Słupsk’s catering business used to be famous all over the country thanks to the chain of Karczma Słupska (Słupsk Inn) restaurants. These restaurants were established in the 1970s and 1980s. In all of them, the décor and dishes were inspired by the tradition of Slovincians. Slovincians used to be an ethnic group of Kashubians inhabiting the vicinity of Łebsko and Gardno Lakes. A Slovincian settlement survives to this day in the village of Kluki. There is an impressive open-air ethnographic museum there. However, Slovincian cuisine has been reconstructed only in Słupsk – more precisely, at the Kluki Inn (Karczma pod Kluką). The restaurant was established in 1969, when quality catering based on local cuisine was hard to find in Poland. Standardized dishes reigned supreme all over the country, prepared according to the same recipe from a textbook for cooks and caterers. The restaurant in Słupsk constituted the only departure from the uniform taste of socialist Poland. The idea was such a success that in 1976 Słupsk Inns began to be opened everywhere else in the whole country. They functioned in places such as Warsaw, Poznań, Katowice, Opole, Bydgoszcz, or Lublin – as well as in Budapest, Leipzig, Chicago, and Toronto. Today, the chain of state-owned Słupsk Inns no longer exists, but the restaurant that gave rise to the chain has functioned uninterruptedly for nearly 50 years now. While in the vicinity of Słupsk, we could not fail to check what Slovincian cuisine tasted like.
The very building where the Inn is located promises a journey to regional flavours. The black-and-white half-timbered facade is covered with a thatched roof. This is the kind of structure that Slovincians living in this vicinity traditionally built. As we cross the inn’s threshold, a restaurant meets our eyes whose décor faithfully reflects the culture of Slovincians. Kashubian patterns can be seen decorating the tablecloths, the walls, and the attire worn by the staff. At the entrance, there is a board hanging that reads: “Our guest is our master. If you liked it here, please tell your friends about it. If our cuisine is not to your liking, please recommend us to your enemies.” An amiable waitress welcomes us at the entrance, offering a place in one of two rooms. We have a choice between a smaller, typically inn-like room, with décor that has not changed since 1969, with swings instead of bar stools at the counter, and with tables painted in Kashubian patterns – and a larger, more elegant restaurant room. We choose the smaller one, where we feel we are going to be “closer to tradition.”
It is time to start the meal. Slovincians used to live on the Baltic, so we order Baltic herring for an appetizer. Because we eat herrings often and like them very much, we have seen a variety of herrings on our plates before but we had never had a spiced herring – which we found in the menu of the Kluki Inn. We get a fairly large Matjes fillet, wrapped around spiced stuffing. Apart from a little onion, it contains thyme and juniper berries. The Matjes itself was not marinated in spiced pickle before, but the spiced stuffing is so intense that it is lends its taste to the fish as well. The dish is incredibly aromatic, tasty, and quite large for an appetizer. We wash the herring down with kvass, fermented at the Kluki Inn. Our appetite for a soup has already been sharpened.
We have at least four interesting soups to choose from. The ones we decide to try are nut soup with meatballs and Polish sour soup (żurek). Unfortunately, we try neither Smołdzino soup nor caraway soup. The former is based on sauerkraut juice and dried mushrooms, and we have heard plenty of good things about it. Caraway soup also sounds enticingly original, but we are unable to eat everything. When the nut soup is brought to us we are a little surprised, since we didn’t know what to expect. The soup resembles the cream of boletus mushrooms. It is delicate and velvety in taste, with a pleasant flavour of nuts. The bouquet of the dish is complemented by beef meatballs. On the whole, the soup is a very original and palatable composition, and we are not surprised that it continues to gain new enthusiasts. Polish sour soup lived up to our expectations as well . It was delicate, but had an aftertaste of leaven and horseradish. The well-balanced żurek owed its taste to smoked bacon and delicious regional sausage. It was served in a loaf of bread, baked especially for the Inn.
When it came to main courses, we chose trout (the Słupsk region is famous all over the country for trout farming) and Kluki-style roast. The fish surprised us with its size and taste. It was so big that it seemed almost too large for the plate. Fried straw-coloured and gold, it tasted delicious. Its meat was even slightly sweet. We asked the waitress about the recipe for its exceptional taste and found out that the fish is fried on a traditional kitchen stove fueled with coal and firewood. It seems this could not possibly influence taste – and yet, the trout was unrivalled. Kluki-style roast is a piece of well-stewed fillet steak served on a toast, with mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes, and bronzed potato dumplings. The meat and the sauce were exquisite, but what we remembered best was the taste of potato dumplings. Their sweetness and crispiness was comparable only with the trout. Perhaps this was thanks to the real fire that they are fried on, or perhaps to high-quality oil. At any rate, we were enchanted by that taste.
After the dinner, time came for dessert. In this case, our choice was clear and settled from the start. We felt like the famous pear Slovincian style. This delicacy used to be served in all the restaurants of the former Karczma Słupska (Słupska Inn) chain. It is pear from Kashubian orchards, boiled al dente and served with rice flavoured with cinnamon, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. The taste is unique, pleasantly spicy and sweet. In the 1970s, the stylization of the dish, with a burning sugar lump on top, must have shocked with its splendour. Today it brings back the memories of past years. However, the dessert is still redeemed by its taste.
The Kluki Inn is certainly a good place for everyone to visit when in the vicinity of Słupsk. The dishes and décor have lost none of their charm despite the passage of time. It is fortunate that not every restaurant must follow trends and fashions. Regional cuisine has enough to reccomend it and its taste is worth getting acquainted with.
Spiced herring – 13.50
Nut soup with meatballs – 14.00
Kluki-style roast – 38.00
Text and photos: Hubert Gonera
Karczma Pod Kluką
Kaszubska 22, Słupsk
phone./fax +48 59 84-23-469
[mapa]ul. Kaszubska 22, Słupsk[/mapa]