(Stairwell up to the Polish Club)
Ryan informs me that we will be checking out a new Polish restaurant that has just been opened by his younger brother Robin's best mate's dad. He was under the impression that this place was out west somewhere but we found out on Friday night from his mum and brother that it's actually in Ashfield, at the Polish Club. I was a little confused because I knew that there was a already a restaurant there (according to google search). From what Robin's mate Daniel tells us, it sounds like they have taken over the restaurant/catering contract with the club. Daniel tells us that his dad has actually worked for many restaurants before, including the previous owners of this restaurant at the Ashfield Polish Club (about 10 years ago), and they even owned their own restaurant down in Wollongong.
It was a little tricky to find as the Polish Club is situated on a one way street in the backstreets of Ashfield, not sure if there's an entrance off Liverpool Road.We had to circle a few blocks until we found it, it's not very well lit either so can easily be missed. The club looks a little old and run down so we were initially a little unsure if we were in the right place or not. Ryan and I arrived first and signed ourselves in as temporary members of the club. It wasn't clear where the restaurant was at first glance, and then I noticed the plain tables behind a couple of glass panels towards the back of the main foyer, then a familiar face coming out to greet us. We were then soon joined by Robin, their mum, and aunty.
Friday nights are not very busy for them at the moment, they had a few tables who had cleared out before we arrived. They also do catering for functions held at the club and Saturdays sound like the busier days. The restaurant is open Fridays and Saturdays for dinner and Sundays for lunch and dinner. I'd come and try them out when they are a bit on the quiet side, just call ahead to check they don't have a function on (9798 7469). We could hear music coming out from one of the function rooms, it sounded like they were holding dance lessons that night.
It's a very cosy little place, very minimal decor, plain white table clothes, vinyl chairs, single vases of fake flowers, Ryan actually thinks it was a little too minimal, perhaps some paintings, or items showing off some Polish heritage would be a nice touch to the stark white walls. I do love the red feature wall behind the counter though. Even though they restaurant/club seems to have gone through an update, it looks like a lot more could be done.
Daniel was running front of house this night. His dad and brother were in the kitchen. Apart from Robin, who seems to have become a bit of a regular here already, none of us had tried Polish food before.
It's a simple one paged menu, but doesn't make it easier to choose what I want to try since I am always so indecisive. It looks like the menu hasn't changed much from the previous people running the restaurant according to my research, and still has all the traditional Polish dishes on there (apart from dessert). Drinks are to be bought from the bar, which I thought was strange but it's only a few steps away. They also only accept cash at the restaurant. We end up starting with two serves of soup to share and picked a dish each to share between the 5 of us.
Al La Ambassador Soup $8.00
There are two soups on the menu. Daniel recommended the Ambassador telling us that it was very nice. It had walnuts and bow tie pasta in it. Even though it looks quite heavy the broth was really lovely to eat, nice and light. Ryan describes it as tasting quite meaty, though we don't see any meat in sight.
Home Made Poppyseed Bread.
Daniel brings out a plate of bread for us to have with the soup. He proudly informs us that his dad made it in house. The bread was light and airy albeit a little on the oily side so probably didn't need the extra butter. I slather the butter on anyway, how could I resist? It mopped up the soup perfectly and the poppyseed in the bread was a nice textural touch. Apparantly this was purely experimental because they wanted to try something a little different with the bread.
Pierogi z Meisem/Meat Dumplings $10.00
There are 10 dumplings per serve in the mains section. I'm glad we were sharing because I would have struggled to finish all 10 dumplings on my own, they're quite filling. This was definately different to the type of Asian dumplings that we're used to. Ryan said he would have preferred them fried a bit. I didn't mind them, the skins are thicker than what I am used to be they were soft to the bite.
Pierogi Ruski / Cheese Potato Dumplings $10.00
These were served with some creme fraiche which I really liked. The creme fraiche added a nice touch of tartness to the dumplings. Liked these (must be the potato).
Sznycel po Wiedensku/Vienna (Veal) Schnitzel $20.00
The veal schnitzel was a hit with the family. I didn't mind it but it wasn't my favourite dish of the night. I guess because it wasn't anything special to me. It came topped with an egg sunny side up and served with a side of mash and cabbage salad.
