There has to be a good reason to lure me away from my fix of traditional Polish food when I am in Warsaw, glutton as I am for crispy potato pancakes topped with sour cream and chilled beetroot chƗodnik soup. But the Italian-chef-run Senses was just that, having won the country’s second Michelin star earlier this year. And carefully studying the menu revealed that it also promised pierogi (Polish ravioli), so it was not a total abandonment of what I craved.
I arrived with my son and future daughter-in-law, all of us on a countdown to fit into our wedding glad rags, but good intentions were immediately jettisoned on reading the possible choices of menu. Three courses (170 zlotys, about £32), we decided, was not quite going to cut it, while seven courses (about £57; wine pairing, about £47.50) would surely give us the chance to really appreciate what chef Andrea Camastra was all about.
And it did. It started with a selection of Polish breads – from rye to white to black – and tiny croquettes of oscypek, a smoked cheese from the Tatra Mountains. Then came a sliver of sea trout on a bed of sorrel with red caviar and a perfectly sharp scoop of horseradish cream. The pierogi followed, elevated to a sophistication that I had never encountered before, with a crescent of black caviar resting on its plump form, which was stuffed with the traditional filling of white cheese and mashed potato. It floated in a moat of consommé and somewhere there was a hint of truffle oil. It was absolutely pitch perfect.
Next up was red prawn with pork cheek, broccoli and cedro – a beautifully presented dish, arranged in the middle of a huge handmade plate. A tomato-tuna-burrata-aubergine-pepper mix refreshed our palates before the depth of a beef rib with wild garlic, blood orange and spring onion. Thefinale was billed as “white-chocolate-grapefruit-bay-leaf-juniper” and provided a wonderfully citrusy and reviving finishing note.
Over a mint tea we talked to Camastra, a native of Puglia who has fallen in love with Poland and its cuisine. He is passionate about drawing on the country’s heritage and flavours to interpret them anew, albeit through an Italian prism. The result is, of course, truly European and completely delicious.