What comes to mind when you think of Polish food? Dumplings and breaded things, ham hocks and sauerkraut, perhaps: plates groaning with buttery, creamy stuff, good beers and smoked sausages with mustard. A national obsession with pork which chimes hard with my roots. Rich, carby heft to see you through harsh months: heavy fuel, insulation against unpredictable winters.
If so, the Bread and Salt menu won’t disappoint. Up at what I always think of as the hospital end of Canton, this is home cooking with a sense of pride. Polish families I worked with always spoke warmly of this place, which is as good a recommendation as I can think of.
It’s a small dining room with an adjoining bar, with covers in the mid-20s, the stone floor and exposed brick feeling welcoming and unpretentious.
Bottles of Tyskie and Lech are a given, but an unexpected Neck Oil IPA from Beavertown on draught will do nicely. Music is Polish- fans of Tadeusz Wozniak and Felicjan Andrzejczak (thanks, Shazam) will be happy. There’s a community feel to the signs advertising their availability for catering baptisms, First Communions and the like.
Pork dripping seems an apt place to start. There’s a simple joy in bread slathered in a duvet of porky bits, bolstered by the snap of tart pickles, and we plough happily through thick slices of tangy pickled herring.
From the ‘mini specials’ section, just under seven quid gets you the blood sausage. It’s less your ‘puck sliced from a classic English black pud’ and more like your Spanish morcilla de Leon. Its fudgy texture means its iron-rich and peppery tang spreads across the hot crusty roll a treat.
And who doesn’t love an offaly, livery tang? It’s all rather hearty and lovely. I suppose we should be thankful they aren’t claiming that putting something in a roll constitutes a ‘sando’. But this is no-bullshit home-cooked style food, so they won’t.
Besides, you’re not that gullible. Are you?
There’s a selection of fillings in the pierogi and you get six for your £7.90.
Even better, you can mix and match. They have that pleasing irregularity of the hand-made, whether it’s the mushroom and sauerkraut or the well-seasoned finely minced pork.
Feta and spinach works well, a silkily rich mixture in a herb-speckled dough; though if you avoid meat, it might be worth emphasising that as you order, as they come more strewn than merely sprinkled with bacon bits.
Both are pretty much a lunch in themselves. ‘Mini’ specials indeed…
Mains are large. Actually, scratch that. They’re huge. In fact, if you have a minute- they constitute a choking hazard to any passing donkeys. And this is Canton, where that could easily happen.
They’re a hearty bunch. Devolay is a near cousin of the more familiar chicken Kiev and the duck leg tempts. My pork schnitzel is a classic Polish dish in its kotlet schabowy form. This breaded behemoth is well done too, lightly crumbed but winningly tender.
Clearly we are not going to be leaving hungry. A pair of stoutly smoky Polish sausages straddle the plate- chips are catering pack jobs but else looks very much hand made.
Bread and Salt’s mission is to send you away groaning at the seams, not the bill: both mains are £10.90. You won’t see any InstaHype about this place, no sudden glut of guff, of unmerited superlatives. It’s small and generous, not ‘glamorous’. You’re not going to come here to be ‘seen’ or to take toilet selfies, even if the tin sheet reproductions of classic comic covers trump any flower wall for me.
Now, Bread and Salt might ‘only’ serve you sturdy, unpretentious and homely stuff: and yes, that might seem like damning with faint praise. But it is one of those places which makes the Canton Food Mile (TM, all together now…) “the most interesting stretch to eat out in the city at the moment.”
So let’s chalk another one up for Canton’s insteasingly interesting and unshowily diverse options. There are more to come soon, and as long as I’m writing this blog I’ll be glad to tell you about places like this, places which serve solid, satisfying food to send you away happy and full.
Very, very full.
Bread and Salt
155 Cowbridge Rd East
Tuesday to Thursday 1–10pm
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.