Whenever I travel abroad I’m always amazed by the quality of food on offer at local hole in the wall spots. Usually these places are untouched by the hand of tourism and can be found at the bottom of some shifty looking street, where curious glances from locals can be interpreted as surprise, that you said tourist, decided to stray from the beaten path and into a place they call home. And whenever I come back from such experience I always promise myself that’ll do the same thing once I get back on home turf, but as serial procrastinators will know too well, saying you’ll do something and actually following through with it are two completely different things.
Ever since I moved to Stratford I’ve found myself exploring more of my surroundings than I ever did when I used to live at home with my Mum in Canning Town. In terms of numbers I guess there’s far more restaurants – proper sit and eat places where lamented menus and Poundland LED candles are the norm – opposed to the ten-a-penny chicken shops you’ll find along Barking Road. And the great thing about Stratford is that such a cultural melting pot; that literally within a stone’s throw of my flat I can sample foods from Thailand, Indian and Brazil for about £15 per-head. Pretty cool!
On this occasion we decided to sample the culinary delights of Poland, at this great little café/restaurant called Londek. I’m not the least familiar with Polish food; the closest I’ve come to it was either in Berlin or Prague where I’m sure there’s some sort Germanic influence in their love for a boiled potato or two.
You hear a lot of talk of ‘authenticity’ especially if you binge watch episodes of Munchies on YouTube, but usually that just means a bare bones menu and basic ingredients. Or better yet a sort of call action in response to the often over-elaborate self-indulgence of the restaurant glitterati. That’s all well and good, more power to them, but justifying your average burger & chips meal as authentic because the guy making it loves a burger or that meat was bought from a butchers around the corner is neither good reflection of taste or legitimacy. Food is either good or bad; no amount buzz word drenched hyperbole can hide that fact.
Londek is as honest and authentic as it comes. The majority of the menu is written in Polish with brief translations in English to accompany most of the meals. But don’t expect anything too detailed and if you’re really worried about what you’re going to order, there are pictures on the wall, similar to Chinese takeaways, but if you’re feeling really adventurous you could always ask the friendly waitresses, who helped us pick out what we wanted.
After much deliberation – on my part, I always revert to type when it comes to ordering – we agreed to start with a plate of () which is basically a Polish dumplings, stuffed with all manner of things, the ones we ordered were half cheese and onion and half beef. They were a bit bland for my liking and I’m not the biggest fan of potatoes substituting pastry dough. But for £8 you get a big plate of 8 fairly large dumplings.
For our mains we opted for a 2 schnitzels, 1 was Chicken with Potatoes (ha) and the other Pork with French Fries; both were delicious and considering they come up to about £9 a plate it was a really good deal. All in all my first Polish experience was a pleasant one and considering Londek is 100 meters away from my flat it’s safe to say I’ll be visiting again for a cheat day binge!
Score – 7/10