Placek Po Wegiersku/Hungarian Style Potato Pancakes $20.00
Now this was interesting, and was recommended by Daniel too, was there anything he didn't recomment? =D. It was quite a thick dense pancake and came with some goulash over the top. Being a sucker for anything with potatoes in it I loved it. It came with a small cabbage salad, which was needed to cut through the richness of the dish.
Gulasz Kopytkami/Goulash with Gnocchi $18.00
Daniel proudly informs us that the gnocchi is hand made by his grandmother, who comes out to sit in the dining room to have a break with some tea and creme brulee made by her other grandson. Hand made gnocchi is always a winner with Ryan and I, especially made by grandmothers. They are well made, light and soft though we do get the occasional small lump of potato when we bite in. Totally nothing wrong with that but that was just Ryan's observation. He's obsessed with getting his gnocchi absolutely smooth and melt in the mouth. I loved the pairing of the goulash with the gnocchi. The goulash was just delicious, the meat was cooked to a perfect tenderness that just melted in your mouth as you ate it. Can you tell which dish was our favourite?
We are all pretty full and wern't sure we even had room for dessert but we eventually get talked into trying all 3 desserts on the menu. Intitally we were just going to share 2 but Daniel's brother Nick insisted that we try out the third dessert too. (Daniel must have told him I was taking photos for my blog). We learn that Nick is the mastermind behind the desserts for the restaurant. Apparantly he likes making desserts and is self taught in the kitchen (just like me!) He also helps their dad out in a kitchen hand type of role.
If you notice, the desserts arn't really Polish desserts as this is only what Nick knows how to do. I'm sure if they asked nicely their grandmother should have some Polish dessert recipes tucked up her sleeves somewhere. Daniel tells us about these Polish donuts that sound absolutely droolworthy but says they don't make it because they don't have a recipe for it and his dad usually only buys it in. If you have a recipe for them, perhaps you could pass it along and they could have them freshly made on the menu ;)
Thin crepe, rolled up with jam and served with a small scoop of ice cream.. There are 3 choices of jam, plum, sour cherry or rose hip. The choice was left to Ryan and I and we went for the rose hip. We all enjoyed the crepe. It was nice and light with the sweetness coming from the jam. Daniel says they eat these at home all the time, usually laid flat and spread with nutella. They thought it would be nice to add it to the menu and served them rolled up and filled with jam. The crepe probably needs a little something just to finish off the presentation, looks a little too plain.
Creme Brulee $6.00
We did have a bit of an issue with the brulee part of the creme brulee, the sugar was spread a little too thin and it was lacking a caramelised top to crack through (it's the essence of a creme brulee). When you ate it, the sugar was still quite grainy. Apparantly others have made the same comment so it's probably something that needs practising. The custard however was lovely, smooth and creamy, not overly sweet, Ryan's mum loved it.
Daniel insisted that Nick wanted us to try his pavlova. We thought that 2 desserts was enough to share but we were assured that the pavlova was not very big. It was the last dessert to come and came with an apology from Nick saying that it wasn't his finest work and that he didn't want me to take a photo of it. Apart from some technical issues it was gorgeous to eat. Ryan's mum loved it even more than the creme brulee. It was a chocolate meringue topped with cream and strawberries and drizzled with a bit of passionfruit, a great combination of flavours. It was actually very light and we had no problems spooning it down, even scraping the bowl that it was baked in.
We all enjoyed our little Polish feast, and will definately be coming back for some more. The food was good honest homestyle cooking which left us all satisfied and then some - it was ultimate comfort food. Don't come here expecting much more and you won't be disappointed. I can't say that it was a great restaurant experience (can't really tell because we were the only table dining) but definately come here for the food. Especially grandma's goulash with gnocchi. For the 5 of us, the total bill came to just over $110.00 which I think was great value for money. Don't think you can get better food for that price per person at any other club.
We didn't really get a chance to look around the club before or after dinner but from what I've read there is (or was?) a deli downstairs. Bummed that we missed it. The club also has it's own facebook page. Apparantly they hold regular events and socials so check it out if you're interested.