A big Witamy! welcome from Duchniak’s Coffee Shop and Restaurant

This article first appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of the Wakefield magazine TopicUK. Please check the restaurant’s website for updated details of menus, prices, opening hours, etc.

One of the joys of writing this column is that I get to eat some delicious foods, skilfully prepared and served up by some very talented and enthusiastic people. I also get to sample foods from around the world without having to carry my passport. Yes, I’ve said it before: you really can have the world on a plate here in Wakefield with Italian, Greek, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Kashmiri, French, Japanese and, yes, traditional British foods all readily available.

One of the more recent additions to this multinational offering is Duchniak’s Coffee Shop and Restaurant, bringing a taste of genuine Polish cuisine to our increasingly cosmopolitan city. Situated a little out of the way at the bottom end of Lower Kirkgate, and not far from Kirkgate Station, the restaurant opened just over a year ago: a cosy café by day and an intimate restaurant in the evening.

Whether you just want a cup of coffee with a slice of cake, perhaps to break your walk between the Hepworth gallery and the city centre, or to make a meal of it and go for the full restaurant experience, proprietor Aneta Duchniak and her team will be delighted to serve you. That team consists of ‘three Polish ladies’ who do the cooking and Julija, from Lithuania, who does the ‘front of house’ with Aneta.

Aneta has previous experience of the restaurant trade – she worked at Sloanes in Wakefield and the King’s Croft Hotel in Pontefract, but this is the first time she has set up on her own. She told me that we have her brother Adrian to thank for the restaurant being here – he had spotted that there was no Polish restaurant in the area, although there is a resident Polish community. However, although Polish families are supporting the restaurant, most of the customers are British people looking to try Polish food or re-live memories of visits to Poland. Some of the customers have travelled from well outside Wakefield – from Leeds, Bradford and York, for example, as they had heard about the restaurant and wanted to give it a try. It’s certainly scoring well on-line – look at the customer reviews on TripAdvisor and you’ll see people really do love Duchniak’s. We have a lot to thank Adrian for, it seems!
At first glance, the restaurant might look small but with a number of booths that seat four people, standard tables and even a small yard outside round the back, it is deceptively accommodating and, on an evening with the lights lit, it’s a beacon of calm away from the rush and roar of the Kirkgate traffic.

Having eaten there a couple of times now, I can see why people are so positive about the restaurant. The food is freshly prepared to order from a fairly simple menu (printed in English but with Polish translations!), supplemented by a daily specials board; and it’s incredibly good value with starters priced at £3.50 or £3.95 and mains from under £6 up to £11.95.

I spotted some foods on the menu that caused me to raise a quizzical eyebrow – could dumplings (Pierogi) really be Polish? Well, yes they could: the word might look familiar, but these were dumplings served Polish style – semi-circular parcels stuffed with potato and cottage cheese, or cabbage and mushrooms or meat. Or how about pancakes (Nalesniki), filled with mushrooms and cheese and served with a garlic sauce (very much enjoyed by one of my party)? As Aneta pointed out, Polish cuisine has absorbed influences from many of the neighbouring countries so it has an international feel all of its own.

One thing I particularly liked was that there was a generous selection of vegetarian dishes (always a point winner in my book), as well as salmon, chicken and pork options. There’s also a crispy beef meatloaf with lemon and mustard sauce available. For my starter, I opted for breaded Camembert served with a sweet blackcurrant sauce and a salad garnish. One of my favourite dishes, it proved a good choice and did not disappoint. My companions opted for mushrooms stuffed with mince (or onions) with cheese on top. Soups are also available – fresh velvet tomato served with pasta, sour rye with white sausage and egg served with bread, and beetroot soup served with meat ravioli.

Between us, our main courses were peppers stuffed with rice and cheese (for me), chicken fillet coated with breadcrumbs, and the pancakes mentioned above – all served with a selection of salads (including grated carrots, cabbage and sauerkraut, all simple but light and very more-ish – I couldn’t resist the carrots which had been sprinkled with apple and lemon juice to give them a lovely sweetness which served to enhance the savoury flavours of the main dishes).

Puddings – well, somebody has to – were Raffaelo Cake for me – a light sponge with cream and almonds; apple crumble with ice cream; and apple pancakes. All accompanied by coffee, they were the perfect end to the meal – except they turned out not to be the end. Aneta presented us each with a shot of fruit-flavoured vodka as a brace against the chill night air. Na Zdrowie! (As they say in Poland – or Cheers! if you prefer).

Yes, what I haven’t mentioned so far is that Duchniak’s is fully licensed and serves a selection of Polish beers (by the bottle), Italian wines and Polish vodkas, both clear and flavoured varieties. Of course, there is a range of non-alcoholic drinks as well.
Now, as I mentioned, the restaurant is at the bottom end of Lower Kirkgate, so it’s a short walk from the city centre itself. However, it’s well worth the effort. If you do travel there by car, there is a pay and display car park nearby but there’s plenty of on-street parking available to the rear and side of the restaurant which is free after 6 pm.

I asked what Aneta liked about Wakefield. She told me she loved the fact that the city was not too big and that it was easy to walk around. She likes the Cathedral area but she’s also very fond of Pugneys and, as well as walking around the lake, she’s also been known to take a kayak out onto the water. But she also likes the people – she says that Wakefield people are so very friendly (and I wouldn’t disagree!).

Perhaps it’s time that the people of Wakefield took Aneta and her staff to heart – do go and discover this lovely little restaurant for yourself.

Duchniak’s on Facebook

Unit 1, 212-214 Kirkgate, Wakefield, WF1 1UF

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