Tucked away inside a large townhouse (complete with portico) on Exhibition Road, Ognisko is a quick hop from the V&A and Science Museums. Walking into the bar there's a sense of tradition without pomp, as polite but decidedly unstuffy waitstaff take coats and bags.
Before dinner it's advisable to sit in the corner of the bar with a cocktail: there's a classic menu and a selection of Polish vodka infused cocktails, all of which are swiftly and impeccably made by an amenable bartender. The bar also serves a number of traditional polish sharing snacks: Trzaski, a crispy pork crackling with pear and horseradish sauce is that delicious balance of crispy and chewy. The "Deep Fried Kopytka Dumplings with Pepper Relish" are difficult to distinguish from normal chips, but make for a moreish pre-dinner nibble.
In the dining room proper, there's a strong sense of tradition. Chandeliers and large gilt mirrors take prominent positions, and two large columns stand run up to high, vaulted ceilings with relief.
Ever-so-polite, ever-so-attentive staff navigate the white cloth-covered tables through the candlelight, giving advice on their favourite home-style Polish dishes and the comprehensive, if slightly unusual wine list. (Hungarian wines feature prominently, but they won't suit all palates.)
The menu is delicious and each offering beautifully cooked: a sharing starter of chicken liver, a Polish family favourite, is cooked to rare perfection with none of the grittiness of typical offal. The marinated herring packs a flavoursome punch.
Mains are equally accomplished: the confit Goose leg falls easily off the bone into its braised red cabbage and apple and fig compote; the fish stew is rich and hearty. There's not a huge variety on offer for vegetarians, but a dish of buttered asparagus is cooked to perfection.
It's clear the Ognisko team know what they're doing – they take all requests in their stride without a blink. Whilst Polish food isn't an immediate culinary choice for many of us, you'll be pleasantly surprised by what Ognisko has to offer.
Finish off the meal sharing a few of Ognisko's signature vodka shots with the friendly staff (the horseradish and honey vodka was particularly memorable, though we wouldn't call it nice, exactly). You'll leave Ognisko warm and full of cheer as you potter off down Exhibition Road.
|What||Ognisko restaurant review South Kensington Polish Restaurant|
|Where||Ognisko, 55 Prince's Gate, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2PG | MAP|
|Nearest tube||South Kensington (underground)|
12 Apr 16 – 30 Apr 17, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM