What To Order... In A Polish Restaurant

By Hazel Last edited 159 months ago
What To Order... In A Polish Restaurant
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The Polish presence is London is noticeable, and a good thing too: Polish restaurants and Polish food is widely available across London in the form of delicatessens, cafes, bars and restaurants. Polish food makes use of lots of sour cream, dill, rye, cabbage of all colours, herrings and pickling. The best word to describe Polish food is hearty – soups are rich and filling, stews are deep and savoury, desserts are substantial and toothsome… it’s food for the big eaters, and could make vegetarians and non-vegetarians with big appetites very happy.

As well as Polish delicatessens and restaurants being a welcome addition to the London food scene, Polish vodka bars have been embraced happily by the London booze scene. If you like vodka and you want to be spoilt for choice, look for a Polish place and enjoy an evening of sampling up to hundreds of different flavoured shots (if your wallet and liver will let you).

Restaurants and bars of a Polish persuasion vary across London, ranging from functional to fussy to twee to chic, so pick and choose according to your occasion. It's best to plan a Polish meal with the intention to eat substantially and drink deeply - not recommended for an intimate date with a teetotal picky eater, but definitely recommended for long meals with friends and family, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Polish food is sometimes described as winter food, with its emphasis on stews and dumplings but Londoners are famously un-seasonal eaters and Londonist has no hesitation in saying "go for it!" to those who want to give this cuisine a try, at any time of the year.

For a guide to ordering in a Polish restaurant, read on...

Starters / soup

Sledzie – pickled herrings

Sledzie w oliwie – pickled herrings in oil and seasoning

Sledzie marynowane w smietanie – pickled herrings in sour cream

Barszcz – borscht, a red cabbage soup

Zurek – white cabbage soup

Uszka – beef or vegetable filled dumplings, usually served with barszcz or zurek

Zupa grzybowa – mushroom soup

Rosol – chicken soup, usually served with noodles

Main courses

Golonka – pork knuckles

Kotlet serowy – semi-hard cheese breaded and fried, served as a cutlet for a main course

Zrazy zawijane – sliced beef wrapped around gherkins

Kotlet schabowy – pork cutlets

Pierogi – dumplings with either sweet or savoury, vegetarian or non-vegetarian fillings

Bigos – hunter’s stew, made with venison, beef or pork

Kielbasa – Polish sausage

Golabki – stuffed cabbage leaves with either rice and meat or rice and vegetables

Naleszniki – crepes (also available with sweet fillings)

Naleszniki z serem– crepes with cheese

Kaczka z jablkami - caraway and paprika infused duck served on the bone

Placki ziemniaczane – potato pancakes

Placek po wegiersku - potato pancake with goulash


Surowka - commonly assortments of cooked or raw vegetables in mayonnaise; the main vegetables you will see in a Polish restaurant are beets and red cabbage

Side dishes

Ziemniaki - potatoes

Sauerkraut – pickled cabbage

Kasza – roasted buckwheat


Szarlotka – Polish apple cake

Sernik - cheesecake

Makowiec – poppy seed cake


Zlota Woda - vodka flecked with gold leaf, infused with aniseed and herbs

Czarna Porzeczka - sweet blackcurrant vodka

Mysliwska - vodka flavoured with juniper berries

Neibieskie Migdaly - blue almond vodka

Jarzebiak - rowanberry flavoured vodka

For the most authentic Polish restaurants in London, it’s necessary to head west. The area around Hammersmith up towards Ravenscourt Park is stuffed full of Polish delicatessens, cafes and restaurants, all varying in décor and atmosphere but uniform in the high quality and authenticity of the food. This is where the Polish Cultural Centre is based and is a good place to go. Try the Lowiczanka Restaurant above the Cultural Centre itself, or Wodka in Kensington or Patio in Shepherds Bush.

Towards the north of London, there is Zamoyski and in the south there is Baltic. But for the drinkers there is the highly recommended Na Zdrowie in handy Holborn and Potemkin for those hanging around in Clerkenwell in the east.

As the Poles would say: "Na Zdrowie!" - cheers! And "Jedzcie, pijcie i popuszczajcie pasa…" Eat, drink and loosen your belt…

Last Updated 17 August 2005