Tuesday, 19 January 2010
RESTAURANT REVIEW: Pani Solinska, Broughton Street
Warming for both heart and belly!
THE SNOW THAT BLANKETED THE CAPITAL A FEW WEEKS AGO BROUGHT WITH IT TRAVEL FRUSTRATIONS, A LOT OF SHIVERING AND A FEW FALLS, BUT I THINK WE CAN ALL RECALL IT WITH FONDNESS TOO. CERTAIN MOMENTS WILL LINGER FAVOURABLY IN OUR MINDS, LIKE THE PARTICULARLY FREEZING JANUARY NIGHT THAT I FOUND A HAVEN OF WARMTH (IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE) INSIDE PANI SOLINSKA ON BROUGHTON STREET.
With enlarged black and white family photos (circa WWII, Poland) aligning the walls, the promise of comfort abounds. The owner, Dorothy, welcomes my friend and I and explains the tasting board we are about to share while we settle in with a Zubr (a tasty, citrusy beer), Redd's apple lager (both £3.50) and a basket of Polish bread. Soon we begin the feast complete with a Polish vodka tasting that will ensure that we stay nice and toasty for the remainder of the evening.
The range of vodkas (six altogether) fare wonderfully with the Polish meat board (£19.95 per person for the board plus vodkas). The classic Polish vodkas are all very distinctive and are as follows: Krupnik (sweet, smooth, cocoa), Żołądkowa (orange), Starka (whisky-flavoured), Śliwowica (plum, fiery), Wisniowka (cherry, great finish) and, from the freezer, Żubrówka (nutty, marzipan-like).
On the charcuterie board, we have Wiejska, a Polish village sausage that's smoked, garlicky and peppery with a nice, crisp skin; Kindziuk, salami-style cured sausage, rich with all-spice and brilliant flavour; Debowa, a more delicate-flavoured ham sausage; and long-aged, smoked Parma ham-style cuts of pork. All is served on an impressive, hand-made board with salted gherkins and mustard. We also try the smalec, a very traditional dish of pork fat fried with onions and served with bread - immense; a side of horseradish and beetroot salad that refreshes the palate sweetly; and finally the dish I have yearned for since my arrival, bigos. Hunter's bigos, a 1300 century recipe, is a stew-like, sour and savoury bowl of cabbage, Polish sausage, prunes, red wine, juniper, all-spice, sauerkraut and mushrooms. Nothing could have been more well-suited for below-zero climate than a warming bowl of bigos washed down with a series of exciting vodkas!
A couple of hours later and you can't kick us out of the place. Dorothy's passion shines through discussions of each flavour we've tasted (from the meats to the bigos to the vodkas), of the family-oriented decor and, essentially, of her precious Polish origins. We're not the only ones who feel so at home; because so many locals have endearing, ancient family tales from their Polish homeland, storytelling nights are arranged every so often. The next one is on the 23rd of February. (KELLY RAE SMITH)
-73 Broughton Street
-0131 557 6900
ALSO IN THE FEBRUARY 2010 ISSUE OF BITE MAGAZINE