Do you know what Gdański Bowke means? Of course, it is also the name of one of Gdańsk’s most interesting restaurants, located in Długie Pobrzeże (Long Riverbank, a riverside promenade along the Motława) – but historically the expression used to have a very curious meaning related to Gdańsk folklore. Bowke (or Bówka) was the word for a cutpurse and troublemaker from the port district of Gdańsk. Such a character could be found in taverns, which he would frequent to enjoy drinking all kinds of liquor. You can read about Danziger Bowke in Günter Grass’s prose, for example. The legend of Bowke is also the source that the “Beer Inn Gdański Bowke” restaurant draws on. Does it do this with skill and does it succeed in transporting us into the atmosphere of old Gdańsk’s port? Read and judge for yourselves.
Just as we cross the threshold of the restaurant, a pleasing sight meets our eyes: stylishly dressed waitresses wearing regional costumes, photos and advertisements from pre-war Gdańsk, a bar with a generous store of regional beverages, and heavy wooden tables and benches as well as comfortable-looking cushions. The restaurant’s décor obviously draws on the history of Gdańsk, but it does so with a rare ease. As a result, we never hesitate and immediately feel that the Bowke is a place for us.
Looking around a little bit, we notice that the restaurant has a broad array of regional alcoholic beverages bearing the brand name of Bowke. They include: unfiltered and unpasteurised barley beer, manufactured using craft methods by a small family-owned brewery, vodka distilled exclusively from Kashubian potatoes, and a curious praline filled with Gdańsk Goldwasser liqueur. All of these had been produced in Pomerania, to the restaurant’s special order. Besides, liqueurs are also made here according to old Gdańsk recipes, and the barman prepares countless variations of drinks based on traditional beverages. A true Bowke would feel at home in this place.
Menu in Gdański Bowke
What also gives a lot of pleasure is looking through the restaurant’s stylish Menu. Its form is reminiscent of a pre-war Gdańsk newspaper. Inside it, we will find not only advertisements from the epoch but also instruction on how to gorge yourself on Mahandel – one of the cult Pomeranian liqueurs. Guests are offered a choice of breakfasts, an array of signature sandwiches, as well as compositions of soups and main courses that sound intriguing. The Bowke’s culinary offer is universal enough for everyone to find something suitable for themselves, regardless of appetite or time of day.
We don’t really know what to help ourselves to, but since dinner time is approaching we decide to have a two-course meal. Because we feel like a soup, we settle on Baltic salmon soup according to the recipe of “Gdańsk Fishermen.” The other options included pickled cucumber cream with bacon and goulash soup with veal. All the soups at the Bowke are served in a very original way – namely, in enamelled pots on a wooden mat. Our choice turns out to be spot-on. The soup is a joy to both the eye and the palate. The fish stock contains vegetables cut into matchsticks. There are quite many delicious pieces of salmon in the pot, too. We liked the idea of serving soup in pots very much, and we believe that this form of serving made the tasty dish even more attractive.
When it comes to the main course, we feel like tasting either fish or game, the latter being the speciality of the Bowke’s Chef, Marcin Faliszek.
We consult a waitress about the choice and receive two recommendations: catfish and wild boar. We’ve had no particular experience before as regards catfish. It is said to be Europe’s largest freshwater fish, and, what is more, one commonly found in Kashubian lakes, where the specimens served at the Bowke come from. Wild boar dishes can be better or worse: if the chef knows how to prepare game, the meat can taste delicious. Rumour has it that Marcin knows what to do with it, and so we decided to follow that suggestion.
In a moment, a smiling waitress wearing a beautiful regional costume brings us the dishes. The catfish has been baked and served on a bed of smoked potato purée, accompanied by roasted beets. However, the basis of the composition on the plate is emulsion made of beets, ginger, and apple juice. The dish is complemented by truffle sauce, served to us by the nice waitress, Asia. Taste-wise, catfish turns out to be a discovery; the extraordinarily delicate meat with an unusual consistency crunches pleasantly. The additions on the plate blend in the deep aroma of smoked potato. The dish is consistent, with subtle flavours and an interesting finish in nearly every bite. The aftertaste of smoked potato and truffle lingered for long. The tasting of wild boar turns out interesting as well. Roasted pink in the middle, the loin was served to us on a bed of little mint-flavoured dumplings, with red wine-based sauce and caramelized parsnip. The entire composition is extremely fresh and light. Particularly the little dumplings with a refreshing aftertaste and the crunchy parsnip give game a lighter quality. The meat doesn’t dominate at all – it is rather a very necessary element in the mixture of flavours that Chef Faliszek prepared for us.
After the two-course dinner, we have room for dessert any more. Yet, we cannot resist the Bowke’s genius loci and ask the waitress to recommend liqueurs, which are to be the final element of our feast. Asia points at Bar Chef Marcin Deka, who comes up to our table after a moment, with a silver tray and two glasses . Pointing at the drinks, the barman says that, especially for guests, he prepares liqueurs that he calls krambambuli. The recipe is taken from the archives of Gdańsk burghers. Its ingredients include between ten and twenty herbs and spices, such as cinnamon, pepper, caraway, anise, or juniper. We taste two versions of Marcin’s liqueurs. In the darker one, we recognize cinnamon, pepper, and cloves – it is quite dry. In the lighter one, the pleasant aroma of almonds, lemon zest, and pineapple juice can be felt. Both are an exquisite ending of our visit to the restaurant of “Gdańsk troublemaker.”
The Bowke is certainly worth stopping by – and if you do stop by here, it is impossible to say no to one of Gdańsk’s typical alcoholic beverages. The restaurant is a place appointed and decorated with rare taste and consistency. Attention to atmosphere and detail can be felt here in the form of a pleasant ambience, resulting from both the warmth of the Bowke’s staff and the professionalism of its chefs. We recommend the flavours and the ambience.
Długie Pobrzeże 11
phone.: +48 58 380 11 11