The only good thing about the weather destroying our classic endless summer is the early advent of winter food. Joining a friendly crowd in the colourful and quirky Alchemy Polish Restaurant dining room in Surry Hills, I found myself smiling as I smeared smalec ($19.50) onto slices of homemade bread. The generous pot of pork and lard cooked with apples and onions is best shared and punctuated with the accompanying sharp Polish pickles. Dumplings — good in anyone’s language — are called pierogi ($29.50/9). My favourite three types are the earthy buckwheat and mushroom, rib-sticking potatoes and cheese, and robust duck gentled with apricot. We took ours delicately pan-fried with sour cream, bacon and fried onion ($2.50/each) add-ons, but the boiled versions are great too.
Beautifully oil-free pork schnitzel ($39.50) is turned “gonzo” with baked chat potatoes, Gorgonzola and juicy stewed pears. It’s big enough to share if you load your meal up with entrees. Wash it down with Polish beer—Pils Namyslow ($13.50)—or one of proprietor Janusz Pawlak’s medicinal tinctures. It’s a mistake to not indulge in dessert here: his wife’s napoleonka ($9) sandwiching vanilla pudding between layers of crisp pastry is the essence of simplicity. Don’t delay: they’re both taking off the month of May to enjoy Majowka (a long weekend holiday) and spring in Poland.