To launch the blog I took a trip around a few of my favourite Polish places in London. This is not an exclusive list, there are more places, but a few to remind you what is worth visiting.
So, from left to right:
The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum
Home to everything you wanted to know about all of the Polish Divisions of the Armed Services, with fascinating collections showing the influence of Polish culture on the world and in particular during the Second World War. Visiting as a teenager, I could not help but be impressed by the huge tent hung in the atrium, which belonged to the Turks pushed back from Vienna by Jan Sobieski in the 17th Century – I used to think it belonged to Kara Mustafa, the Turkish leader himself!
20 Princes Gate, Knightsbridge, London SW7 1PT
Open Tuesday to Friday 14.00 to 16.00 or the first Saturday of the month from 10.00 to 16.00
Embassy of the Republic of Poland
Flying the Polish flag every day, you can’t walk in here without being invited, but a very important landmark nevertheless, especially as it warms your heart to see the Polish flag there every day of the week and outside there’s an imposing statue of General Władysław Sikorski. The current Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki is a political scientist, professor of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, he was also Professor of the Polish University Abroad in London (PUNO) for many years and has initiated the Polish Heritage Days happening this week around the country. And yes, that’s a picture of him with me!
47 Portland Place London W1B 1JH
By invitation only
Ognisko Polskie – The Polish Hearth Club
This place is so close to my heart. When my grandfather finally found that his wife and child were still alive in 1946 he had to wait another 12 years to meet them due to the Iron Curtain. When they arrived in the UK he took them straight here for a meal. Founded in 1939 and inaugurated by HRH the Duke of Kent as an officers’ club, it became the centre of cultural life for the Polish community in exile, and was known as the Wawel Emigracji (Wawel Castle of the emigres). It hosted the elite of Polish London, generals, writers, artists, poets and singers. Although it is a members club, it hosts exhibitions, lectures, recitals and occasional weddings and birthday parties – I had one there not so long ago – a fantastic night as many of my friends will remember. The restaurant serves superb food as does the bar – well worth a visit.
55 Princes Gate, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2PG
Open 7 days a week, Lunch 12.00pm – 3.00pm, Dinner 5.30pm – 11.15pm (10:30pm on Sundays)
Daquise – Restaurant
Home to many of my scout meetings, discussions and very tasty śledzie (herrings), pierogi and ciasto (cake). Situated in the very heart of London’s South Kensington, the legendary Daquise has been serving delicious, traditional Polish cuisine since 1947. Apparently Edward Raczynski, the President of Poland in exile frequented Daquise and called it his unofficial headquarters, planning how to overthrow the Communist government in Poland over barszcz and uszka (beetroot soup and ravioli). More recently taken over by the company Gessler from Warszawa – where I remember going in 1988 for their ice cream when it was one of the few privately owned restaurants.
20 Thurloe Street, London SW7 2LT
Open Monday to Sunday 12.00 to 23.00
POSK – Polish Social and Cultural Club
Merely an idea promoted by Prof. Inż. Roman Wajda in 1964, over the years UK Poles organised events and donated money to build this Club in Hammersmith. Building commenced in 1971 and officially opened in 1974, I remember a coach trip to London from the North to see it a few years later. Since then, home to many wonderful events including a play for which I helped paint the stage sets. Address of many organisations, including the SPK Foundation (previously the Ex-Serviceman’s Association, the Jóżef Piłsudski Institute, the Tydzień Polski (Polish Weekly Newspaper) a theatre, library, shop, restaurant and cafe.
238-246 King Street, Hammersmith, London W6 0RF
Open daily 09.00 to 21.00