161 Glebe Point Road Glebe, New South Wales 2037
|Opening hours||Daily 6-11pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Mastercard, Visa|
|Phone||02 9660 1242|
It's said, pre-drink, as a toast to health. I'm certain I've got the pronunciation down pat - nah zdro-vee-ah - and then I test it out on my Polish sister-in-law. She bursts out laughing. Oh well, no one will know the difference after a few toasts, right?
If that's the celebratory kind of night you're after, this popular, comfortingly folksy-looking restaurant has the goods. Along with the nearly 20 vodkas on offer, plus vodka-based cocktails, is a good selection of Polish beers, wines (mostly Aussie), mead and mulled wine.
The latter is warmed at the table over a candle, the heat enhancing the drink's clove and ginger spices. It's a drink designed to get you through a harsh winter, but by our wussy standards is perfect for almost any day in Poland, and sub-20-degree nights in Sydney.
Food-wise, the all-weather, all-occasion staple is pierogi. The menu wisely includes four types of these crowd-pleasing dumplings, three veg and one meat, each served boiled or fried. Our pick are the potato- and cheese-filled pierogi, fried (so they're golden and a little chewy) and topped with sour cream and onion.
The words ''pork crackling'' in the description of smalec makes the dish too irresistible to pass up. But there's no crackle, it's more of a spread - similar to French rillettes. The fatty pork, apple and onion mix is served in a jar, with could-be-fresher triangles of rye bread on the side. The accompanying pickled cucumber makes a perfect counter to the spread's sweet, rich flavour.
Convivial chatter rises in volume as the night progresses, but the smiling floor staff don't skip a beat. The noise and setting - sturdy timber tables, cane-basket-covered lights, huge faux castle doors on one wall and Polish folk art dotted about the room - combine to build expectations for a hearty meal, and the mains fit the bill.
Feast on schnitzel, hunter's stew or potato pancakes, or try kurczak - deboned chicken leg, chargrilled and succulent, served with horseradish sauce of just the right creaminess and kick. On the side are beautifully nutty buckwheat and a sweet carrot slaw.
We end with baked cheesecake, warm and crumbly, topped with blackcurrants. It's one of my sister-in-law's favourites - and if she admits my pronunciation is spot-on, we might be back for another slice, on me.
Do … make a booking, this place is popular.
Don't … underestimate how filling the food is.
Dish … potato and cheese pierogi, fried, with sour cream and onion.
Vibe … conviviality, comfort-food and a dose of kitsch.
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food under $30 is on sale now at selected newsagencies, bookshops and at The Sydney Morning Herald online shop (thesmhshop.com.au).
Correction: The original version of this story listed the pierogi as "Russian-style". This is incorrect and has been amended in the text.