I’ve got a great idea for a new restaurant. It’s going to be a fusion experiment, a Caribbean-Lebanese-Indian mix. The decor will be flash and luxurious, with wall-to-wall Persian rugs, sitar music piped in and there will be light displays to dazzle even the most world-weary. The cuisine will be fresh, innovative and tasty. And yet… it will probably be out of business within 9 months.
In the three years that I have lived in Poland, I have noticed a theme which is developing when considering restaurants. There seem to be two options when it comes to eat-out cuisine in Poland, option A being Polish-Italian options, either individually or together, while option B covers most other types of food. The pattern I have noticed is that if there are interesting options available with the B grouping, they tend to close quite quickly and go out of business. A few examples I have seen personally are listed below:
There once was a Thai restaurant quite close to the centre of Kraków. It had great food, cheap prices and a simple style. It even had a clever memorable name – Thaisty, although it could be argued if enough people would be able to ‘get’ the name. With people of Thai nationality working there, there was an authenticity in the menu, while it’s location allowed a steady clientele of students and other passers-by. And then in the blink of an eye, it had closed down leaving an empty shell behind.
A friend of mine recommended another Thai restaurant about 6 months ago. All signs were promising – while being located in a small building meaning there were few chairs and tables within, it also gave a cosy feel and allowed for the possibility to be close enough to see the food being prepared. As with the previous Thai restaurant, there were Thai nationals working there, with signs that the Polish owner was married to a Thai woman. During my first visit there, I could see the owner preparing the food behind the counter, while consulting with Thai employees as to how spicy the food should be. However, that seemed to be the high point – since then the depth of the menu has shrunken massively. Originally, there was a huge variety of dishes with various levels of spiciness and ingenuity involved. However, this has since adapted, possibly to meet the demands of Polish taste buds. The menu now is much simpler with less available. It seems like it will be only be a matter of time before pizza, pasta and pierogi are introduced to the menu.
Back to Bombay
Indian cuisine is naturally prevalent in the British Isles and rightly popular as a result. However, once the white cliffs of Dover fade from view, Indian food tends to be a bit more difficult to find. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise to find a newly opened Indian restaurant within one of the underground caverns under Kraków’s streets. My first visit was on New Years Eve a few hours before the clock hit midnight. With a number of Indian waiters serving and offering us their best champagne, the service was excellent. I also found it was a recommendation of sorts to find an Indian family also eating there. The mango lassi drinks were refreshing and the curry I ordered tasted great. The first visit lead to a second and third. Then I returned the recommendation to my friend (mentioned earlier) and he called to make a reservation, only to find that they had closed for refurbishment “for an indefinite period”. It has since not reopened in the 4 months since getting that message.
The final occurrence which summarised my concern of such restaurants closing was during a visit to Warsaw a few months ago. Having seen many words of praise for the Fish and Chips restaurant in Warsaw, including on Wa-wa Jeziorki, I resolved to make a visit myself. However, it was further disappointment, as it turned out that the restaurant had closed, at least to the general public, as there seemed to be some wholesale options available. But it meant that I could not get to sample the best of British.
During this visit, I also had a short trip around town with Ian, and he showed one or two restaurant options, including Butchery & Wine, and some sushi options. It was telling though that he recommended an Asian restaurant called Lemongrass and as we drove by he realised that it too had closed, and even had a letter missing from the wording across the signage.
The End – Closing Down
I have taken it upon myself to work on visiting restaurants which are interesting and new, and as well as trying to make recommendations to friends and acquaintances, also inviting them along. I guess that many restaurants over-stretch and aim too big initially, leading to losses they cannot recover from. Supposedly, 30% of business fail within the first year, with 80% of small and medium businesses folding within 5 years. The restaurant industry can be notoriously difficult to break into (unless your surname is Gessler), so I guess further failure is to be expected. We can only hope further taste options will pop up to replace them.