With international holiday plans grounded for the foreseeable future, feasting on cuisine from far-flung corners might go some way to easing that gnarly travel itch.
Last week it was the taste of Mediterranean sunshine at Olive at Hawker. Today let’s head to a cooler climate: Poland.
Polo Restaurant is an independent family business within the Polish White Eagle Club in leafy Turner. A shared entryway opens out into a delightful restaurant space, cozy with splashes of colour and greenery.
It feels like an Airbnb you would book for an authentic home experience somewhere in Europe, or the lounge area of a boutique hostel. Dozens of pictures, jig-sawed into vibrant collages, cover the wall. You want to spend the first five minutes just looking around.
Owners Fiona and Adam resonate with the word ‘eclectic’ when it comes to the feel of their restaurant.
“Yes, some pieces we got from the basement. The rest we picked up from op shops. We want to reduce our carbon footprint, so we didn’t go out and buy brand new. The space is about a collection, a feeling of comfort and home and family. You can dress up if you want or wear your tracksuit.”
Like so many in the food industry, the couple has had to dig deep during lockdown and become creative to keep their business afloat. With five young children at home due to the lockdown, it proved challenging.
“I’d been working from home, having the kids homeschooled while creating an entirely new business,” Fiona says.
“Just because you stop operating, doesn’t mean your expenses stop. We had to do something. There were some days I didn’t want to get out of bed. But it’s our social responsibility to ourselves, to those around us, to our staff, so I just had to get out of bed and get on with it.
“We stopped everything and took two weeks to work out what we could do. I put together an app that takes zero commission for online ordering. Some of our staff members became delivery drivers.”
That was just Phase One for this dynamic team. Phase Two was working out new ways of getting fresh Polish food into people’s kitchens.
“The biggest thing was converting our popular pierogi (Polish dumplings) into frozen pierogi that you can cook from home. It was a huge effort, just researching packaging. We are so aware of our environmental footprint. We found compostable packaging and bought big freezers so people can order frozen meals on the app. It has been amazing. The community showed us they love our food and they didn’t want to miss out just because they couldn’t come in and eat.”
During lockdown, owner and chef Adam has begun creating Polish baked goods.
“Adam bakes paczki, traditional Polish jam doughnuts every Wednesday and rye sourdough loaves every second Wednesday,” says Fiona. “They have become a vital part of our business.”
It thrills Fiona and Adam to welcome diners back into Polo.
What can you expect to see on their menu? Like so many cultures around the globe, dumplings are the ultimate Polish comfort food. Known as pierogi, Polo’s dumpling menu is imaginative and varied. Fiona also recommends Adam’s take on golabki – stuffed cabbage leaves and their popular veal schnitzel.
But today is about the dumplings. The Wild Boar pierogi come out on a rustic plate. Thin dough crisply fried on the outside, the sautéed meat inside is robust and flavoursome. It tastes like something between pork and beef. Fiona tells me, “The wild boar is a sustainably sourced meat from a local farmer’s land, where it is a pest.”
The Beetroot & Ricotta pierogi hero sweet earthy beetroot. Both plates come out garnished with caramelised cabbage, fried bacon pieces and dreamy creamy dollops of scordalia. These toppings take the deliciousness to a whole other level of comfort food heaven.
If you find regular jam-filled doughnuts too sweet, Adam’s paczki is for you. Bite through its golden crunch into the soft interior and find the ooze of tart plum jam that cuts through the sweetness.
Order your own Polish meal, baked goods or frozen meals to create at home on the app. We enjoyed preparing Polo’s frozen pierogi at home. It tasted awesome!
Polo Restaurant is located at 38 David St in Turner.
Dine-in and hot takeaway are available from Wednesday to Saturday from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm and for lunch every second Saturday.
Pick up pre-ordered meals from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm Wednesday to Friday.