Sometimes, you just want to feel you are away from the rat-race. To forget the crush of the tube commute, unwillingly sardined against others, breathing the smell of other people’s houses, sweat and perfume baked into rained-on jackets as you attempt to keep your limbs the right side of the train doors.
Baltic is the perfect antidote to this nightmare. As you pass through the, distinctly average, small entrance into a long and dimly lit bar, you are enveloped with a golden warmth.
The décor is simple but well thought out, candles flicker in corners where the clientèle sup drinks contently and feast on the complimentary popcorn while staff serve their extensive menu of flavoured vodkas with a slickness that can’t fail to impress.
The first time I visited, however, I was dining. The contrast of the bar and restaurant was striking. From the moodily lit and cozy bar I found myself in a bright, light and airy dining room with exposed wooden beams and more than a little churchiness to its soaring ceiling. Seated with my back to the wall, I looked out at my fellow diners and bathed in the sunshine streaming through the skylights.
Quickly I was offered a selection of fresh bread by a smartly dressed, polite and smiley gentleman. But, where was my side plate? Perhaps one isn’t traditional in Eastern and Central Europe, the lands which have inspired Baltic, or perhaps they just forgot mine, but either way, it seemed a bit odd.
- I started with Leniwe, described as Cheese and Potato dumplings with Saut mushrooms. When the generously portioned dish arrived I was surprised to see that rather than round as I’d expected, the dumplings were stretched and thin. The flavours were simple and comforting and perfectly complimented by my sweet plum vodka which was served warm. I couldn’t help but mentally pencil in another visit during the winter months.
My plate was cleared and my main of Paprika Marinated Coqeulet with Chicory and Apple Salad, Walnuts and Garlic Sauce presented. I was looking forward to such an intriguing dish, not least because the friendly staff has assured me, with absolutely no hassle, that it would be entirely onion and tomato free meaning I wouldn’t have an allergic reaction to it.
It didn’t disappoint. Delicious, hearty and, with its sprinkling of pomegranate seeds to redeem it, well presented, this was a welcome change from the usual Southwark fare.
Looking at the menu which included delights like Makowiec, a poppyseed and honey cake with crème fraiche and fruit compote, I desperately wished I had room for a desert, but the large portions had defeated me. Instead I settled for another Sweet Plum Vodka and asked for the bill.
I left with a smile on my face, and change in my pocket, pleased with the service and food and somehow calmed by the airy lightness of the architecture.
Only two things relating to Baltic were less than perfect:
1. I only realised when I got home that I could have used my Taste card to receive 50% off #soannoying
2. The website which annoyingly takes you to a holding page and forces you to click ‘access main site’ to see anything useful #makesnosense
Overall though, Baltic is special. Its small, shrouded and inconspicuous entrance leading through an atmospheric bar to a bright haven is like being tunnelled out of the hubbub and bustle of commuter-ville and into a magical cloud where rather than other peoples newspapers, faces, backpacks and musty coats, the only thing you will feel on your skin is the glorious light pouring through the windows.