Best local Indian Restaurant in Essex 2014
One of the finest Indian restaurants in Essex Caraway Indian Brasserie, in Gants Hill, has won the prestigious Best Local Indian Restaurant Award in the Restaurant Guides
The Hart Brothers
The Hart Brothers, who have made Quo Vadis and Fino into such success stories
74 Blackfriars Road London SE1 Tel: 020 7928 1111
Cost: about Â£40
I've always had a fondness for Polish cooking, especially when the weather gets colder. But I rarely think of going to an Eastern European restaurant and have foolishly treated it as a bit of a novelty. Now I can truly say that I wish there were more restaurants like Baltic.
Baltic is a 30-second stroll from the Southwark tube, past a rather dingy looking pub called The Ring (boxing, not JRR Tolkien) and it would be easy to pass the restaurant by as it looks like a rather smart cocktail bar, all polished concrete and moody lighting. But this is merely what occupies the listed Georgian town house frontage. The restaurant is in what must have been an added workshop behind, a very spacious A-frame room well divided with different levels, low partitions and semi-private dining niches. The dÃ©cor is fairly straightforward - white walls, wooden beams supporting the roof, office-style metal frame chairs - so highlights such as the amber chandelier really stand out.
As does the food. The daily-changing menu is extensive and it needs a large group to give it a good workout. Seared ox-tongue (not unlike salt beef) is served with sauerkraut, capers and apple - a good combination of sharp, salty and sweet. Kaszanka, Polish black pudding, is quite creamy and rich and well-foiled by pickled red cabbage. Danish carpaccio is aromatically spiced and served with mustard sauce. Pierogi consist of well made pasta traditionally filled with a satisfying mix of potato and cheese, served with sour cream. And a daily special of smoked eel was served with an apt combination of bacon, baby new potatoes and bacon.
Duck is properly roasted, still moist but mostly fat-free, paired with cabbage and apple. So, too, is the haunch of venison, the richness undercut by caramelised beetroot and sour cherries. Golonka, a braised pork shank, is served with sauerkraut and new potatoes, the flavours well-married. Roast stuffed pheasant is for large appetites, consisting of half a roast bird, with a sauce soured with cranberries. Seared swordfish with rocket and chilli dressing is a dish outside the Baltic style, but well-prepared.
It takes a hearty appetite to do three courses here, with such generous portions, but do make an attempt at desserts. Nalesniki are superior crÃªpes filled with sweetened curd cheese, nuts and raisins. Piegus, a chocolate, poppy seed and nut cake, is also supposed to be delicious. There is a good, mercifully short wine list that is fairly priced, as is the (much larger) list of cocktails and flavoured vodkas. And do as the menu suggests, and finish with the rose hip tea with Sliwovica vodka, which will send you out into the cold with a very warm feeling.