Thursday November 30th – Day 1, London, Krakow
And so, after a number of years, we finally made it to Krakow. Back in the day (about 7 year’s ago) the company I worked for acquired a Polish company, and I went out there on business a couple of times. The first time was in early December, my mother had just died, and in between meetings I spent most of the time trying to arrange her funeral. The second time was in the spring, and what I managed to see of the city then reinforced the impression I had gained on the first trip that here was a city worth investigating in more depth.
And so, in search of a suitable destination for what is now becoming an annual Winter/Christmas market weekend for us, I put the idea to Lynne that we should head for Krakow. And so, in Thursday afternoon, we trekked over to Heathrow and flew out direct with British Airways. A somewhat late arrival made our existence slightly more complicated than it might have been, though our pre-booked car was there and waiting once our luggage finally arrived on the carousel. I should point out that there is a perfectly good train link from the airport to the main station in the city but we opted for the more expensive luxury version of transportation and were soon at our apartment (booked through AirBnB) just outside the old city walls on Zacisze street, about 200 metres from the Barbakan.
The apartment seemed to be well equipped and very modern, despite being in an old building, but investigating would have to wait until morning. For now we needed to get out to dinner! I’d booked a table latish at Cyrano de Bergerac on the basis that it is in the Michelin guide, and – possibly more importantly – it was the closest of the restaurants we wanted to try and thus the sensible one to book on a night when we were due to land at 18:15. It leans towards French cooking, rather than Polish, but it’s a Krakow fixture so it needed to be done.
As with many an establishment in Krakow, Cyrano is in a very old building, in this instance an old cellar, full of nooks and crannies, with lots of little corners that must make it a logistical nightmare for the highly professional waiting staff.
We were quickly seated and offered a drink. There’s a rather fine house cocktail so it would have been churlish to refuse one of those at least, a refreshing mix of gin, creme de cassis and lemon juice:
A study of the menu revealed lots of good things, with a seasonal leaning towards game, and the heavier meats, as you might expect this far north and east in the run up to Christmas. While we had a study, a basket full of bread appeared, along with some whipped butter.
We started very well indeed, with a beautifully cooked pigeon breast with foie gras and a sticky, dense port sauce.
Our other starter was equally delicious, ravioli stuffed with slow cooked oxtail, and truffle shavings. Lovely stuff!
The mains continued the theme of rich, gamey meat, in one instance with quite a modern twist. I was presented with a tender portion of wild boar with buckwheat (the modern twist in a very traditional sort of dish) and mushrooms. To be fair, it was mostly wild boar! What’s not to like?
The other main was duck with sea buckthorn and coriander, and foie gras. Again, it was mostly meat, but who’s complaining? Not us. The meat cooking was perfect and the accompaniments well chosen, so someone knows what they are doing.
The sheer size of both mains meant that dessert was simply not an option, not that late in the day, so we decided we would simply share a portion of cheese. It was a sensible move if you ask me, and it also meant that the kitchen could clear down (it was getting late by now).
By now it was getting on for midnight, and so we paid the bill and walked back to the apartment in the snow, trying not to slip and fall on the pavements, which were becoming somewhat treacherous now (though nowhere near as bad as they would have been in the UK, which would have completely ground to a halt with that much snow).