Restaurant of the Month is brought to you by Dine Birmingham, the city's online restaurant guide.
The Karczma Birmingham was just a quietly popular eatery tucked away within the Polish centre in Digbeth until Christmas time last year. That was when Jay Rayner from The Guardian wrote a review, bringing this quirky venue to the nation’s attention.
The story goes that since then it’s been impossible to get a table, but actually, you’ll find the venue has retained its personable, authentic and ever-so-slightly wacky personality. Style, in the form of its chalet interior, is backed up by substance in the form of generous portions of hearty East European grub.
What’s the Vibe?
The Karczma is known for its original interior. Expect a strong rustic mountain vibe - shaggy fleeces, lots of wood and yes, a thatched ceiling. The musical background will introduce you to several Polish hits, if you’re unfamiliar with them as yet! All in all, the vibe is homely, smile-inducing and distinctive.
What’s on the Menu?
You will start with complimentary bread and gherkins served with szmalec, a lard-based pate well loved in Poland. The spirit of the menu is very much warming, filling, meat-based products. Placek po Zbojnicku is a popular main. Easier to wolf down than to pronounce, it is a potato pancake filled with hot beef stew and mushrooms - pretty good for a cold winter’s day, both in Warsaw and the West Midlands.
Desserts like Polish apple cake (szarlotka) and a whole gamut of vodka-based drinks will continue the cockle-warming theme. The Poles also love their beer, so ale lovers will want to try some zywiec.
One thing to note is that, for vegetarians, the options on the menu are rather limited. However, dishes like pierogi (stuffed dough parcels) and placki (fried potato cakes) are among the veggie-friendly selection.
What’s the damage?
As you might expect, prices have crept up a little bit since the Guardian ‘exposé’. But The Karczma still comes in at low- to mid-range, cost wise:
Pierogi = £7.20
Fried potato cakes = £7.20
Potato pancake with beef stew and mushrooms = £14.00
Polish apple cake = £5.50
Cheesecake = £5.20
If you The Karczma tickles your fancy, you might like Franzl’s, a little Austrian restaurant in Birmingham. Check it out.