Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Forget the Ulster fry, now you can have Krokiet and Bigos instead

The growth in ethnic diversity and culinary choice in Belfast have come together with the launch of the city's first Polish restaurant. Peter Hutchison went along to find out what is on the menu

Krsztof Choolyniecki, Cracow City, Cregagh Road, Belfast
Krsztof Choolyniecki, Cracow City, Cregagh Road, Belfast

You can get much more than a fish supper or an Ulster fry in Belfast these days. The city has come a long way since the end of the Troubles. As people from all over the world set up homes and businesses here, they inevitably bring their culinary traditions with them.

While Chinese and Indian food has been a mainstay for many years, you are now just as likely to enjoy the delights of Thai, Spanish tapas, Japanese sushi or even Middle Eastern food on a night out on the town.

However, one sector which has, up to now, been neglected has been the growth in the Eastern European population.

While there are supermarkets to deal with the city's 20,000 Poles, they have never had their own restaurant. Until now.

Belfast's first Polish restaurant opened last Saturday on the Cregagh Road in east Belfast.

Named Cracow City, it serves a wide range of traditional Polish grub such as Krokiet and Bigos.

Krokiet is made up of croquette, cabbage and mushrooms, while Bigos consists of chopped cabbage with pork, sausage, herbs, tomato puree and mashed potatos.

Owner Krzysztof Choolyniecki says: "I've been in Belfast for three years and I missed Polish food. I kept wondering who was going to open a restaurant and no one did so I did it myself.

"I knew a lot of Irish people who wanted to try Polish food too. I hope my restaurant will bring both traditions and cultures together as they get to know each other."

Cracow City is the former electrician's first foray into the restaurant business and already it is going well.

"I've had some Irish friends come in this week and order an Ulster Fry, but I always gave them a small helping of Polish food on the side and since then they've come in and ordered a full Polish meal."

The chef is Polish as are all the staff. A short advert in local newspapers found the chef that Krzysztof was looking for.

He hopes his initiative will spark a flurry of other Polish restaurants to open around the city.

"The Polish community is growing and Belfast is big enough for more Polish restaurants. I hope more open and I'm not afraid of the competition."

Krzysztof chose Cracow City as the restaurant's name because he wants to develop links between the two cities. Cheap direct flights are already available between the Polish city and Belfast International Airport and Krzysztof hopes more people will travel between the two.

It is a good time for a Polish restaurant to open here. The community is thriving and for one week at the end of May Belfast will celebrate with a Polish festival.

It is another example of Belfast's increasing diversity.

According to the Northern Ireland 2001 census there were almost 7,000 people born in Western Europe (excluding the UK and the Republic of Ireland) now residing in the province.

Almost 4,000 were German. There were 750 French, almost 400 Spaniards and 400 Dutch.

There were more than 700 Eastern Europeans - a number that has increased dramatically since 10 countries, including Poland and Lithuania were admitted to the EU in January 2004.

More than 3,100 Africans were recorded, including people from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Kenya. More than 7,000 were born in Asia, a number which includes almost 800 Chinese, while almost 1,000 people now living in Northern Ireland were born in the Middle East.

The list is endless and as a result Northern Ireland enjoys a rich and varied life.

Belfast's Lord Mayor, Jim Rodgers, said: "It is so important that there are many different cultures in Belfast. Ethnic diversity is the way forward."

And as for the Polish food? Well, it is fantastic.

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