Saturday, 22 June 2013

Baszta - a former legend

Once upon a time, Baszta was the place. A point of reference. Older taxi drivers at the rank on Wilanowska still ask me, when I say I'm heading down Puławska to ul. Trombity: "Is that before or after Baszta?" Once, the only restaurant in this part of the world, it was where the Party people who loved to get down would get on down. The Nomenklatura would party here till broad daylight, discussing their invidious plans for Poland between successive half-litres of vodka. Jane Fonda and Neil Armstrong dined here too.

After 1989, Baszta's fortunes fell prey to the laws of the free market; the Party dissolved, competition popped up amongst the newly-constructed blocks of Ursynów, and restaurant goers sought something more than schab z przysmażonymi ziemniakami i surówkę mieszaną.

During my first five years in Warsaw, living in Pyry, I'd pop by here now and then, and with one memorable exception I'd be outnumbered by the staff. Walking in, I'd be acknowledged with a surly nod by a balding middle-aged barman in white apron, wiping beer glasses; I'd go up to the cloakroom, where a middle-aged woman with bright orange hair would take my coat in exchange for a numerek; I'd then go downstairs to the one functioning restaurant room, where one of the two middle-aged waitresses would take my order. A long wait would ensue, as the five middle-aged kitchen staff would patiently prepare my supper.

I always wondered whether this was an exercise in money-laundering, but in hindsight it was poor management that led to the inevitable end. No attempt at marketing; no mailbox leaflet campaigns around the neighbourhood like the pizza places do. All those rich expats living within walking distance, forced to eat at home because no one told them what culinary delights Baszta could offer them.

Baszta has been closed for four years - since July 2009. It's still a landmark as you drive south down Puławska towards Sand City, on your left, just before the church in Pyry. The main restaurant building itself actually dates back to the late 19th Century.

Above: the corner of Puławska and Łagiewnicka. The bar, a charming annex, was built in 1959 when the main building was turned into a restaurant. But how to compete for Pan Heniek and Pan Ziutek's custom today when Lidl down the road sells litre-bottles of Argus Strong (6.7%) for 3.10 złotys (around 62p)?

The bar, seen from  Puławska. Such a lovely building, echoing the sweeping curves of Mid-Century Moderne, though with a classical touch.

Above: sign on Puławska, in keeping with the guidelines of the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Signs: 'Information signs indicating facilities or services, shall be in black on a white rectangle on a blue ground.'

Above: the main entrance from Puławska; gatehouse built in the same style. Parking for 20 cars inside.

Above: the main building, designed by Władysław Marconi. If those rounded corners remind you of any Warsaw landmarks - Marconi also designed the Hotel Bristol. And the Bulgarian Embassy on Al. Ujazdowskie.

Above: peering in from the side gate on ul. Łagiewnicka at the back of the main building, and some of the outbuildings, including a dovecote. I don't like the faux stonework appliqued onto the white plaster.

What will become of Baszta? I guess market conditions must improve before an investor can see this as a sensible acquisition. In the meantime, it's yet another stop-off on the rounds of the security guards.

This time two years ago:
Downhill all the way to December

This time three years ago:
What do I want for Poland

This time four years ago:
Summer holiday starts drizzly

This time five years ago:
Israeli Air Force Boeing 707 visits Okęcie

1 comment:

student SGH said...

How true! A crucial landmark in this part of Warsaw's southern suburbs My parents, when trying to locate a venue along ul. Puławska ask przed, czy za Basztą and then "from which side" ;-)

Best wishes