Taking my Polish mother to a Polish restaurant – mistake. Within ten seconds of seeing the menu, she’d ruthlessly dismissed it.
“Pearl barley with salmon? With salmon?! What is this place?”
“Polish stew? Why would I pay to eat that? I have some in the freezer at home.”
“Well that’s not even Polish.”
Thankfully, by the time we’d munched through our complimentary crunchy gherkins and salty bread, my mother was won over. As was I, because Baltic is a great nouveau-Polish restaurant that looks and tastes COOL.
The dining area is located down in an eighteenth century coach workers, which means it’s a beautiful, open-place space topped with exposed timber, skylights and the odd brick wall.
It’s stunning – the kind of room I want to call home one day.
As for the menu, like Mama Mossakowski said, it isn’t all Polish. There’s a definite Nordic feel going on: starters are mostly things cured and smoked, like herring and salmon. Dill is everywhere.
In-betweenies are a selection of traditional dumplings, and mains are a Polish love letter to meat: every animal on Old MacDonaldowski’s farm is represented. Vegetarians can excuse themselves to go to the bathroom, pop the window and never come back.
I kicked off the show with Kaszanka, blood sausage, on a bed of onion and apples served with a potato rosti. My mother’s soup, held in a bowl literally the size of her head, was leek and potato.
Both tasted much better than they looked. It’s hard to give Polish food pizzazz-on-the-plate when the cuisine is the definition of barnyard rustic.
And note to Baltic: dumping half a kilo of parsley isn’t going to help.
Just to spite my mother, I went for the salmon with pearl barley for mains. It turned out to be Salmon Wellington, but a punchy version with Polish woodland flavours rammed inside. My mother’s venison was intense. Oh and huge, a most un-Lady-like portion in fact, but she defeated it (with a little help).
At this point in the meal, I should have stopped. But Polish cuisine is all about being pressured into more food. Don’t accept, and you face a lifetime of emotional blackmailing.
I still wake up screaming, pillow torn in two, feathers everywhere, guilty at having declined thirds at a meal last year. What was I thinking?!?!
And with my mother looking at me like I was a poor starving student (because I am), I simply couldn’t say no to a slice of poppy seed cake, Makowiec.
I think she was in cahoots with the staff, for they brought me the biggest slice of cake I have ever seen in my life. I am not joking, this thing was the size of my thigh.
And say what you will about Polish people (don’t because I’ll smack you), the service was excellent. They treated us like family. Guaranteed, that’s because there’s a good chance we’re distant cousins.
With dessert was a shot of vodka, always appreciated when trying to digest an entire farm. This combo worked so well, cake and vodka, that my latest pop-up idea happens to be called Cake and Vodka. Watch. This. Space.
The downside to the meal was the bill. Baltic is pricey for Polish fare. Sure, it’s done up and the portions are massive, but £80 for two people without a bottle of wine is an expensive mother-and-son date.
Nevertheless, we tipped hard, just in case we bump into them at the family reunion next year.
Baltic is located right next to Southwark tube stop.
Reservations for Baltic are taken on 020 7928 1111.