I’ve been house-hunting on two different continents in the past two months, and although finding an apartment in Brooklyn has its own set of challenges, let me tell you: It’s not any easier overseas than it is on home turf. When my sister moved to London to start her program, she had accommodation lined up; a few weeks before classes were due to start, her house fell through, and we spent the majority of my remaining time there looking at places that would work for five mostly non-UK residents, short-term. Not an easy task.
Of course, this story has a happy ending, and, naturally, it’s one that involves a triumphal meal. After a few days of frantic searching, my sister inked her signature on a multipage housing contract, and we got down to the important business of celebrating her newfound digs.
While she’d been scanning real-estate listings, I’d been researching local eating establishments in her neighborhood; when I came across Time Out London‘s write-up for Café Grove, the Polish standout quickly shot to the top of my admittedly short list.
We parked ourselves at a picnic table, enjoyed an all-too-brief flirtation with the sun (thanks, London), and ordered up a round of Zywiec and a helping of mushroom-and-sauerkraut pierogies.
Now, full disclosure: My family, in addition to our Italian heritage, is heavily Polish and Russian. Pierogies make an appearance on our Thanksgiving table, thanks to friends (hi, Renata and Witek!) who, over the years, have shlepped them from shops in Greenpoint and New Jersey—the exact locations of said shops a closely guarded secret—to southeastern Pennsylvannia. All of this to say that we might be ever-so-slightly biased in favor of this hearty fare.
Though the dough on Café Grove’s pierogies was slightly thicker than the sterling specimens that elevate our Thanksgiving spread, the drizzle of browned butter more than made up for it, while the mushroom-sauerkraut filling, juicy and flavorful, held its own against some of the best dumplings we’ve had to date.
Your average dining duo might’ve stopped there, but I was determined to try the intriguing-sounding gypsy pancake; after another Zywiec or two (and maaaaybe several rounds of house-infused-vodka taste-testing), that seemed like an even better idea. History would support my genius—if I do say so myself—ordering skills: The love child of a latke and an omelet, this crispy potato pancake, crowned with creme fraiche and enveloping some of the best goulash I’ve ever eaten, proved just the thing to steady our tipsy ships.
When it finally occurred to us that we were the only patrons left in the place, we decided to let our ever-patient hosts close up shop for the night. After profuse promises (threats?) to return, we made our way through the streets of a neighborhood that was becoming more and more familiar. It didn’t feel quite like home yet, but it sure was getting there. Here’s hoping my own housing search turns out half as well.
65 The Grove
London W5 5LL