Updated: Feb 2
Open daily 13.00-22.00. Address: Beera Meiselsa 14, 31-058 Kraków. Phone: +48 726 727 171.
Polish restaurants are beginning to make a comeback in this city, and this is the third one I've reviewed since the start of December. Located since May last year in a cosy corner of the pedestrianized part of ul. Meiselsa which adjoins Krakowska in Kazimierz, Nakryto attempts to differentiate itself from the crowd by doing Polish home-style cooking which co-owner Katarżyna Pisarik ensures her cooks serve up. It's so homely, in fact, that many of the recipes on the menu are her own inventions, or dishes done with very personal twists which make them quite unique. The décor of the place matches these intentions – you feel as if you could be in a friend's dining room (albeit a tastefully-decorated one). It manages to be homely without being twee – and the large L-shaped room can sit over thirty diners. Well-chosen shots of Kraków and other knick-knacks give the place a welcoming feel. 'Nakryto do stołu' in Polish means 'the table is all set', and I hoped it would be set with style.
Although we were visiting on a Tuesday evening in January, expecting it to be empty, there was quite a crowd in already when we entered, giving it a nice, convivial atmosphere. Being #10 on Trip Advisor for Kraków has obviously not hurt in that respect. I like a restaurant which tempts you to stay after you've finished your meal – and this is one of those types of places. The menu is not too confusing – there are five or six dishes for each course. The starters include pickled herring done in three different ways, two types of potato pancake and a poultry liver dish. However, I side-stepped these because my eye had been caught by the next section of the menu which was headed 'Vodka side-dishes'. Whilst it's not my style, despite having been in Poland for a while, to commence a meal with a shot of vodka, I definitely fancied the regional cheeseboard, served with red onion preserve, local honey and brown rye bread. (30zł for a small one, 50zł large).
The smaller serving was more than enough for Kasia and I to share, and a selection of sheeps', goats' and blue cheeses made an ideal appetizer, complemented well by the preserves and honey, both of which were locally and organically-produced. Co-owner Andrzej Sosnowski - an old hand in the restaurant business, with over thirty years under his belt, including a decade and a half in the UK - sat down next to us at this stage for a chat. I noticed him mingling around the room, acting the perfect host, almost as if it was his own home he'd invited everyone to. “We try to source as many of our ingredients locally as we can, and this cheese we buy at Imbramowski Market” (in the north of Kraków), he explained to me. “We aim to provide Polish food as it is made in people's kitchens and served at home, using traditional recipes and ingredients. And most of our food is made from organic produce”. That's an admirable aim I think. The cheeseboard certainly had a very healthy and local feel to it – Polish through and through.
My next course was a soup. Rosół, barszcz and żurek were all predictably on the menu, and Kasia went for the barszcz with mushroom dumplings. I decided though on a soup I hadn't seen before – something called 'oyster mushroom tripe with horseradish' (13zł). An example of one of Katarzyna's home recipes, there was thankfully no tripe in this soup, it being totally veggie-friendly; however, so rich and hearty was it that I was sure it must have had a beef stock or base. It didn't. The phrase 'a meal in itself' was very apt for this bowlful of goodness. The oyster mushrooms gave it great body, while the thick, tomato-ey broth was fortified with carrots and red onions. The horseradish gave it a nice kick. I eyed the drinks at this stage - I'd already ordered a regional beer called Barbakan (12zł), a light ale-style one which at 5.5% was typically strong Polish brew - and good. Kasia was happy that the same brewer made a raspberry-infused version (sacrilege though it is to me). The wine list, I noticed, included quite a few Polish options - relatively rare despite a burgeoning industry these days - and is indicative of this locale's desire to remain true to Polish roots. Produced by the agricultural university of Kraków, both red and white dry and semi-dry are available at 80zł a bottle or 18zł per glass. I tried both by the end of the evening, and was more than satisfied with the character of both. The husky notes of the red went very well with my main which was to follow.
Regarding that main course, I was torn between pulled pork in a bread roll (23zł), duck leg with apple-rosemary sauce (34zł) and the dish I eventually had, which was beef cheeks with potato dumplings and roasted beetroot in honey-balsamic sauce (42zł). The dish, a generous portion, depends completely on the quality of the beef and the sauce it's served with. I found this meat to be a very high quality – so tender that it almost melted in the mouth, and very slightly fatty, how I like it. The sauce, rich and full of flavour, sweet and sour, worked very well, and the traditional beetroot side as did the beetroot – cut into slices rather than grated for a change. The potato dumplings were served lightly fried in butter, and provided a filling but not stodgy side of carbs. All in all, very satisfying. Kasia had gone for baked trout in brown paper with herb butter (31zł), and it was cooked to perfection. Both dishes were served with a satisfactory selection of side-dishes without you having to order extra, and I like that. It's particularly annoying sometimes in a high-end restaurant when you're already shelling out 50+zł for a dish, only to find you need to spend another 20 or so on veggies.
Dessert was an easy choice; when faced with the options of cheesecake, apple pie or sorbet, I'm usually going to go for a slice of apple pie (13zł). It was served cold, without much accompaniment, save a couple of black cherries and a smear of sauce. The stewed apple, finely chopped into a paste for the filling, was bursting with flavour. A scoop of ice cream or some cream to accompany here would have been (for me) a nice idea, but as Andrzej explained, dishes are done with as much faithfulness to Polish methods and ways of serving as possible, and serving apple pie or cake in this country is not done that way. I have to say to that – fair enough. If you do yearn for that however, the owners are more than happy to oblige.
On completion of the meal, Andrzej came back with a glass of home-made nalewka (flavoured vodka), and we chatted some more, which was a nice touch. Hands-on managerial presence like this may not be to everyone's taste, but it certainly adds the personal touch, and the interest in guests seems genuine. So, was the table set well? Undoubtedly I'd say yes. If you're after Polish food done traditionally and with as much respect to the original way of doing things as your grandma has, then this is definitely the place to come. While it's not going to win any awards for originality or innovation, this restaurant definitely knows what it wants to do, and goes about that task well. It's a great place for a meal with friends, a date or just a casual visit, and prices are fair. There are even lunch deals for around 20zł. I feel Nakryto is set to be a player in Kazimierz for quite some time to come.
Quality **** Overall ****
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