When Polo Restaurant operators Fiona and Adam Veikkanen announced they would finish up at the Polish White Eagle Club in January, the question remained – who would fill the pierogi–sized hole in the Inner North’s dining scene?
The Veikkanens hinted that they might open a different restaurant elsewhere in Canberra, but were in no rush to do so.
The Polish White Eagle Club has been operating since 1973 and has been a popular live music venue for more than ten years. Their proudly pokie-free bar boasts an impressive selection of European beers and spirits.
Club coordinator Andrew Bajkowski says the club has been looking for a chef to take over the restaurant, but has been keen to find someone who shares their values.
“We’ve had a lot of interest. It’s just really finding the person who’s actually going to suit the atmosphere of the club,” Mr Bajkowski says.
The good news is that they do have a potential licensee who may take over soon. In the meantime, the club’s board members have stepped up to keep the community well-fed.
Club President Eva Buchaniec has been busy in the kitchen with other volunteers preparing dishes like pierogi and Polish hot dogs.
“A Polish hot dog is not just a little frankfurt stuck in there with a bit of tomato sauce!” she says. “We’ve got the proper sausage in there, a bit of fried onion in there, a bit of sauerkraut and a special [horseradish] sauce.
“It’s like a deluxe hot dog!”
Ms Buchaniec says they are hoping to add Polish doughnuts to the menu as well.
Mr Bajkowski says it will likely take several weeks for the prospective licensee to move in, but the club was eager to provide “something simple” just on Friday and Saturday nights in the meantime, and the club bar will continue to operate as usual.
Ongoing COVID-19 restrictions have limited the opening hours and operation of the club, but there was a sense of normality on the weekend with the return of the popular Continental Deli and activity in the kitchen.
The club also ran a fundraising barbecue for the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and many club members came dressed in the colours of the Ukrainian flag to show their support for the community.
Members of the local Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Turner came to the fundraiser, and the club was full of friends and neighbours catching up and sympathising with those worried about their families in Ukraine.
Ms Buchaniec says there is a kinship between the Polish and Ukrainian communities in Canberra that stretches back to the historical relationship between the two countries.
“Look, we’re neighbours [in Canberra] as we are in Europe: right on the doorstep. If you go through the background and the history, the border used to move this way and the border used to move that way,” she says.
“You’ve got to help your neighbours.”
Ms Buchaniec and Mr Bajkowski say the club will organise more fundraising events soon, describing this as “the first of many”.
To stay up-to-date with further fundraisers at the Polish White Eagle Club, or developments in the restaurant, follow them on social media or check their website.
For now, a limited menu will be available on Friday and Saturday evenings only.