About a week I ago, as I sat in traffic in Brook Green, I glanced out of the window to my right and noticed a sweet looking restaurant called Malina. I pointed it out to D and suggested we look it up on the internet to see what it was. Almost entirely convinced that because it looked so attractive it would likely have poor reviews (ever the optimist me!), I was quite surprised to discover Malina actually has rave reviews for its Polish cuisine, and was awarded Time Out’s Best New Local Restaurant title in 2011.
As it’s just within the bounds of what could be considered local to where we live we thought we’d better get in there as quickly as possible to try it out. So, today after escaping the rain and exhausting the soul in Westfield for a couple of hours, we took a stroll down to Malina for a spot of late lunch.
The first thing that wins you over about Malina is the decor. It’s light, clean and charming with murals of raspberries (malina is Polish for raspberry) climbing the walls around you. The second thing to win you round are the utterly charming ladies serving you. You’re greeted with a warm welcome and big smiles – even if you wander in at 4pm on a Sunday when you imagine they were just starting to hope they could close up for a bit and catch a rest before the dinner service.
It’s worth noting that they offer a great looking 2 or 3 course Sunday lunch menu.
My eyes were immediately drawn to the pierogi section of the standard menu, so we didn’t opt for the Sunday lunch option.
To begin, D ordered the Zurek, which is a sour rye soup with white sausage and boiled egg, and I requested an assortment of pierogi made up of pork & beef; cheese and potato; cabbage and mushroom; buckwheat and bacon and finally, spinach and cheese.
The starters were absolutely delicious. Although this is considered ‘home cooking’, there’s nothing twee and amateurish about the food at Malina. It doesn’t scrimp on flavour, or presentation for that matter, as each dish looked marvellously inviting. Swapping our dishes half way through as we hungrily coveted each others food choices, I got to finish off D’s zurek, which I have to say was incredibly tasty. When you’ve been wandering around in the cold, driving rain for a while, I don’t think there could be a better comfort food out there to warm your cockles like a bowl of Malina’s zurek. I can still taste the meaty, sweet broth now, and know it’ll be something I crave for weeks/months to come.
For main I had ordered the Golabki, which is cabbage stuffed with minced meat and rice in a tomato sauce and served with mash potato. D chose the Golonka – pork knuckle baked in beer with braised sauerkraut and roast potatoes. Now, I’m one of the greediest people on the face of the planet, but even my eyes popped out on stalks when the mains arrived. D was presented with half a pig on a plate, and the remaining half of the pig was minced up in cabbage parcels on mine. The portions are massive. We’re talking ‘epic’ sizes. My golabki was so delicious I did manage to make it through one and a third cabbage parcels before surrendering, and D made a sterling effort with the pig and sauerkraut. The problem was that the food was just so good I feared we may do ourselves damage had we not convinced the waitress to remove our plates. There’s a good chance we could have literally exploded creating our own large, raspberry shaped murals on the walls. The golonka was delicious and moist pork, served with the most moreish braised sauerkraut. The golabki was packed with flavour from the succulent minced pork filling, to the sweet tomato sauce, and the dill liberally sprinkled over the entire dish. It was all utterly delectable.
Thankfully Malina totally lived up to first impressions when I’d glanced out the window at it the the other day. It’s charming, it’s great value and it’s absolutely worth a trip to Brook Green for even if you’re not local.
Thankfully we’re a, roughly, 25min walk from the restaurant, which was very much needed after our visit, so I’d suggest either starve yourself before going, or just make sure you have enough time to take a well-needed constitutional afterwards, but do definitely go!