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This is an undiscovered gem. The jewel in the crown of an
otherwise unpromising West London street. One does not normally mention
the Goldhawk Road and fine cuisine in the same breath but here it is
and it’s outstanding.
Tatra is a smart restaurant that deserves to be full. It is just a few
yards from the bustle of Shepherds Bush Green. It is simple and
contemporary. The interior is in fact designed by one of the
proprietors, Sylwia Judycka. She confesses to not being a trained
restaurant designer but has done marvellous work transforming the space
from iffy red and white to restful and sophisticated mushroom tones.
Notice the abstract art on the brick wall? That’s another of Sylwia’s
This is a light restaurant during the day. High ceilings still display
hints of Victorian moulding. There are candles in niches which change
the ambiance from daytime restful retreat to night-time buzz. This is a
place that is at its liveliest in the evenings, and on Sundays when
it’s full of Poles out to enjoy a good family meal with tastes of home.
The menu is an Eastern European culinary tapestry. There are dishes
aplenty from Poland, but Russia and Hungary are also represented. There
is even a nod to Siberia. There is comfort writ large on every page but
this is classy comfort rather than nursery food.
You need know nothing of Eastern European food to find a satisfying
meal here. The staff are more than happy to lead you through the dishes
giving good advice about the origin and ingredients of each one. The
advice of this reviewer would be to come with an appetite.
We were visiting a Polish restaurant so vodka seemed a good idea. There
is an extensive vodka menu and that was no surprise but that list
includes a good number of home-infused vodkas. No, the management don’t
buy unmarked bottles from a bloke behind the Shepherds Bush Empire. The
chef makes these himself with each one being lovingly babysat for two
months till it reaches its age of maturity. We had pear vodka and it is
to be recommended. It’s made with fresh fruit and captures the very
essence of pear flavour. This vodka tastes more like a pear than does
the real thing. It is served in a frozen thick glass to add even more
Polishness to the proceedings, as if that were necessary.
While we waited for our starters to arrive we were presented with a pot
of spread and bread. The aforementioned paste was made from lard. OK, I
have probably just lost half my readers but I will tell those of you
remaining that this is a taste from the past. Hands up who remembers
bread and dripping? If you do then you will find this to be equally
delicious. For those poor unfortunates who have never known that joy
then I can tell you that this Polish counterpart is a light and almost
creamy spread with subtle hints of onion and apple. I loved it all
those years ago and I grew up to be a restaurant reviewer, so let’s not
have any prejudices here.
So we ordered our starters. I knew dumplings were big in Eastern
Europe. That is to say they are very popular and I assumed they would
be big. My Siberian version, Pelmeni, were something of a surprise. One
would expect Siberians to be tucking into football-sized creations
after a day mowing the tundra but these were small and delicate like
hexagonal ravioli. The filling was pork and veal, and the sauce was of
garlic butter and spring onions which was plate-lickingly delicious. My
guest had Russian dumplings which were of a light and flaky pastry with
a flavour of braised onion and bacon. These looked very attractive and
were proclaimed to be moreish.
I ordered Leczo which is a rich goulash with dumplings. These
particular dumplings were different from the starters. They were not
filled but were the lightest and most melting of any dinner dumpling
you could imagine and a bit like a potato gnocci in texture. They were
a foil for the vibrant stew of tender meat and peppers. The perfect
meal for a cold British winter.
My guest ordered Golonka, pork shank with braised cabbage and potatoes.
This is a striking dish of mahogany hue and fit for any hearty eater,
or two modest ones. The meat had been slowly cooked and could be eased
from the bone with the merest breeze from an opening restaurant door.
The cabbage, although braised, was in no way slimy (a culinary term oft
used to describe British cooked leafy vegetables). It had bite and was
a good companion to the ample quantity of meat.
It’s difficult to focus on dessert when one has so over-indulged in
previous courses but we were tempted by the knowledgeable and charming
waitress into trying a slice or two of Polish Christmas cake. This was
nothing like a British Christmas cake of brick-like consistency with
perhaps a marzipan reindeer as garnish. This was a roll of light pastry
filled with a sweet poppy-seed paste. It was delightful and was helped
down by a good cup of tea. It’s not a usual menu item but well worth
trying at this time of year. I would recommend the crèpe filled
with raisins, almonds, rum and cream cheese for the other months.
You should visit Tatra now before it becomes famous, moves to Mayfair,
triples the prices and takesbookings for weeks in
advance. The husband and wife team of chef Robert Kusy and Sylwia
Judycka (who seems talented at everything else) are passionate about
their restaurant and it shows. It shows in the thoughtful menu. It
shows in the attention to detail. It shows in their choice of staff,
and above all it shows in the quality of food. They are not managers.
Tatra is Robert and Sylwia's dream. It’s their business and it is bound
to do well. This is one of my top three restaurants reviewed in 2009.
Restaurant review: Tatra Restaurant
24 Goldhawk Road, Shepherds Bush, London W12 8DH,
Monday - Friday
Lunch 12am - 4pm, Dinner 6pm-11pm,
Saturday 12am - 11pm, Sunday 12am - 10pm
Visit Tatra here.