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Tim Atkin

The Wine-List Inspector

Poland’s first Michelin-starred restaurant offers a nice glass of Merlot with your hay

Tim Atkin | July/August 2014

Eating at Atelier Amaro can be challenging. As if securing a table wasn’t hard enough—Poland’s first Michelin-starred restaurant is the hottest address in Warsaw—the food is deliberately taxing, too. Each of the eight “moments” that make up the tasting menu uses three main ingredients. Depending on the season and Wojciech Modest Amaro’s whim, these may include beeswax, hay, pine needles or Swedish turnip.

Amaro’s talented sommelier, Pawel Bialecki, also enjoys confounding expectations. “I usually recommend a selection of Polish spirits and liqueurs with the menu,” he said when I asked for the wine list. Maybe he took pity on me, because we had only one glass of vodka all night (the 2009 Vestal potato vodka). It made a great match with herrings in onion juice.

The unconventional approach doesn’t end there. Amaro has no printed wine list: instead, diners are handed an iPad. Like the menu, which can have as many as four new dishes each day, the wine list is fluid—and not always updated. Bialecki alone knows what he has in the fridges.

For a restaurant of this quality, the list is small: only 150 wines, of which 80 are on site at any one time. The reason is lack of space. The dining room is small—there are only 30 covers—and wine has to compete with people and furniture for elbow room.

In this case, however, small is truly beautiful, with a well-chosen line-up of wines from France, Spain, Austria, Germany, the New World and especially (Catholic Poland’s favourite source) Italy. My only complaint is that the prices are on the steep side if you go by the bottle.

As well as that one vodka, we drank seven wines, all chosen by Bialecki. Not all of them worked—a 2011 Max Ferd Richter Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese was too sweet for a dish of duck’s tongues, goat’s cheese and beetroot—but the best combinations were sublime. I loved the bone-dry, passito-style, rose petal-scented 2010 Pravis L’Ora white from Trentino (240 zloty—£46—a bottle) with sweetbread, champignon and ginger, and the ripe, succulent 2010 Decoy Merlot, Sonoma County (not available by the bottle) with spare rib, apple and hay. Go with an open mind and you will enjoy the wines, the spirits, the liqueurs—and those eight unusual moments.

atelieramaro.pl; 320 zloty pp, including wine

Where else to go and what to drink

BUTCHERY & WINE
As the name suggests, meat and great vino are the, er, joint focus. 125 zloty pp
Best white: 2011 44 Winnice Dziedzic Sukcesja, Podkarpacie Your chance to try a Polish white wine—a light, aromatic, refreshing blend made from a combination of Muscat, Sibera and Bianca. But the red from the same producer is best avoided. 90 zloty
Best red: 2010 COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria Sourced from Sicily’s only DOCG, near Ragusa, this biodynamic blend of Frappato and Nero d’Avola is perfumed, complex and appealingly fruity. Its is fermented and aged in concrete vats, without any oak ageing, to retain its flavours. 220 zloty
butcheryandwine.pl

MIELZYNSKI WINES & SPIRITS
A first-class wine warehouse that also does tasty bistro food. 97 zloty pp
Best white: 2012 Santiago Ruiz O Rosal, Rías Baixas A zesty, pear and peach-like Spanish white made for grown-up wine drinkers. It’s based on the local Albariño grape, but with other native varieties to add further nuances. 76 zloty
Best red: 2012 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Clásico, Mendoza The reds made by this Italian-owned winery in Argentina achieved another dimension of flavour and texture in 2012. This is only their “basic” Malbec, but it’s delicious: supple and aromatic, with notes of violets and blackberry fruit. 49 zloty
mielzynski.pl

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