Na Zdrowie v. Bar Polski

Wycinianki traditional theme
Wycinianki traditional theme

Since 2007 London restauranteurs have suffered devastating losses and been forced to terminate service.  However, those left standing with a reliable clientele have been fortunate and wise to undergo significant, and much needed facelifts, dragging them kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. However, the change at Bar Polski can be described as subtle at most. Formerly known as Na Zdrowie, the management have finally realised that the majority of its clientele are incompetent! Incapable of pronouncing the Polish word for ‘cheers’, many opted simply to refer to it as, The Polish Bar. As a compromise, the management have renamed the bar-restaurant, Bar Polski. The name change appears to be where any difference ends and Bar Polski continues to effectively cater for Eastern European enthusiasts and less knowledgeable Londoners alike.

With its only remotely close landmark being a Pret à Manger, Bar Polski is hidden down a backstreet in Holborn and unless actively seeking it out, one is highly unlikely to find it. However, it is definitely worth taking some friends on an adventure in order to discover it. Chic sparse décor, black leather seating and basic grey tables are juxtaposed with colourful traditional folk motifs and cockerels painted on the walls. The latter of which provides a great deal of amusement to those with little knowledge of wycinianki style and Polish traditions.

If you want to sample some traditional Polish food it is best to visit Bar Polski during the week from 8 P.M. onwards, when the post-work drinkers are leaving, and you are able to acquire a table. In a similar way to Spanish tapas or Greek meze, the food at Bar Polski is served in a way that is perfect for sharing among a large, ravenous group of people.

Enjoying a raspberry vodka and lemonade
Enjoying a raspberry vodka and lemonade

For a relatively small bar-restaurant, Bar Polski offers quite an extensive range of Polish food. The mixed fried pierogi (dumplings) stuffed with meat, cabbage and cheese are served on large white plates with three dips, one of which is indistinguishable. The pierogi stuffed with meat and pierogi stuffed with cabbage are delicious. Unfortunately the pierogi filled with cheese curd is somewhat disappointing. If unfamiliar with Polish food it is very important to remember when ordering pierogi to ask for the fried version because the boiled version may well put you off Polish food for life. This is not the fault of the chef at Bar Polski, simply a problem that arises from the method of cooking; boiling any food turns it into a slime-like substance.

Nonetheless, the vast majority of the menu will certainly not let you down.One plate not to be missed is the Bigos, a stew of sauerkraut, fresh cabbage, mixed meats and seasonings, served with rye bread.

All of this can be washed down with any of the beers on the menu or if you are feeling a little more adventurous sample some of the vodkas which are categorised into ‘dry and interesting’ and ‘nice and sweet’.For the hardy among you a shot of any vodka on the menu will compliment the food.However, if you would rather drink vodka ask any of the helpful Polish staff which mixer they think goes best with each one.They will always endeavour to help you.

Bar Polski is at 11 Little Turnstile, Holborn, WC1V 7DX (tel: 020 7831 9679).

Drinks, lunch or dinner. Food served until 10 P.M. No bookings accepted.

Takeaway service available.


Who to know: John, the owner. He has been known to wrestle with pickpockets to prevent inebriated customers are not mugged.

What to know: If you come to a SSEES event at Bar Polski you will enjoy plenty of free food.

What to eat: Pierogi, Bigos.

What to drink: Beers including: Zywiec, Lech and Tyskie; around fifty types of vodka.

Spotted: Current and former SSEES students and staff!

Related Images:

Don’t be too hungry for Hungarian… at least not in London!

The Gay Hussar stands just off Soho Square, in a beautiful Georgian townhouse, and has been serving Hungarian specialities and fine wines to Eastern European enthusiasts for over fifty years. It is worth visiting The Gay Hussar simply for the exterior and interior décor. Inside the ivy-covered chocolate box shop exterior awaits a small room of tightly packed wooden tables (albeit with decadent tableware!) and low lighting, making you feel like one has simply stepped in from a backstreet off Váci Utca itself.

