by Kirsty Walker
What do you do when you’re getting UK beer fatigue? You know, when your mate tells you about this ‘amazing new bar’ and it’s the new Brewdog and you’ve tried everything on the menu, or when you go to a beer festival and you get IPA blindness and would give your drinking arm for anything darker than pineapple juice. Well you just leave the country, obviously.
Flights and hotels are still nice and cheap going to Warsaw and it’s perfectly compact as a capital city – you can walk from the centre to the historic Old Town in about twenty minutes and you’ll have seen a good chunk of what the city has to offer. In terms of beer they have some cracking pubs and bars where you can get a well priced drink and avoid the temptation to just neck a Carling because you’re away from home and you miss Eastenders and rain.
I was recently in Warsaw for four days and managed to squeeze in a lot of sightseeing and a great many nice beers – here’s some to get you started on your own trip.
PiwPaw (pronounced Piv Pav) – Zurawia 32-34
About 15 taps of absolute class. PiwPaw is probably smaller than your living room so get there before six pm even on a week night if you want to guarantee yourself a seat. It’s just behind the Novotel so it’s easy to navigate to even if you’ve just that moment arrived in the centre of Warsaw. This is the perfect place if you’re with someone who’s a bit picky about what they drink because they literally will have everything – I had a pint of Robinson’s Trooper which was on draught so no-one will get homesick drinking in here. Aside from the taps there are three massive fridges filled with all types of bottled beer.
There’s a queuing system so make sure you’re not jumping in front of someone by standing at the bar. Also they only have one toilet so there’s a long queue for that. And the pricing is about what you would pay over here, obviously a bit less for the domestic beers. But none of this should stop you as PiwPaw really is the premier beer drinkers’ venue in Warsaw.
Café Blah Blah – Nowogrodzka 22
Just a block away from Piw Paw is Café Blah Blah where they have eight taps on as well as fully stocked fridges. The menu was quite IPA heavy when I went but there were still some nice surprises such as Goldi Basset Extra Special Bitter which I had about eight of. The interior is what I imagine Polish hipsters are into – there’s a table and chairs in an alcove half way up the wall, which is quite cruelly frustrating when there’s standing room only. Again, only one toilet, I don’t what it is about toilet rationing in Poland but if you’ve got IBS you might want to stay at home.
Café Blah Blah also sells food and has space to sit at the bar as well as a mezzanine so it always looks too full but usually isn’t.
Bar Warsaw (Dive version) – opposite Miodowa 3
In the historic Old Town of Warsaw is a large place called Bar Warsaw de Luxe which serves slightly odd but very satisfying Polish tapas such as giant potato dumplings filled with mince. It’s very attractive and has outdoor seating where you can look out on the square in the midday sun. Now when you see this place, walk on by. Keep going. Around the corner and opposite the Irish pub you will see another smaller Bar Warsaw which is infinitely more cute and memorable and you should go there instead. It looks tiny but it has an upstairs area, which is also tiny, but it’s got a massive mural which is halfway between 1950s Paris and Soviet Realism. There are vinyl records stuck to the walls and a lot of dusty couches and there is table service. A half litre bottle of Ciechan was the equivalent of £1.50 and they had a small selection on draught as well as quite a few bottles.
Cool Cellar Bar which I wish I knew the name of – Old Town Marketplace
In the Old Town Marketplace is a cellar bar which advertises itself with just an A-board outside. The door remains closed, but if the board is there, go in and sample what it was like in the Cavern or any number of underground smoky sixties venues. In Poland you can smoke in bars if they feel like letting you, so if you really want to subject yourself to such a thing even for nostalgia’s sake this bar has got you covered. There are weird witch puppets hanging from the rafters and they serve from a tiny corner bar which has one pump – Warka – and a fridge about the size of yours at home. Still it’s a quirky little place, the barman is very friendly, and for some reason they put on Polish national costumes at some point to drum up business.
The British Bulldog Pub – Aleje Jerozolimskie 42
Now hear me out on this one, I can imagine you sitting there rolling your eyes and picturing me with my union jack shorts on, loudly asking for ‘ein beerski’ and calling all the barmen Jerzy because that’s the only Polish name they know,, but the British Bulldog has an excellent beer selection and is very big so if you have a large party, some of whom may be having culture shock because there’s no kebab house around, then this is a nice halfway house.
On the pumps, aside from Bishops Finger and Guinness, are Grimbergen Blond, Dubbel and Tripel, or the Holy Trinity as I like to call them. The food is also very good here and there’s an old red phone box to play in if you get really homesick.
During your trip to Warsaw why not stay at the excellent Residence St Andrews Palace? They didn’t pay me to say that but they did let me check out an hour late.