All my family is Polish so I ate a lot of Polish food growing up – and not always willingly.
People might think the cuisine is simple and basic, but there’s actually a lot of preparation involved. The lengthy cooking processes are a way to give as much flavour to cheap and readily available ingredients like cabbage, potatoes, root vegetables, grains, and pork.
Preserving was a big thing. Vegetables boiled to within an inch of their lives or pickled. Not always the healthiest but they’d last for weeks.
Mum was actually a very accomplished cook. There would always be soup before our main meal, chicken soup packed with so much flavour like a consommé and served with egg noodles. Boiled eggs were often used to bulk out a soup as in the most well-known, barszcz (borscht), and in another of my favourites, szczawiowa, made with sorrel leaves and served cold.
I remember these soups fondly. Other classics sometimes less so.
Polish dumplings (pierogi) with every kind of sweet and savoury filling imaginable; potato pancakes (platski) fried after what felt like hours of grating potatoes; Polish gnocchi (kluski) which are softer and served with burnt butter; and big bowls of cabbage with sausage (bigos) served piping hot with fresh bread. All hearty for sure but often heavy and never ending.
When I left home I can’t say I missed all the food.
It’s been a while since I’ve eaten much Polish cuisine as my Mum now cooks less and less, and I’ve never eaten in a Polish restaurant before. I am therefore feeling quite nostalgic, as well as slightly nervous and full of intrigue, as I make my first visit to Platzki.
It was opened late last year in the Great Northern Warehouse by Lukasz Mazurek and Przemek Marcinkowski following the success of their street food stall and subsequent pop-up in Spinningfields.
Located in the old B.Eat Street unit, the restaurant feels like a modern farmhouse kitchen, and is wonderfully light and airy with foliage sprouting from the walls. The kitchen is also open and it’s a delight to see all the gorgeous prep across the counters.
I also love that outside there is a large Polish group drinking Polish beer and snacking on salted pretzel sticks (paluszki) that I still find in a glass on the table every time I go home to visit Mum and Dad.
The menu is a refreshingly modern take on Polish classics and changes twice weekly, with a simpler weekday menu a more extensive weekend menu, which was when we visited.
Lucasz is so welcoming when we arrive and makes us feel like we are in his home, talking us through the dishes and what’s on offer today. I do wish that the menu used more Polish food names though, as it’s almost been ‘dumbed down’ for the Manc market. It would also be good to see some Polish wine on there as I’ve never tried any.
Chunky vegetable borsch with crème fraiche and bread £5
This is very different to the barszcz my Mum used to make. Hers was made with either beef ribs or gammon stock and was very meaty. It was never actually my favourite of her soups to be honest. I much preferred the one I tried today. The flavour of the beetroot really shines in this vegetarian version, and the addition of different beans gives an earthier quality. With the crème fraiche and dill it also felt lighter and more fitting on what was a rather pleasant spring evening.
DILL ALERT: they absolutely love this herb in Polish cooking, so if you aren’t a fan (like the companion who dined with me today) let them know when you order, as in most dishes it can easily be left out.
Pierogi filled with duck and served with orange and ginger jus £6
Whenever I read about this restaurant, all I hear about are the pierogi. And rightly so. These are beautiful, light dumplings and not at all heavy or stodgy like those I remember. We used to get a massive bowl of the things and I’d always be bored by about the fourth mouthful. I love the fact these were served as a starter. The orange and ginger jus was an interesting touch, giving a French feel to the humble parcels. The duck filling was absolutely delightful.
Ox cheeks cooked in red wine and thyme served with roasted purple potatoes and pickles salad £16
Cheaper cuts of meat were often the norm growing up but not something I appreciated back then. These ox cheeks were stunning – slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone soft, and served with the most gluggable meaty gravy. The purple potatoes look pretty and taste exactly like most regular potatoes. And no Polish main course would be complete without some form of pickled vegetables. These were mostly on the good side. Mushrooms? Definitely. Cauliflower? Oh go on then. Random peaches? No thank you.
Steamed cabbage leafs stuffed with bulgur and roasted vegetable accompanied with creamy tomato sauce and dill on celeriac and carrot puree £12
This was the only disappointing dish today. It was way too big, with all the vegetables and sauce blending together and offering little in their variety of texture or flavour. I like that Platzki are catering to vegetarians when the classic cuisine is so steeped in meat, but I feel this golabki was a poor substitute for the minced beef/pork recipe on which it was based. And by using bulgur wheat instead of rice, much of the texture in the filling was lost too.
Selection of Polish cakes £5
Polish cheesecake (sernik) tastes like no other. It’s more like a cake than the American-style cheesecake most people will be familiar with. We ordered two today – the classic with raisins, and the chocolate. Both were superb. I’m so thrilled to end on a high, made even better with an ice-cold shot of plum flavoured vodka. Now that definitely brings back memories.
What a gorgeous evening at Platzki revisiting my childhood, giving me a new enthusiasm for this traditional style of food given a modern and often refined interpretation. I will have new, better memories of the light-as-air pierogi and vegetarian barszcz. But I would love to see the actual Polish names of the dishes on future menus. It would make for amusing ordering if nothing else.
Dziekuje Platzki! (It’s pronounced jen-koo-yea and it means thank you).
Unit F, Deansgate Mews Great Northern Warehouse, Peter Street, Manchester, M3 4EJ