of a mouse/touch of a screen – then pay your 39 złoty per head via dotpay and download your ticket.

IMG_5808

I went through this process a few days ago, finding it smooth and intuitive, and opted for Why Thai Food and Wine, a highly rated and relatively recent addition to the Poznań culinary scene. The traditional menu comprised grilled calamari to start, a chicken pad Thai main and a rice and mango pudding for dessert, while the vegetarian menu offered spring rolls, green curry and a pear tart. So my better half and I ordered one of each with the intention of mixing and matching.

Why Thai

Why Thai

Our chosen slot was yesterday evening at 9.15, and we were very impressed that the waiter who showed us to our table had worked out who I was from the booking information, with no need to fiddle about on my phone to show him the reservation confirmation. We were also impressed with the decor in Why Thai, which was clean and modern yet warm and welcoming.

Modern..

Modern..

Welcoming..

Welcoming..

The only ordering decision we had to make was the drinks, and as it was the chilliest evening of the year so far, we ordered fruity Thai teas to stop our noses running after the cycle into town. They soon came and were just what the doctor ordered – like a spicier, fruitier and altogether tastier version of a Lemsip.

Thai fruit tea

Thai fruit tea

For my starter, I went for the calamari, which was as fresh-tasting as you’re likely to get so far inland, and was accompanied by a zingy mango salsa. The spring rolls also had a very fresh quality about them, as well as a distinctly spicy kick. Not as much kick as my green curry mind, which along with the sweet creaminess of the coconut milk and the salty tanginess of the fish sauce, had a wicked chilli afterburn, more than enough to get my nose running again!

Calamari

Calamari

Spring rolls

Spring rolls

I also tried the pad Thai and found the chicken to be succulent and the sauce sweet and sticky, just how it should be. So far so good, we thought, until we were told that the rice and mango dessert was unavailable and we’d have to settle for two pear tarts. Now this wasn’t a big deal, but to be honest they should’ve had this covered as we’d paid for the set menu a few days beforehand. But never mind, the tart was tasty enough, what there was of it anyway..

Green curry

Green curry

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Yes, my only real criticism of the Why Thai Restaurant Week experience was that the portions were too darned small. The calamari disappeared in a couple of gulps, the green curry sauce was gone before I’d got halfway through the jasmine rice, and the tart wouldn’t have sated the sugar cravings of a sparrow. I’m not the biggest bloke in the world but I do have a healthy appetite, particularly when the temperatures drop, and after three courses I still felt hungry.

Pear tart

Pear tart

I guess the organisers of Restaurant Week would argue that for a price of 39 złoty for 3 courses, you can’t really complain. For me though, it feels like they’re giving you a discount with one hand and then taking it back with the other by serving such small portions. I’d rather pay another 20/30 zloty or so and feel fed and watered at the end of the meal.

As far as Why Thai’s concerned, I’ll definitely be going back there to try the fully grown menu as what we did sample was great, and lack of rice pudding aside, the service was also excellent. As for Restaurant Week, it’s a great idea and worth a go if you want to get an idea of whether a restaurant is worth dining at, just make sure you’ve got a full fridge to go home to..

Bye for now…

Whisky Heaven

Greetings all,

There’s always been something very specific about the hotel bar – occupying a kind of netherworld between the very public zone of a pub and the very private zone of a hotel. We usually only visit them on raucous weekends away – wedding receptions, stag weekends and the like – or on lonely work-related trips.

And as we’re either too drunk to notice or the tab is being picked up by someone else, we usually pay very little attention to the quality of the place we’re drinking in, particularly when it come to prices. Well aware of this, your typical hotel bar doesn’t actually have to try very hard to win over its punters and in a large town like Poznań, where there’s a bar on virtually every corner, there’s very little need to visit one.

Whisky Bar 88

Inviting

Then again, there are always exceptions and WhiskyBar88, part of the City Park Hotel and Residence complex, since its inception around the time of Euro 2012, has always marketed itself as such. And as the name would suggest, WhiskyBar88’s point of difference is their vast stock of and expert knowledge about whisky.

Bar

Glamour

Far from being a connoisseur, I am nevertheless rather partial to a drop of the old fire water, and I certainly prefer it to the clear or fruity spirits native to these parts. While the local vodkas and syrupy tinctures leave me with a sore head and plenty of regrets, a good whisky induces an altogether mellower experience and has a far superior taste.

Selection

Ardbeg

So when a pal of mine who teaches English to the staff at City Park invited me to Whisky Bar 88 for a free tasting session, on the proviso we gave the barman some tips on his language, I was more than happy to go along. To be honest though, while I was expecting the drink to be top notch, I thought the atmosphere in the bar might be a bit like Morrissey’s stag night. You know, lonely business types staring angrily into half empty glasses and eyeing up the barmaid, that kind of thing.

Table set

But what we found, at eight o’clock on a Friday evening, was a lively and welcoming bar with plenty of customers and chit-chat, and a beautifully laid table with whisky tasting sets for myself and my three companions. The sets comprised three 20 ml measures of fine single malts from the Ardbeg distillery in Scotland’s Isle of Islay with fresh water and pipettes for precise dilution.

Tasters

As our barman and host, Mikołaj, explained the distilling processes involved, we could taste that the whiskeys were all very distinct, ranging from the light and citrusy through the peaty and smoky to the downright harsh. And with the addition of a drop or two of water, the depth of flavour in all of them was simply stunning.

Whisky expert

As we were helping Mikolaj to improve his already excellent English, we were lucky enough to get the whisky sets on a freebie, but I really wouldn’t have minded paying the 50 złoty or so for the set, such was the pleasure of drinking it. Whisky Bar 88 isn’t cheap, but I have no problem paying for quality and  I reckon their steaks and burgers should also be pretty good. It’s a much better place to go for a drink than your typical hotel bar and a worthy alternative to Poznań’s Old Town..

Peaty

Bye for now…