We go together.
I discovered Marchewka z Groszkiem (Carrots & Peas) with thanks to Lonely Planet, whose Budget Guide to Europe currently takes up a full 10% of my luggage allowance. For this meal alone, I’d say the extra weight was worth it – they certainly did their research.
Situated almost 3km from my hostel (north west of Old Town), it’s quite a hefty walk, but conveniently placed near Wawel Castle – so I planned my visit with this in mind. The walk allowed me to work up an appetite, which I was later grateful for; the menu at Marchewka z Groszkiem is so full of traditional Polish dishes I had difficulty choosing just one to pick. Two courses on a 30C day can be a struggle, but with food this tempting, I’ll always find room.
I started with zurek, a fermented soup with egg and sausage. Salty and slightly sour, it’s everything you expect from a Polish dish – hearty, nutritious and packed with flavour. Easily the best soup I’ve tasted this year, zurek was exactly the antidote I needed for the chest infection I’ve been failing to stave off, and I’ll definitely be hunting down the recipe to make en masse for any poorly friends back home.
Potato pancakes with pork stew made up my main course, accompanied with carrots and peas (well, you can’t go to a restaurant called that and not try them, right?). To my surprise, they arrived in a separate bowl stewing in a liquid that looked suspiciously like the water present in canned vegetables. Still, the baby carrots were succulent, but the peas less so, and the ‘soup’ (for lack of a better word) probably should have been drained off – it didn’t add anything to the dish. Disappointing, considering the restaurant’s name references them so strongly. However, this is the last of my complaints. I bite into the potato pancakes to find they are wonderfully fluffy – falling somewhere between really great quality hash browns in texture and deep fried Irish potato cakes in flavour. They’re immensely tasty, and are complimented perfectly by the pork stew gravy, which is slightly sweet with a somewhat fruity tanginess. The pork is soft and chewy and the mushrooms crunchy and bursting with stock. I wash my meal down with a glass of pink lemonade that has just the right level of grapefruit sourness.
As for the setting, the back room where I’m sat is dimly lit, but while there’s adequate daylight from the front door and back window when I visit at 5pm, I can’t help but worry it may be a little too dark later on in the evening. There are doilies placed on every table, adding to the traditionally Polish atmosphere. Music is lively but not at all loud, waiting staff friendly and helpful, and the toilets are clean – even if there is only one of them. Best of all, though, is the price – the entire two course meal only set me back about £8 (including tip).
Would I recommend Marchewka z Groszkiem? Absolutely. Just think twice before ordering the carrots and peas.