Underneath the draped awnings and colorful lights on ul. Szkolna sits a Balkans restaurant that has an atmosphere and vibe that could easily have been plucked from the islands of Croatia or beach resorts of Bulgaria. The menu is awash with meats and cheeses, platters and Ajvar abounds.

The drinks menu boasts everything from the exotic (rhubarb lemonade) to the potentially psychotic in the form of a board of 8 rakija shots for only 40zł! After 15 years in business, Banjaluka’s owners and staff definitely have a winning formula for hosting a great evening out.

Head chef Olaf Michalczyk is constantly on the lookout for fresh, interesting takes on dishes from the Balkans region. He tours the various countries picking up new ideas to bring back to the restaurant and translates those into exciting menu options. With an almost exclusively Polish kitchen team ranging in ages, Chef Olaf seemingly doesn’t find it hard to motivate his team to produce quality dishes for the guests.

The menu is very meat heavy with a smattering of vegetarian options to choose from as well. I headed straight for the platters to try and get a little taste of everything. The Balkan Mezze Fest is a true Festival of Balkan snacks and treats, served with a selection of breads, it didn’t disappoint. Salami, hummus, tzatziki, cheeses, and dolamades amongst other things were all features on the starter platter. It’s definitely worth sharing around as the serving size is very generous.

Next, it was a very difficult choice between the extremely delicate slow cooked lamb or the Banjalucka Mesovito Meso which is the selection of meats prepared on the ‘hot lava’ grill. We opted for the latter and were thoroughly outdone. It consists of chicken, beef, karkowka, pork chops, a Serbian skinless sausage (cevapcici), lots of things wrapped in bacon, potato halves, as well as a grilled cob of corn! To add to that, I brazenly thought having a rice pilaf on the side would be a great idea….delicious as it was, it did not get finished. #allthecarbs

Needless to say, we did not make it to the dessert menu but if you’re in the mood for a Balkan sweet treat, Banjaluka serves coffee and cake at all hours and has a small but dedicated selection of familiar delights.

As with most evenings, there was live music on the stage downstairs where the main part of the restaurant is located but we recommend their awesome garden outside before the warmer months end. This does wonders to add to the already cozy atmosphere and is a real point of difference on the Warsaw restaurant scene. So if you’re in the mood for a relaxed meal to share with friends with a vacation vibe, this just might be the place for you!

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