Der Elefant, at the junction of Marszalkowska and Elektoralna very close to Plac Bankowy, has been around for a long time, according to the note on the menu since 1990. In the history of Warsaw restaurants, anything that’s been serving food in the same place for that long is part of a very exclusive club. In my earlier days here it was one of my favourites. It was a small place with ten or fewer tables inside and with the exception of deep winter it had a few more on the pavement outside. Next door was a popular but equally grubby bar called from memory Fiszler, or Fisser, where I remember pretty awful service, drunken conversations with Jimmy Martin about his dad’s D-Day adventures and some stupid little tables they had perched on a ledge that wasn’t really big enough. The restaurant and the bar were fragments of a much larger building that for some reason was held up from getting the redevelopment it needed. Similar to what was happening with the Hotel Europejski.
The restaurant was always quite crowded, a little grubby and with the smell of frying wiener schnitzels floating through from the kitchen area that seemed to have been carved out of the same small space and opened onto the dining area. It was the plate-swampingly gigantic wiener schnitzels, potato salad and the szopska salad (a mound of chooped up tomato and cucumber covered with grated cheese) that kept me and then us going back there on a fairly regular basis. At least while there was little competition.
Sadly, as competition slowly grew and new restaurants not only opened but stayed open Der Elefant started to be shown up for what it was, an old an tired one-trick pony. We had not been there for at least five years so it was a bit exciting when my wife suggested we go there again to check out the NEW Der Elefant.
The new restaurant is enormous and forms part of what has been an extensive and apparently very well done renovation of the entire block. I’m not sure what the upper floors are but I think it is office space, possibly some residential. The restaurant has a fish section on the side facing Marszalkowska and then a much bigger meat or more international part behind that extending up three floors.
We tried the fishy part. I would not recommend the Alaskan Crab legs “For the first time in Poland” and I suspect the last, but my Dover Sole was a huge portion, quite delicious and very good value for money. Everyone else enjoyed their food so I’m sure we’ll be going back sometime even if it has lost all of its old world charm and removed my favourites from the menu.