Mercato Restaurant, sounded like a strange name for a restaurant in Gdansk. While Gdansk is known for its sea food, I most certainly wasn’t aware of any Spanish connections apart from the regular trade route ones. So I was most intrigued when we stepped in from the riverfront, and settled down in this elegant restaurant at the Hilton. Amidst the elegant grey, black and white (my favourite colours) interiors, and the sparkling tableware sat a little card, that explained this strange connection. Via Mercatorum, the ancient trade route that took goods – foods, spices and other exotic flavours to the rest of Poland only after Gdansk had had first dibs. What was even more intriguing, is that the Chef – Pawel Stawicki has stayed true to this history, using only that produce which would have been available to Gdansk kitchens in those times.
We had no idea our elegant, modern dinner at the Hilton was to turn into a history lesson, taking us through ancient Gdansk lore. Yet, as I read on, I learnt of the Lusatians and Pomerians who gave this restaurant Broad Beans, the German Brandenburgians whose noble cuisine give it the Baltic Salmon, the Mennonites from Holland who brought the Fagas Sheep, and the Polish, Kashubian and Prussian inhabitants who gave it the Duck. These four foods form the basis of the Mercato Restaurant’s logo, and a wonderful foundation to a meaningful dining experience.
I’ve gotten so carried away in the wonderful history (you know how I just love old stories of ancient lands and old exotic cultures) that I almost forgot to mention, walking in, out of the frost, we were warmly welcomed by our server who seemed as if she’d been waiting by the door just for us. Settling down beside the window, we watched the water of the rivers glistening behind the sheer veil of the dark curtains.
While I had taken a cursory glance at the tasting menu of the Mercato Restaurant, I preferred to let the evening roll out in a surprising order of events. And so we began.
The prettiest dish of the night, a blackcurrant sphere with celery caviar and a potato chip, were sharp, fresh, crisp and strong – a wonderful preparation of the palate for the fantastical performance that was to follow.
White Borscht with Boletus, oxtail and potato
I don’t think I’ve ever tried Borscht before, and this probably had spoilt me for life. A beautiful dumpling drizzled with a wonderfully smooth soup, and a green oil that floated for just a few seconds before mingling with the flavours. Divine. And it went really well with the Canella Prosecco Superiore from Valdobbiadene, Italy.
Veal Tongue with blackcurrant, gribiceh sauce, watercress
The next course was almost as if we were easing into firmer texture from the soup, and while veal tongue isn’t something we would normally have ordered, we definitely enjoyed it along with the Delicato Belle Ambience from California, USA
Sturgeon sous vide with celery, spring onion and pork rib sauce
Once again, I’d heard so much about the seafood of Gdansk, and I hadn’t tasted nearly enough fish, and I believe it was the first time we were tasting Sturgeon for the first time in our lives. We absolutely loved it! It was tender but creamy, heavenly in every bite. Rather heavy though, and by now we started going a bit slow, fuelled further by the Christian Moreau – Chablis, France.
Ham hock confit with cabbage, onion, ashes from roasted vegetables
This was perhaps among the more complex flavours of the night. The various layers of this dish slowly revealed them to us as the ham just slipped through the fork like butter onto our tongues. It isn’t often that one finds a non-wine item in a wine pairing, so we were both rather curious when small beer glasses landed up at our table. It was paired with a Starogdańskie Beer that I chose to skip (since I never drink beer), and Charles thoroughly enjoyed.
I stared down at the dessert bowl (half relieved, half disappointed) that it was a quinelle of blackcurrant sorbet. Until our server told us, oh, we’re not done yet. Super sharp and sour, this was a merely a palate cleanser, and definitely the strongest wake up call for the senses.
Chocolate with cherry and sunflower
The dessert was unlike any chocolate dessert I’ve had before, and the drink that it was served with was probably the most glamorous touch of the evening. I’m not really one for Hennessy XO, but Charles does enjoy it, so I watched in wonder as the trolley rolled around to our table and the pipette was pulled out.
My performance with the dessert was pitiful to say the least, (it was probably a combination of the food courses and the alcohol courses by this time) but I nearly died when yet another platter appeared at the table. The petit fours, in white chocolate vanilla and dark chocolate were tempting, and I’m glad I gave in to gluttony, even if it meant we tottered out like geriatrics after the meal. Very happy geriatrics.
Now normally, especially in a quaint tourist town like Gdansk, one would assume that a hotel restaurant is regular international cuisine and a bit touristy to say the least. One certainly wouldn’t imagine an award winning chef creating local inspired magic. If we were to return to Gdansk, we’d probably choose to stay at the Hilton just so we can eat at the Mercato Restaurant more often.
This post was made possible by the Mercato Restaurant at the Hilton Gdansk. Opinions as always, are our own.