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It’s a hot, summer day. This is probably the coolest time to visit the Las i Woda restaurant at the Notera Hotel in Charzykowo, the heart of the Tuchola Forest. There are sailboats and motorboats on Charzykowskie Lake, children are splashing near the shore. The lake’s cool waters are tempting, but before I dive in, there are other exciting things ahead of me! One of them is a tasting session of the summer menu, created by the chef of the Las i Woda restaurant, Maciej Hippler.

I had the pleasure of meeting Maciej a few years ago while writing my first text about the restaurant which he used to run. He is a chef with more than a dozen years of experience and a constant flow of creativity, which makes him the best person to talk to about the art of cooking. As a member of the national Culinary World Cup team, he keeps up to date with culinary innovations, but at the same time he doesn’t forget his roots, drawing inspiration from the culinary riches of the Tuchola Forest.

Summer menu at the Las i Woda restaurant

Today, I’m going to try the summer menu. Before we go into the detail, let’s see what chef Maciek says about the work on the new menu:

“Our menu is fluid. We’ve moved away from seasonally replacing the entire card, because it’s a difficult logistical operation, a challenge in every detail. Our current formula is a card that gradually shifts with the onset of a new season. As a result, we basically change a dish every week. This allows us to fit perfectly into the middle of the season for a particular product.”

Another novelty is a separate menu for vegans and vegetarians. According to Maja Lubomańska, manager of the restaurant and hotel, “this is a result of the growing interest in meatless and protein-free cuisine. Over the years, the number of meatless options on the menu has been increasing. Like any other dish, these too are firmly rooted in seasonality and locality.”

And this locality is a feature that strongly sets apart the Las & Woda restaurant from others. I am very impressed by the fact that the chef really tries to reduce the distance any ingredient travels before making it to the plate. Seasonality and locality are nice-sounding slogans, but they are difficult to implement. However, it is not an impossible task! It certainly comes in handy to know the surroundings, the local-grown crops and neighbouring farms. To have close relationships with suppliers. The chef comes from the Tuchola Forest, so he is very familiar with all the local culinary trails.

So, we begin the journey through the surrounding forests and lakes, but without moving from the table – it will be a journey of flavours. And so a plate full of juicy, fresh greens lands on the table. Tiny asparagus from a local supplier, young spinach in a light dressing, and pickled onions are a wonderful complement to the main course – duck with tender broad beans and sweet cherries in a wonderful plum sauce.

But before I try the main course, before me appears the exquisite guinea fowl broth with mashed potatoes, chanterelles and fried crispy oyster mushrooms. A beautiful symphony of flavours! Crispy oyster mushrooms, sweet chanterelles and velvety puree is a perfect combination with the broth rich with thyme and lovage. A dish seemingly simple, but revealing. A combination of broth and potatoes isn’t an obvious and common one. For me, it’s also a trip back to my childhood days, when my mother would make beef broth and serve it with potatoes.

I also try local zander served with a mousse of young carrots (crazy delicious!) with lots of spring vegetables – new potatoes, cauliflower, cucumbers. The vegetables are so beautifully composed that even without the fish, they could pose as a complete dish.

And finally, dessert – velvety cheesecake with rhubarb. We eat it on the terrace, with a beautiful view of the lake. I decided that the delicious lemonade will taste best on the pier at the hotel beach!

But this is not the end of the attractions that await outside. Right next to the restaurant’s garden shines a food truck with a neon “Flavours of Summer” sign. Chef Maciej tells us that summer flavours are served there, namely… fries and grilled cheese baguettes! If it crossed your mind for a moment that these would be the mundane “grilled bread” and fries, let me correct you. The fries are made from scratch, and are served with a generous topping of Parmesan cheese and chives (you can also choose between bacon bits, mushroom salt and homemade sauces). I’m captivated by the fact that the potatoes here are cut with the skin on, making the fries more perfect in flavour (yes, I love fries and could write a dissertation on them).

And now a bit about baguettes. This doesn’t quite capture the delight of the crispy outside and soft inside of the yeasty dough on Italian pastry (similar to focaccia, but softer) with a variety of toppings. There are two sauces to choose from – tomato or cream – and then you choose a version with or without mozzarella and seasonal toppings: asparagus, chanterelles, seasoned pork neck, local tagine, tomatoes. I go for spinach and mozzarella, and then béchamel and chanterelles. It is wonderful and simple!

Chef Maciek is happy to leave the restaurant kitchen for a while and go out to the people, thanks to Flavors of Summer. So, if you feel like chatting with the chef of the Las & Woda restaurant, visit the food truck. You might get lucky and run into the chef himself! And if not, the taste of the baguettes will surely brighten up your day.

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