Drop in: Restaurant Alrina

As an antidote to the usual Market Square or Kazimierz locations, we are highlighting one of Krakow’s up-and-coming areas. Since the building of the new footbridge linking Podgórze with Kazimierz via ul. Mostowa, the boulevard along the river has started to gain in popularity. Over the last few years, a number of establishments have appeared on the water’s edge, mostly floating bars and restaurants that come into their own during the summer months. Restaurant Alrina is one of these new-arrivals – a 19th-century Dutch barge moored right by the footbridge on the Kazimierz side.

A frosty Sunday evening in mid-December is not the best time to find the place buzzing – it was very quiet, with only the music drifting from speakers outside the boat as we approached indicating any sign of life in the area. Clearly aimed at corporate clients, conferences and parties as well as passing trade, it seems the restaurant is either very quiet or booked out entirely, so best to check ahead.

Offering a seasonal menu and an extensive wine list, Alrina mixes the traditional with the modern. The décor in its two dining rooms is unfussy, with low lighting, nautical paraphernalia, ceiling drapes and bare wooden decks creating a relaxing and informal atmosphere. We ordered a house dry red (bottled in Languedoc, France, with the restaurant’s own logo – 76zl), which, despite being only a 2009 vintage, was smooth and smoky and complimented the meal splendidly. The wine list, which includes over 40 reds, whites and rosés from France, Italy, Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina, is impressive to say the least.

The menu is not nearly as extensive – usually a good sign – and for the first course, I went for foie gras on crispy toasted bread with roasted apples soaked in brandy. The sweetness of the fruit and the tanginess of the goose liver was a great match and such a delicate dish is rarely done as well in this city. My dining partner’s prawns fried in garlic were also delicious (and rarely spotted in Krakow), but both were priced accordingly, at around the 30zl mark.

A creamy, fish soup followed – sea bream blended with tomatoes – smooth and delicious if not hearty – and then the main course of veal cutlet with roasted potatoes, carrot pate and broccoli. The meat was tender and tasty and the creamed carrots a nice touch. At between 40 and 60zl, the mains are priced on the high side, although the care and thought that had obviously gone into their preparation justifies it. With a menu containing salmon, sea bream and cod fillet, the focus is definitely on seafood, which is apt for a floating restaurant, although it may take a while to win over Cracovians who are often sceptical about the quality of seafood in a city that is 600km from the nearest sea.

My partner’s salmon fillet, baked with button mushrooms and caramelized onions, was, however, faultless. Somehow finding room for dessert,
I plumped for a vanilla crème brulee, which was a light and satisfying way to conclude a very agreeable meal – silky and creamy with a texture and taste that glided down effortlessly. A couple of sheets to the wind after the bottle of house red, we left feeling joyously replete, if not full to the gunwales.

Alrina is relatively undiscovered for now, but is definitely worth going out of your way for. Making up for a lack of atmosphere with excellent quality food and service, it should only be a matter of time before it starts to get noticed. For those willing to push the boat out a little, Alrina offers an alternative dining experience in a superb setting, and is a particularly good choice for festive parties and family meals.

Note: Alrina is only accepting booking for groups in January 2012


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