Sometimes in life, you need a bit of magic, so I chase the white rabbit to move to the land of surprises and un-obviousness. I visit the White Rabbit (Biały Królik) restaurant in Gdynia.
Marta Dworak, marketing and sales manager, shows me around telling a bit about the history of the place:
“This 18th century palace originally belonged to the von Krockow family. It is one of the oldest buildings in Gdynia, currently under the protection of the local authority for historic preservation. During the war, it was the seat of the Gestapo, and after the war, High School No. 1 in Gdynia was here. We are still visited by the graduates of the school even now.”
The leitmotif of the place is “Alice in Wonderland”, the favorite childhood book of the owners, sisters Anna and Martyna Górski. Strolling through the corridors of the palace, looking at the amazing photographs on the walls or having a look at the crazy ballroom, I have no doubt that it is a magical place.
Chefs at White Rabbit (Biały Królik) restaurant in Gdynia
The magic in the kitchen of the White Rabbit restaurant is made by Rafał Koziorzemski, associated with this place from the beginning, being its chef for half a year. But before I write about the conversation with Rafał, I have to start from the beginning, that is, with the person who shaped this place and created its culinary character, and now he is its chief patron. I am talking about Marcin Popielarz, the winner of last year’s European edition of the San Pellegrino Young Chef. This is what he says about the restaurant:
“White Rabbit is a restaurant with Polish cuisine that we are rewriting.” What counts is creativity, arousing curiosity in the guest, looking for new products and getting outside of the box. We want our cuisine to be surprising, but still based on Polish ingredients. We reach for flavors of our childhood and old books, but we combine them differently and we create new dishes. “
White Rabbit is also open to plant-based cuisine. This year in May the largest vegetable fine dining dinner in Poland took place here as part of the Vegetarian Spring campaign. Marcin Popielarz admits:
“Vegetable cuisine is amazing. We should include more of it in our diet and stop treating vegetables only as an accompaniment to the main dish. We should use the creativity of people who deal with plant-based cuisine, and take advantage of their ideas or products. We always make sure we have 4 or 5 meatless dishes on the menu.”
The restaurant has its own garden and a cultivated field in Żuławy, so from June until the end of September the crops end up on guests’ plates. Rafał Koziorzemski, the chef of White Rabbit, also told me about the expeditions of the White Rabbit team in search of various culinary curiosities:
“We walk a lot through forests and meadows, looking for different cool things that we can collect. Our latest interesting find has been forest rhubarb or knotweed, which looks like bamboo, it is empty inside, and it tastes sour. I also discovered a post-German orchard with old apple varieties, and while visiting my homeland – I come from the Kujawsko-Pomorskie region, I discovered that rape with undeveloped blooms is great for pickling and tastes a bit like young broccoli “.
As the chef emphasizes, everything a guest gets on the plate is created with respect for the product. First, taste tests take place in the kitchen – accompaniments to the main hero of the dish are selected. We combine different textures of the ingredients. The flavors have to blend perfectly with each other, but also surprise the tester, so that he or she cannot immediately guess what he has on the plate. The dishes are a delicious puzzle to solve, a surprise. They should be controversial and uncommon, which is why the way it is served is also important. When creating the dish, the chef goes back to the flavors of his childhood, but he makes it in his own way. In the spring season, the hit were young burnt cabbages, a dish that his mum was eating when she was pregnant and which he remembered from his childhood. The boss also gets inspired when visiting marketplaces or speaking with local sellers who are willing to share their culinary knowledge.
The result of this culinary teaser is an unusual and surprising menu. In the richest culinary season (from June to October) it changes every month. The menu includes products at the time when they taste best.
Culinary surprises in White Rabbit (Biały Królik) in Gdynia
I love culinary riddles, so I easily get involved in Rafał Koziorzemski’s culinary performance. I start with smoked Kashubian duck tartar. The waiter serves the dish by slipping it from the duck’s body. In the box next to the tartare there are pickled mushrooms and egg yolk in breadcrumbs.
The second dish I try is a great soup made with baked parsley, and served with zander. The waiter in white gloves pours it out of a glass bottle – everything is a small show here, which is very easy to get involved in.
The dessert is most beautiful: cold cheesecake with rhubarb in many surprising varieties. It is beautiful and magical, and I do not feel like leaving this wonderland. I decide to come back with a friend to try the tasting menu.