Having been feeding journalists, politicians, artists and historians for so many years, the walls boast the restaurant’s trademark caricatures, not to mention an extensive selection of books, including Norman Davies’ Europe: A History. Among the tableware can be found a delicious and complimentary selection of bread, including walnut, which must not be missed!

The mixed Hungarian Salami, £4.95, is delicious for those who revel in spicy meat and the smoked Hungarian sausage, £4.15, is enhanced by the presence of a very fresh horseradish condiment. Without doubt the best starter on the modest menu is the beef goulash soup, £4.50: peppers, potatoes and beef. This will certainly warm you up on a cold day! Wonderful Hungarian starters are unfortunately where the love and enjoyment of your experience will end.

The galuska (the Hungarian version of gnocchi) accompanying both the borjú pörkölt (veal goulash stew), £15.25, and the csirke paprikás (chicken in a creamy paprika sauce), £12.95, is most disappointing with an odd taste and unpleasant texture. Vegetarians will fare no better being presented with a pepper stuffed with yet more pepper, £9.50. While the décor and to an extent, the starters, will remind a Hungarian of pleasant times in their homeland, the main courses will only serve to shatter any joyous illusions.

Thankfully, the wine list will help you forget, or at least wash down, the unfortunate main courses. The Jozsef Bock Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, £31.50, will enhance any dish on the menu. The rich, dark and deep oak flavour that the Bock family have been creating so well since the 1800s will send you home with a smile on your face. Unfortunately, the combination of the spicy food, red wine, and sheer heat of the restaurant means you will also go home hotter than hell itself. Layers are therefore imperative if one plans to visit The Gay Hussar!

The Gay Hussar!

The Gay Hussar is at 2 Greek Street, Soho, London, W1D 4NB (tel: 020 7831 9679)

Lunch and dinner available.

Booking recommended.


To know: Take a woman, or better still, women make sure you leave your men at home.  Being female in this establishment means plenty of attention and a possible discount on the bill!

To eat: Beef goulash soup

To drink:Jozsef Bock Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 £31.50

Spotted: Lord Hestletine, Boris Johnson, Jon Snow.

Related Images:

Russia and the West: A New Cold War

I wrote this piece for the April issue of Anglomania.  Unfortunately, they credited it to someone else who is called Olivia, which was rather annoying but there should be a correction and apology in the May issue.

Russia and the West: A New Cold War

This year, Germany and most of the world will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Built in 1961, the wall became a physical symbol of the very real socio-politico-economic and ideological divide between East and West during the Cold War; the West was capitalist, while in the East, political regimes, labeled as communist, held control. However, it is important to remember that the term was merely a label. In reality, what actually existed were dictatorships of a new, emerging elite rather than of the proletariat. Moreover, the struggle between East and West had little to do with ideology, particularly as time progressed. Instead, between 1945 and 1991 the Cold War proved to be no more than a period of competition between the two superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States of America, for world domination and superiority, masked in the guise of ideological rhetoric. However, due to the closed borders and limited flow of knowledge in both directions, citizens in the USSR and the West truly believed that ideology was the basis for the struggle.

Read more…

Related Images:

About Charlotte

Charlotte Jones
Charlotte Jones

I was born in Surrey, raised in Hampshire, but now reside in Bayswater, in London. My interest in history and passion for Eastern Europe developed when, at the age of nine, I read Judith Kerr’s novel ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’. After spending many summer holidays in Slovenia, I studied much Russian history at A Level, and then went on to attain an Upper Second Class Honours Degree in East European History from UCL’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies.  During my vacation periods I enjoyed travelling throughout this incredible region and to date have visited: Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Croatia, Bosnia, Hungary, Slovenia and Germany. I am currently learning to speak Russian and will study my Masters in East European History on a part-time basis from autumn 2009.

I love food and all things cultural, particularly East European.  I write feature articles for Anglomania, a sport, culture, fashion magazine and work as an editorial assistant for Glam Media UK.  I have previously worked for, Emap, Conde Nast, The Telegraph and The Sun.

In this blog I am indulging my love of Eastern Europe, and utilising the web I shall tell tales of my travels, and impart my knowledge of the region’s culture, history and food.

Related Images: