Piotr Pietras

Learn the rules, then break them: so goes the thinking of Polish sommelier Piotr Pietras, a zealous wine drinker whose resume includes the title of World’s Best Young Sommelier (2017), being a judge for the Decanter World Wine Awards, and lecturing at the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers (of which Pietras is a member). After managing the UK’s largest wine list at HIDE, he’s back in his native Warsaw where he now runs Terroiryści, an importer of vanguard wine labels, and Kontakt, his new neighborhood bistro and wine bar.

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Vibrant, Young and Evolving

The Warsaw food scene is still evolving. It blends places run by young, hungry, and passionate people with those run by the well-recognised who have already established themselves in the capital. I think there will be a tendency for more interesting places to develop for people with different expectations and various eating and drinking habits, but I think we are not right there yet. Nonetheless, vibrant, young, and evolving: that’s Warsaw today.

Genuine Polish Hospitality at its Best

I would call the people who run Stary Dom hospitality masters. The owner is always there. This place offers hearty, generous Polish dishes, but there is so much enthusiasm and passion which make you feel at home. It doesn’t matter if I take people from three-Michelin-starred fine dining restaurants or laid-back bistros, they all love this place. The restaurant’s specialty is a beef tartare that is prepared tableside by one of the chefs and the duck breast with zasmażana kapusta (pan-fried red cabbage) and other sides. I’m gluten-free, so dough-based dishes are off my menu, but there are plenty of them and my friends mostly order pierogi, cepeliny, or kluski leniwe (dumplings). They sell wine, but that is not their focus. Instead, they will suggest something with a higher percentage like liqueur or vodka as an aperitif or digestif, but it will always be of local, artisanal production. From their single harvest vodkas, I was given a potato vodka. It is not a progressive place, but a classic one that would convince a lot of people. If my friends come for a couple of days, I will take them here on the first day and follow with visits to contrasting places.

For Polish Meat Connoisseurs

One such contrasting place is in the Centrum Praskie Koneser complex, a space that consists of many different spots, including Polish Vodka Museum. Koneser Grill is right next to it, and it was launched by the well-known Polish restaurateur, Daniel Pawełek (Butchery & Wine, Brasserie Warszawska, Rozbrat 20). They focus on a selection of different cuts of fine Polish meat, smoking, and grilling, but they also have quite a few non-meat starters and mains that can appeal to non-meat eaters. The menu is not as classic as it may sound at first, there are some twists to it. Chef Piotr Wójcik brought some of his London work experience. His food is well executed with lots of bright ideas, and changes often so there is no boredom. As far as the wine selection goes, knowledgeable head sommelier Kamil Wojtasiak has written a list that includes classic bottles and wines off the beaten track. You could have a couple of spirits there because that’s what people here usually do after such hearty dinners or lunches.

A Theatrical Journey Through Old Polish Recipes

There is also a fine dining experience on my list: a rather young project, called Epoka at Raffles Europejski Hotel run by Marcin Przybysz. This young, talented chef is full of ideas and revives old recipes from Polish cookbooks. Since he offers a tasting menu, make sure to have plenty of time reserved for your evening. The dishes are executed superbly, the service can be quite theatrical, but you are well looked after. If you want to have a three to four-hour-long lunch or dinner, this would be one of the top places to go in the capital.

For All Mokotów Neighbours: Here’s Your Go-To Indian

My go-to place is an Indian place in Mokotów [a district of Warsaw] that’s only a few steps away from my apartment. Tulsi is run by a Polish lady and her Indian husband and is named after the Asian basil – that’s the Londoner in me talking. Their employees come from different areas in India, so dishes come from everywhere between the north and the south of India. I like to stick to their excellent classics like paneer butter masala, chicken tikka masala and a few southern dishes like masala dosa made of fermented rice and chickpea flour. To describe it in a few words: genuine flavours of India, approachable prices, and super kind and attentive service. I love it. You can feel they basically put their heart on the plate. It is not my first recommendation for people who come here for the first time, but somewhere for locals who live in Warsaw or, specifically, Mokotów.

Natural Wine and Coffee

CoffeeDesk had one shop on Wilcza street and now launched its second location CoffeeDesk Próżna during the pandemic. They are one of the local leaders standing behind coffee, coffee equipment, and coffee gadgets. I know the owners personally – super relaxed, down-to-earth people who like to extend that into their businesses, so it is good vibes only: cosy, unpretentious, modern in style and they will want you to feel at home. The coffee and tea are top quality, although I’m not a big coffee drinker, still I do love my rooibos. In their retail part, they offer a small natural wine selection, which you can either buy or enjoy on the spot.

Where City Celebrities Queue

If I want to buy something to cook or eat at home, I avoid supermarkets. Instead, I prefer to support local vendors. I usually shop at Bazar Olkuska, a small marketplace with several stands offering delicious ingredients like fruits, vegetables, spices, pastry, meat, and fish. There is a small bistro you can eat in too. One super nice gentleman, Darek, sells food for takeaway on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday only, as on the remaining days he does the prep with his wife and daughter. You will find him easily as there is always a queue for his selection of fish and soup dishes. But he also sells smalec (lard) and artisanal bread, and salads, all home-made. He mainly uses Polish sweet water fish and from the Baltic Sea. In the queue, you will find quite a few celebrities, actors and musicians waiting for some fish cutlets or soups to eat at home. The stand was popular during the pandemic, but that has not changed because it is not open every day. In the early morning when the stall is open but things are still quiet, don’t be surprised to find him napping.

The Perfectionist Kingdom of Sweets

Since I mentioned tea, Odette is another spot you will find in central Warsaw. Krzysztof Rabek and his partner Kasia Zieniewicz stand behind one of the top sweet kingdoms, recently extended through the addition of artisanal ice cream also to be found there. They leave nothing to chance, tea brewing included. I remember sitting with the owner and another person in Odette when one of the customers did not care much about turning the hourglass when his tea should have stopped brewing. Krzysiek changed places only to ask the man to stop the brew immediately—that was his perfectionist kind of nature. I often go to their Odette Tea Room, a small spot in the Cosmopolitan building, not far away from Pałac Kultury i Nauki. Odette confectionery has another central location.

Progressive Wine Shops

Since I am a wine importer, I don’t usually buy retail wine, but I recommend two places. Both offer completely different wines and vibes but share a modern, progressive approach. First is Lalou, a recent project from one of the leading sommeliers in the country, an ex-Geranium Head Sommelier, the charismatic Norbert Dudziński. He runs it with his wife Tita in a new open space called Browary Warszawskie. Lalou holds a super-wide selection of organic, biodynamic, and natural wines from Europe, but also California since Norbert is a big fan. Top design, minimalistic approach with a Scandinavian soul: I feel he has been inspired by the places he worked. By contrast, I also adore and respect Piotr Kamecki, an industry veteran and vice president of the International Sommelier Association who runs Wine Taste by Kamecki. It’s another quality-focussed shop that always has qualified, competent people present. There, you’ll find all sorts of wine you can imagine, from natural and biodynamic wines through to absolute classics and super-premium wines. There’s a bit of everything for everyone. It is where Odette Tea Room is, on the ground floor of the Cosmopolitan skyscraper. 

One of the Best Wine Selections in Town

Ale Wino is one of the first places I would tell people to visit if they wanted to eat well, bistro-style. The food is simple but very well executed and full of flavours and influences. You’ll find Asian influences applied to local Polish produce. The staff is helpful and knowledgeable and will guide you through their wine selection, which is one of the best in the town. I want to say it is fully natural, because they love natural, organic, and biodynamic wines, but if someone is looking for classic there, they will find it.

Polish Gin and Tonic

Bars and bartenders were and still are the ones that got hit hardest by the pandemic. Obviously, some places did not close, fortunately for the scene, but my first pick was a zero-waste Cosmo bar that did not reopen or relocate. Not to disappoint you, but I am not a big cocktail guy. If I have a drink, it is usually a gin and tonic. For that, I would go to the bar in Hotel Warszawa. They have a good selection of gins, including Polish ones and the hotel itself is raw in style, truly spectacular and owned by the Likus family who are leading the industry.

The Biggest Wine List in Poland

Rozbrat 20 and Dyletanci are two places in Powiśle [another district within Warsaw] that are good spots for food and wine. Dyletanci is known for having the biggest wine list in Poland. Recently they began redirecting their food menu to use less meat and focus more on vegetables, which I respect.

Late Night Eggs and Bacon

Something different that fills a gap in a good way is ĆMA by Mateusz Gessler, a concept in Warsaw’s Hala Koszyki that is open 24/7. There are not many places you would go to eat late at night so, expect it to be packed every day. There’s commercial success to this brand, especially because of its central location. People head here for the last drink and to say bye to each other before heading home. If any of you find yourself in this situation, then this is a banger. What I would eat there at 3 or 4am would be fried eggs with some bacon, you can also grab one of their Champagnes, but do not expect the best selection. It’s not about being ambitious but finishing your evening full, satisfied, and maybe minimising the effects of a hangover with some fat. Late at night, you do not need fireworks or miracles; you just want to have nice food with nice people around you.

Where You’ll Find Me

Here, I am your delivery guy, friend to talk to, wine advisor, anything you like—it’s all about keeping “Kontakt”. Launched late October 2021, Kontakt is a wine, bistro, and shop place at the very heart of the Mokotów neighbourhood. I teamed up with a progressive chef Janek Wojtalik hailing from the Michelin-star restaurant Senses and other top dining establishments in the capital city. We had a simple idea to serve one-, two- and three-ingredient kinds of plates that are full of flavour and natural wines. The three dining rooms are divided into a wine bar, a dining room, and a chef’s table by the kitchen. Here people can catch up and enjoy wine while chefs bring out the dishes. We want it to be laidback, appeal to all people regardless of their expectations and sidestep the stigmas that come with having fine dining backgrounds.

Photography Credit: Jarek Nakielny

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