Updated: Mar 29, 2019
Open Mon-Thu 13.00-21.45, Fri 13.00-22.30, Sat 12.00-22.00, Sun 12.00-21.00
Address: Ulica Jozefinska 2, 30-529 Krakow. Phone: +48 12 442 7442.
French cuisine has never had the cachet of, say, Italian food in Poland, and for most Krakovians when you mention the word 'French', a raised eyebrow and a Gallic shrug of the shoulders might be the typical response. Perhaps it's the (unfair) stereotypical association with garlic, snails and frogs' legs, but French restaurants remain mystifyingly under-represented in this city. For the past two years, Zakładka has been trying – with a large degree of success it seems – to buck that trend. Indeed, judging by the crowds when I walk past most days, I wonder if this has all been an ingenious marketing move to bridge an obvious gap in the market. The footbridge after which the restaurant is named has been open since 2010, and has resulted in the opening of several bars and eateries on both sides of the river; those on the Podgórze side, like Zakładka, are mostly clustered in the vicinity of Drukarnia club. Indeed, so influenced by the bridge is this place that it's been named after it (literally 'Behind the footbridge' but also 'Bookmark'). The area hasn't exactly become the culinary heart of Krakow, but it has developed enough interesting options to entice the adventurous over the river from an increasingly crowded and hectic Kazimierz scene.
Like a lot of restaurants of its ilk these days, Zakładka does not go in much for decorations and frills, and its interior is pretty basic, barring a few black and white pictures and the odd antique; a bistro-style space with several rooms on two levels including some tables outside in the summer. The vibe is fairly laid-back, and the clientele mixed, age-wise and dress-wise. The waiters are professional and polite. Taking a seat, I skipped the aperitif and ordered a beer – Miloslaw Marcowe. A light, tasty Polish craft beer from the Fortuna brewery. The menu is seasonal, dishes changing from week to week. It's divided into starters, soups, salads, meat, fish/seafood, baguettes and desserts, and fits neatly onto an A3 side of paper. User-friendly menus also seem de rigeur these days, which should make it easier to choose a dish. However, just choosing a starter from the few intriguing options had me scratching my head.
Very thoughtfully, the waitress presented me with a gratis appetizer before I had the chance to order one: some small rolls with a goat's cheese and chive spread and olive paste. I was considering the skillet of snails a la tomate, baked in roasted garlic cream (23zł), but with a degree less insouciance than I wished, I ordered the foie gras torchon, which came with raspberry confit and brioche with cinnamon (29zł). I am a huge fan of pâté, and when done well, it can be one of the best starters going. This, I am glad to say, was an extremely tasty way to kick off a meal, a buttery and delicate mixture that lingered on the palate agreeably. The tart and tangy confit complimented it well.
The waitress recommended an excellent sweet white French wine to go with it, Chateau du Levant, a nice fruity number that was a good choice - light and flavourful. My partner decided to go for baked brie served with beetroot and rocket (19zł). This also was a very well-presented and executed entrée.
A propos the beverages, I ordered a half-litre carafe of house red wine, a French Languedoc, reasonably priced at 28zl – the most inexpensive option available. For a house wine, it was quite agreeable. The wine list, which is extensive, should satisfy all but the most pedantic connoisseur. A wealth of options are available from, amongst others, France, Chile, Spain, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Moravia and Poland, and prices should suit all wallets. You can even purchase a Dom Perignon Brut for 790zl if you really want to splash out. I decided to get a soup next and the choice was straightforward: cream of mussels with saffron and leek (14zl).
I had had mussels in this restaurant previously and been happy, but mussel soup is a rarity. Seafood in general in Krakow is a hit and miss affair. I wasn't to be disappointed however, as this was subtle and very smooth, with a few succulent mussels in their shells happily stranded in the broth.
As a between-course palate cleanser, I ordered a scoop of carrot ice cream, modestly priced at 4zl. It dutifully cleansed my palate and I was ready for the main course: Guinea fowl breast served with butternut squash, caramelized red onion and sweet potato puree (42zl). The legumes were served as a bed to the meat, which came with bones. Buttery and crunchy, the vegetables were an ideal accompaniment to the meat, which (I hesitate to say) was similar to chicken, though much smaller and with a slightly darker colour and richer flavour. As a whole, the dish worked well and was just on the right side of filling.
One slight reservation in the past I've had about this restaurant – and it's by no means the first French restaurant to be guilty of this – is its rather small portions, depending on what dish you order. That however is one fairly minor quibble in a restaurant where food can hardly be said to be over-priced for the quality: mains weigh in at between 29zl and 65zl. One other word of caution for vegetarians however: there are only five options for salads and vegetables, and I'm not sure if any would serve on its own as a main. Several fish dishes, including octopus, prawns, zander and cod, should make up for this though.
On to dessert then, and I plumped for a 'delicate' vanilla cheesecake on chocolate pastry with vanilla sauce, crushed raspberries and mini-meringues. The chocolate base served as an excellent way to prop up the delicate creamy cheese mixture, and the crushed raspberries and sweet meringues just added to the effect – a very well-executed denoument indeed. As I strolled back home over the footbridge, I reflected that Zakładka has just the requisite amount of je ne sais quoi, and that it is no accident it seems to be leading the way in the Podgórze dining scene at the moment. So, bid adieu to your culinary cliches, au revoir to the ancien regime of Polish/Italian cuisine and say bonjour to some of the best-value and high-quality French dining this side of Paris. Allez-vous, maintenant?
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