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On my recent trip to Krakow it rained heavily on the evening we arrived there. We were very hungry and wanted to get out of the rain as soon as possible. On Florianska we looked into the windows of one restaurant that appeared very cosy and inviting.
Looking up at the sign (and promptly getting a torrent of raindrops down the collar of my jacket) I recognized a familiar friend. The Georgian snackfood "chaczapuri" (or as I know it 'khachapuri') was a life saver when we were travelling around the Black Sea in 2006 because you can always grab one while waiting at bus stations for buses that never appear, and we soon became connoisseurs of this delicious cheese pastry that varies immensely from place to place. As soon as we realised that this was a Georgian restaurant we hurried in and bagged ourselves a table for two.
The first thing to say is that the restaurant was incredibly dimly lit, something that perhaps loaned more of an impression of cosiness than was strictly the case. Furthermore, our corner table that initially seemed intimate and snug, plunged us into virtual obscurity - perhaps this was why the waitress took so long to come back to us - she just couldn't see us!
The restaurant interior is quite simple; wooden floors, wooden tables, wooden chairs. The smaller tables have chairs, the larger ones have settles. A cushioned seat would have added a daring dash of comfort - perhaps they don't want to encourage you to linger?
The waitress brought us two menus. It was at this point I learned that this was a chain - well, a series of franchises actually. I was disappointed but decided to reserve judgement.
The selection of dishes looked quite extensive at first, but having to read out the menu to himself (he has a visual impairment and could hardly see the menu in the darkness), I realised that it could easily have been reduced and simplified. It wasn't necessary to list every permutation of the core ingredients of each dish. Every dish was available with chicken or pork, and every time it was listed. Wouldn't it have been easier to say - choose from chicken or pork and list only once? Likewise, instead of saying one could have the dish with cheese, if preferred, all the dishes were listed again with the addition of cheese. In fact they need hardly have bothered at all because the truth was that once the food came it was all practically the same anyway.
I opted for the "grilled pork meat with Georgian seasoning, served with rice or fried potatoes and salad" and himself chose the "grilled pork loin picled with wine and Georgian seasoning, served with rice or fried potatoes and salad" (sic). We both asked for fried potatoes which turned out to be pretty good French fries although we had expected little sauteed chunks of potato and not French fries.
The menu featured plenty of vegetarian choices though most of these were various combinations of khachapuri or a vegetable stew. There were also a couple of salads though these were hardly inspiring. The other main course dishes were combination of pork, chicken and khachapuri with things like eggplant or stewed vegetables.
One thing lacking from the menu was a description of what exactly "Georgian spices" are, but almost every dishes was described as containing them. As we have been to Georgia we had an idea of what to expect but most people probably haven't been there and a brief explanation seemed pretty necessary. After we had ordered a basket containing two tiny bread buns was brought to the table along with two dips, one was quite spicy and had a nice kick, the other was essentially concentrated garlic - but it was good!
Our mains courses arrived quickly - as they should given that all dishes are a combination of a limited list of ingredients and the portions were hefty. Both had a big pile of meat in the centre of the plate, a mountain of fries and three different kinds of pickle salads. The latter was the best part of the meal; one was a beetroot pickle, which was slightly sweet but nicely spiced, the next was a grated carrot pickle and the last was a traditional sauerkraut. Personally I would rather have had a bit less meat and a bit more salad but, then, I do love pickles. We tried each others dishes and agreed that the meat tasted virtually the same; there was no difference between the pork marinated in wine and the one just cooked in the "Georgian spices". The meat was a little tough and it didn't take long to become weary of chewing it. It became a bit of an ordeal. The meat tasted "Ok" nothing more. It was mildly spiced and could have done with a bit more oomph.
The abundance of meat on the plate puzzled me; it's just not the Georgian way. Georgians do have lots of vegetarian dishes and the meat dishes I ate there contained only a modest amount of meat. It seemed to me that this was a liberal interpretation of Georgian cuisine to fit in with Polish tastes. There were several well known Georgian dishes (such as the giant ravioli-like 'khinkhali') that you see on every menu in Georgia that didn't even get a look in on this menu, maybe this is because they are quite similar to Polish pierogi?
Unable to eat anymore we didn't order desserts and waited instead for our plates to be taken and an opportunity to ask for the bill. We waited and waited. In fact the only thing we didn't wait long for all night was the food. We waited an inordinately long time for our drinks to arrive. We waited a long time for a waitress to come and take our order and we waited ages for the bill to come. What made this particularly notable was that there were plenty of staff on duty and the place wasn't especially busy.
When we were attended to the service was friendly enough and all the staff we encountered spoke reasonable English. There was only one moment of confusion when himself held up his glass to indicate he wanted another beer and the waitress came over and told him he couldn't have one. The problem seemed to be that the first beer had been served in a glass bearing the logo of another beer that is no longer served there. The waitress thought he wanted that brand which is why she told him there was none. "There's no beer?" himself asked her, perplexed. "Yes, there is beer but not that one" she said pointing to the logo on the glass. "I wasn't drinking that one, I was drinking Okocim" countered himself. "Oh, we have that one, would you like one of those?" came the reply....it was like pulling teeth!
Over the following days I spotted more branches of "Gruzinskie Chaczapuri" which made me feel quite depressed. Georgian cooking is great and here it has been reduced to little more than fast food that tastes the same whatever you order. Clearly Georgian cuisine has taken off in Poland, it's a shame they aren't experiencing something more authentic.
The price for our disappointing meal came to 57 PLN (£12.70) and you might say that we should hardly complain. However, you can eat well quite cheaply in Poland so I think my complaints are valid.
Gruzinskie Chaczapuri ul. Florianska 26, Krakow
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I would not recommend that place to anyone. I was eating a pork fillet with cabbage and mash, and got a mouthful of broken glass.
I called the manager, who said it must have been caused but something breaking in the dishwasher.... how did it then get into the cabbage ?
greenierexyboy 17.12.2008 18:24
I think Stalin might have taken slightly more extreme action than merely turning in his grave...