Have you ever had a restaurant be a super hero, in the last second come and save the day? Let me tell you about this little place, which should you happen to be around Warsaw, Poland, you should really pay a visit to.
First, a chance to cover off the city itself, we went there over in September 2016, not knowing what to expect. In the back of our minds we thought it would be shadowed by it’s gruesome history, however it presented itself as a city looking to the future. It’s city centre is bustling and to our surprise some of the largest glass skyscraper we have seen, were in Warsaw. We expected old and worn by it’s past, instead, it’s new and bright, it’s bustling nature makes it an uplifting place to visit. It surprises you.
The start of old town… the restaurant just right of the statue does some good things with chicken.
The place does have an old town district, but most if not all of the buildings were destroyed in WW2. In its place are like for like rebuilds, mostly developed in the 1950s, with signs on the buildings to reflect that. Thoroughly recommend Warsaw, to see how a city turned out after being at the centre of some of mankind’s worst ugliness.
One, almost, hopeless Saturday night…
Our Saturday night in Warsaw was almost a cautionary tale. In our hotel room, we did our usual prospecting on TripAdvisor, looking for restaurant gold. To our delight we spotted and agreed in our destination for the night. Off we went into the dark night, our path lit up by the lights of modern Warsaw. As we entered the restaurant we were greeted with the heart sinking question; “You have reservation?” Bonehead head bobo no 1, we didn’t make one beforehand, thus was turned away. Warsaw saturday night food scene looked to be a tough nut to track as, well, bonehead bobo no 2. No other restaurants were near by. Damn.
We wondered in a hungry panic for a while, as time marched on the night seemed bleaker, we wouldn’t get a table anywhere. As we were on the edge of admitting failure and making our way back to hotel, we spotted some eye-catching multi coloured fairy lights down a side street, just off of one Warsaw’s busiest roads. It seemed busy, but it looked really cool, tucked away trendy neighbourhood restaurant sort of place. Trying our luck we walked in and face the old favourite; “reservation?”. Damn, the host peered through her table booked for what felt like an hour and came back with:
“Ah well we do have one last table for two”.
Our hero had arrived.
The place was packed and busy, you walked down a few stairs, only to be greeted by it’s interior of warming colours and lights, with a bar still continuing the ole fairy light look. We got the last table, and by that we mean a high table facing a small stage with high stools for the both of us. We didn’t care, this was different, very different to the more traditional or tourist themed restaurants one’s we had seen so far.
The name, Banjaluka, comes from the city of the same name Banja Luka, Bosnia & Herzegovina’s second largest city and Republika Srpska largest city (Wiki the history at your lesiure). As the geography may suggest, the restaurant’s snap was Balkan Cusine, little few miles north than you would expect it to be.
It was a busy night, service was eager to please but slow at times, you can get away with speaking English, pointing at the menu goes along way. Despite the laxed service, we were giddy just being the last table in there and yes we did see later on folks being turned away. Poor bastards, we thought, best have another mojito in their memory.
Drinks were cheap, they offered mojito in any kind of fruit flavour you want. Vaguely recall the lady enjoying a pear mojito. I indulged in Balkan beers, they quenched a thirst, to put it simply.
The Banja grub was simple but tasty and on a late Saturday night, filled our aching tums. It sides more with a neighbourhood eats place than fine dining, nothing fancy but will leave you with a smile in your face.
It’s all served off of trays and slate boards, rough n ready and good grief they will just slap a whole fish right on there for you. The lady had that, was darn tasty but she didn’t need to eat much of the Bulgar wheat, you can see in the glass pot there. As for me, that creamy side made the giant disc of beef in front of me a devishly good treat, that sent my stomach to heaven.
With our bellies balkanised, our evening was saved and it just turned into one of those special nights. Banjuluka has the feeling of where a local would go, so it felt like we were just sneaking into it. It’s a vibrant and high energy restaurant, which really represents it’s city well as a modern light. Not to mention, much like the rest of Warsaw, it’s darn cheap for a pair used to U.K prices, many a drink was had with that 3 course meal.
Ultimately, should you ever be in Warsaw, and you should do, just poke your head down to Banjulka. Soak up the atmosphere as you soak up the pear mojitos; this is modern Warsaw and I’ll be back for more.
When did we visit?: September 2016
Cost?: Poland is cheap, food is no different, you can pig out.
Any other recommendations?: If you want Polish Cusine go stalk old(ish) town. Word to the wise, the square they have is full of restaurants. It’s also a bit of a tourist trap, work around the edges you will find some winners.