So what do I need to know about Ognisko?
Well for starters it's not new. The restaurant was opened two years ago by Jan Woroniecki who also owns the Baltic Bar and Restaurant in Waterloo. The building itself is much older - it's the Polish Hearth Club used by Polish emigres and officers during the war. What is new is the startlingly beautiful terrace at the back. This marqueed space, all billowing canvas and tea lights, looking over Prince's Garden is one of London's prettiest new alfreso spaces. The dining room inside is lovely too - but in the summer, you'll be fighting to get a table outside.
Where should I meet friends for a drink first?
There are plenty of possibilities down by the nearest tube (South Kensington) such as The Sampler or Casa Brindisa, but the separate bar at Ognisko overlooking Exhibition Road is the best bet - and worth noting as a handy bar if you're heading to this area for the museums or Albert Hall. There's an extensive cocktail list - we tried a well made Potecki vodka gimlet - and of course, all manner of house infused vodkas.
Who's it suitable for?
Who isn't it suitable for would be a better question. It would make a great date place as well as somewhere lovely to take your parents when they come into town. The terrace was full of different groups when we visited, including what looked like plenty of students being taken out for a slap up dinner by their parents.
Where should we sit?
If the weather's remotely decent you'll want a space on the terrace - there aren't many alfresco spaces in London where you don't have traffic going past. And if you are inside, a table near to the windows would be best.
And the food?
There are five sections to the menu even before you reach the main courses - appetisers, starters, dumplings, placki (potato pancake) and blinis. Perhaps foolishly we hit four of those - portions are generous here. Of what we had on the night, standout dishes were:
- Trsaki - warm pork crackling served with apple and horseradish sauce (£3.50 for a generous bowlful that were a million miles from the usual tooth-cracking British crackling)
- Blinis - we picked the ones with keta caviar (£10 for four warm, pillowy blinis with a decent serving of the caviar)
- Poached salt beef - thick slabs of soft salt beef served up with a beautifully cooked beetroot terrine (£17)
- Rhum Baba (£6) - an unbelievably light cake served with a homemade rhubarb compote and lashings of Chantilly cream. "I won't have any dessert" said my guest. She ended up eating half of this. It was wonderful.
What about the drink?
You can stick with the Eastern European theme if you want and enjoy a carafe of vodka rather than wine - we had a shot of their iced cherry vodka which was amazing. The wine list wanders pleasingly around Europe with some unexpected wines from places like Georgia and Hungary alongside a lot of old world choices. We went for a Hungarian Tokaij-Furmint which was very reasonably priced at £26.
If you're looking for somewhere comfortable and cosseting - then Ognisko is the place for you. Order blinis, dumplings and plenty of vodka - this is somewhere to mend a broken heart or regroup after a particularly bad day/year at work. A real find.
Ognisko is at 55 Prince’s Gate, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2PN. Telephone 020 7589 0101 Find out more about Ognisko
Hot Dinners were invited to Ognisko, prices are correct at the time of writing.