Updated: Feb 2, 2020
Open daily 13.00-23.00. Address: ul. Kupa 7, 31-057 Kraków. Telephone: +48 606 690 494.
Fine dining in Krakow has always been a hit and miss affair. For my money, it's not normally worth splashing out the extra złoty when there are so many mid-priced or budget eateries in this town offering such comparatively good quality food. Trzy Gęsi ('Three Geese'), open since January 2019 on this quiet back street in Kazimierz, aims itself squarely at the top end, a risky move in a city in which many citizens are known for their thrift. I decided to drop in and test my theory. Trzy Gęsi is a restaurant attached to a hotel, which makes things more difficult (in my experience) in trying to create ambiance and atmosphere, and indeed we were the only customers on a Friday evening save for a group of six besuited businessmen. The restaurant feels a little too well-lit, and could benefit with some gentler, more atmospheric low-lighting. On the other hand, it's a place which for now you can walk in off the street without too many worries about getting a seat. Situated opposite Synagogue Kupa, a window seat gives a very pleasant view. Location is, overall, pretty good.
Stepping into the spacious interior, one gets the impression that it's a restaurant with an eye on the wedding reception and business market – tables are uniformly spaced, there is a lot of grey, black and white, plain walls, neat furniture, decorative plants. Overall, tasteful. Relaxing music drifts from the speakers, Norah Jones. Waitresses tend efficiently. The atmosphere is on the formal side – suits may not be de rigueur, but at least smart shirts, shoes and dresses are. The menu is Polish-European, hardly an innovative idea, but one which is unlikely to cause offence. It is, as the name suggests, a goose-themed restaurant, and although it has other things on the menu, it would help if you're not averse to this particular meat. It doesn't cater particularly well to vegetarians, although there are some non-meat dishes. I perused the drinks, and was somewhat surprised to find only one wheat beer and one dark one available from the beers – both local ones though, from Browar Lubicz. Both are 15zł. I ordered a wheat one which was fine, a decent craft beer. There is a good selection of Italian, French, Spanish, New Zealand, Argentinian, Israeli and even Polish red, white and rosé wines, and bottles range from 65z to 450zł.
The menu is divided into soups, appetizers, salads, mains and desserts, and there are no more than six options for each section, and less for most. It is a seasonal menu though and subject to change. For starters, I went for a soup – goose bullion (clear broth) with goose-stuffed dumplings. (18zł). This was a decent soup, and the four small dumplings were stuffed with tasty minced goose meat. The bullion though was rich and well-flavoured and it's not a dish easily found in the city. I was impressed with the tenderness of the meat in the dumplings, and I'd just liked to have had a larger bowlful.
Moving on to the appetizer, another goose option – 'goose fillet' with goat cheese, dried plum and raspberry sauce (28zł). This dish was extremely well-presented. Two half slices of goat cheese roulade were topped with very thinly sliced and smoked goose meat and plum (not what I'd call a fillet), so delicate that it all melted in the mouth. The combination of flavours worked well. I'm not a fine dining aficionado, but if a criticism can be levelled at it, it's the size of portions, and this was a prime example. Don't expect to leave here feeling too full. Kasia had chosen a goat cheese salad (23zł) for an entrée, combining marinated beetroot, strawberry, walnut and vinaigrette sauce. Not hugely inventive, but the goat cheese was well-grilled and it was a fair portion.
Moving on to the mains (35-65zł), there are a choice of five meats (goose, duck, lamb, beef and venison) and one fish (sturgeon). Since I was on a goose vibe, I went for that. Goose leg confit with celery puree, caremelized onions and carrots with raspberry sauce (49zł) to be exact. Although normally associated with 'Staropolska' or 'Old Polish' cuisine and not widely eaten here these days, I am nevertheless a big fan of goose, and am always happy to see it on the menu. While some find it too greasy and fattening, I think that's an advantage – the flavour given by that is usually a bonus, and is far superior to a dry meat like turkey or chicken. A well-cooked, reasonably lean cut of goose is one of the best meats available, and I've never understood its relative lack of popularity.
This being a modern restaurant, the goose was cooked and presented in an innovative way – the goose leg playfully decorated with the white celery puree on one side and the raspberry sauce on the other (representing the Polish flag?), with the baby carrot pieces, including black and yellow ones, used as further ornament. Although the meat appeared to be on the pallid side (I prefer a crispy bit of burning than a light colouring on skin), the skin was well-cooked and the meat came off the bone effortlessly. A very good quality piece. The sauces were a fine complement, inventive and interesting – sweet and savoury; the carrots full of flavour, and unusual – black and yellow ones are rarely seen. Kasia went for the sturgeon, which, came with black lentils, mushrooms and a white wine sauce (35zł). Although she liked the sides, the fish meat itself she found to be a little on the tough side. It looked tempting enough though.
For the dessert, a couple of quite interesting and delicate dishes: cheesecake made of goat cheese (which, you may notice, is popular on the menu) and apple pie with vanilla ice cream and black cherries (both 18zł). The cheesecake came on a small base of shortbread, made of white chocolate and mascarpone, and was served with a a dollop of ice cream made of sun-dried tomatoes. A thin lattice of chocolate was perched on top of the construction. I appreciate a well-crafted dish, and this was one. A well-thought-out dessert, and the cheesecake itself was made delicious by the twist of using goat cheese. The ice cream, an interesting and unusual flavour, was also. The apple pie, perhaps more pastry than apple, was also a success, with small chunks of apple on a crispy, fresh biscuit-like base. Neither dish would win marks for generosity of portion, but again that goes with the territory.
A nice touch when we finished the meal was that the waitress poured us a home made nalewka (vodka-based liqueur) made of strawberries from a goose-shaped decanter, gratis. It was a tasty and smooth one and a good end to a satisfactory meal. I finished the meal with more or less the same opinion as I've always had about fine dining, especially in Krakow: that it is very hard to do, and even harder to convince people it's a good idea. Is this restaurant offering anything new?
Arguably not. Is it going to be able to compete with other high-end restaurants which are not encumbered by the ballast of an adjoining hotel? Hard to say. Kazimierz has become an extremely competitive part of town now, and maybe offers the best value to quality in the whole of Poland, not just in Krakow. Nevertheless, I am going to stick my neck out and give this restaurant the benefit of the doubt because the chef certainly knows what he is doing and the service is attentive – two of the most important aspects of whether a restaurant can stand the test of time. For now, it feels like a work in progress as it tries to find its niche in a competitive sector of the dining scene in Krakow.
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