Funny old place is Warsaw: one moment you’re standing amid communist concrete and boisterous traffic, the next you’re plunging down a zig-zagging pathway cut into steep, sloping parkland. At least, you are if you’re on the way to Zielony Niedźwiedź, an upmarket sanctuary in leafy Park Beyera. Just minutes from daily drudge of Jerozolimskie, it’s here that you’ll learn to breathe once again: to breathe Poland as it thrashes in the glory of its annual golden autumn.
Is this setting important? Absolutely so. With so much importance awarded to the provenance of the product, it’s apt that the location feels spiritually aligned with the brilliance of nature: from inside chic, dark interiors, windows gaze upon feasting squirrels and tumbling foliage. With October sunlight slashing through the trees, the impression is of being somewhere isolated and hidden and even a little secret. Just by being here, you feel the world’s a good place.
There is a fancy streak, but consider that a trimming: a nice frilly extra that simply highlights skill. The aesthetics are just the finishing touch to a menu that aims to realize the maximum potential of every ingredient. Cooperating closely with farmers, producers and everyone else along the way, it’s a kitchen that looks to pay homage to seasonal produce and regional traditions.
From the starters, peaks are scaled with Mazurian-farmed snails in a subtle white wine sauce, the earthy goodness accented by additions of perilla, pear, chamomile and young onion. For mains, a seasoned Red Angus Rib-Eye thumps down accompanied by young potatoes and a variety of pickled vegetables, while opposite, a baked pumpkin arrives in a riot of vivid color: Koryciński cheese, fried chanterelles and dogwood mousse add to the pleasure.
And then dessert, a course where Zielony Niedźwiedź consistently exceed all expectations: for the Insider, a creamy wedge of cheesecake with seasonal fruit, and a slab of rich dark chocolate cake with quince, young hazelnut and pickled Jerusalem artichoke. These are eaten quickly for risk of having to share. Where dessert is concerned, words such as ‘hands off’ and ‘get your bloody own’ become common refrains.
Associated with Zielony Niedźwiedź from the beginning, chef Wojciech Deres has left the ship to travel the world and seek new inspirations. Stepping into his shoes is Oliwia Bernardy, a chef that started out in Dortmund in an Italian family-run restaurant. Working with ingredients imported directly from Sicily it was here, she says, that she learned the value of good produce.
Returning to Poland to join the country’s gastro revolution, it was under her hand that Jung Und Lecker won Gazeta Wyborcza’s coveted Knajpa Roku title in 2013, with the chef then later leaving to lead the line at the acclaimed design hotel Poziom 511. Premiering at press time, her new menu promises to perfectly slot in with the Bear’s fundamental philosophy.
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