Sunday 7 June 2015

Sausages & Cheesecake: Hotel Breakfast in Poland

I've been in Poland just over four weeks now on my current Lonely Planet assignment, so I've eaten almost 30 breakfasts. 

Barring a few nights in self-catered apartments, these breakfasts have been Polish hotel spreads. And I do mean "spreads". Even at three-star hotels, there tends to be a diverse array of foodstuffs to choose from.

Now I'm in the eastern city of Białystok, staying at the four-star Hotel Branicki, the breakfast plenty has been nudged up another notch. So I thought I'd used this hotel's selection as a rough guide to Poland's hotel breakfast spreads.

First, the hot dishes. Under the cover on the right, we have boiled sausages, scrambled eggs and bacon. 

The bacon is atypical of a Polish hotel breakfast, and only shows up at places that have a lot of international guests. It's that streaky brittle kind of bacon, as favoured by North Americans.

The scrambled eggs at this hotel are slightly atypical too, in that the white and yolks are thoroughly blended. In Polish scrambled eggs, or jajecznica, you usually see a lot of white among the yellow.

Over on the left are breakfast cereals, with bowls of various dried fruits to add to them. Most places I've stayed give you two or three cereals: corn flakes and muesli, with possibly a wild card involving chocolate. Invariably, there are also individual containers of yoghurt.

The big surprise at this hotel lies beneath the second bain marie. Many hotels will provide a sweet hot dish in the form of naleśniki (crepes) with a white cheese filling. Instead, here there are these serniczki

They're translated at the table as "white cheese pancakes", but I've never seen them in this form before - they're basically little nuggets of sweetened white cheese. Either the chef here is creative, or they're borrowed from one of the nearby neighbours: Belarus or Ukraine, perhaps.

Around the other side of the table is the mainstay of any Polish breakfast: the cold meats, cheeses and breads. Even at a basic hotel where there isn't a hot dish, you'll find an assortment of these items. They often come, as you can see here, with various salad vegetables (sometimes pickled) and other side dishes.

The cheeses are a selection of fairly bland yellow cheeses, a similarly tasteless blocky white cheese, and twarożek, a soft white cheese blended with chives which is absolutly spectacular. 

It's usually translated as "cottage cheese", but it's a thousand times tastier that the dull, watery stuff I know under that label. This cheese is thick and intensely flavoured, very "cheesy" but with a distinct contribution by the chives. Great stuff.

Over in the corner, past the coffee cups and juices, is a selection of fruit and cakes. Personally I can't think of anything worse to have for breakfast, but I am notoriously without a sweet tooth. Poles do great cakes; so if you fancy cheesecake for breakfast, knock yourself out.

What surprised me to the other side of the coffee machine was this samovar. This is the first time I've ever seen a samovar at a Polish hotel breakfast, so I assume it's there for the benefit of the guests from nearby Belarus and Russia who drop into Białystok for a stay. It certainly looks impressive.

Finally, off to the left of the cakes, I noticed another first. I'd never been offered sparkling wine and strawberries at a Polish hotel breakfast buffet before, but well, why not?

It is strawberry season in Poland, after all. Can't let them go off.

Note: I paid for my own stay at the Hotel Branicki.

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