Kielce – John Burg

Today is my first full day in Kielce and I’ve spent most of the day walking around looking at anything historical or shiny, stopping only briefly at three coffee shops on the way round. So, I thought that it was time for something more substantial food wise. Secretly, I wanted a KFC, but that’s not very inventive. That’s one of the reasons for this blog really, to stop me eating KFC every day, as it’d soon become evident (both on the blog and also my weight). And people can be very judgemental….

So, off I go to John Burg, which is one of the best rated burger restaurants in the city. I also went just after the lunch-time rush, as I knew that it would be quiet then.

First problem. My Polish isn’t good enough to understand this sign placed prominently at the entrance and it’s evident that the restaurant is nearly full. It says about waiting for a table, but I can’t comprehend whether that means there’s a long wait for a table, or to wait at the counter to be seated. So I hover, which I do really badly, and I ponder what to do. British people seem bad at hovering, there are exceptions, but it’s often possible to spot a Brit by how they look out of place. It’s the Mr. Bean effect I think, but, I digress.

A staff member soon comes over, no doubt wondering why someone is hovering twelve feet from the counter, and I decide to ask in my best Polish for a table for one. The helpful waitress replies in English that they don’t currently have a table for three, although I’m puzzled how I managed to ask for that. I then decide to ask for a table for one in English, which is immediately made possible. Marvellous.

I was given an English menu, although I’ve long since been able to read food ingredients in Polish. To be honest, that’s about 90% of what I can read, just in case I accidentally order some variant of lard. So, I order a burger and the option that gives me unlimited trips to the salad bar. I don’t know why I did that, but it was only a little more expensive than the burger and chips option, so I thought whilst in Kielce, let’s throw caution to the wind and have some junk food.

Then the next problem emerges. I arrive at what I suspect might be the salad bar, but just see vegetables. Now, that’s fine (sort of), but I’m wondering whether I’m in the wrong place. I hover, but the staff just smile, which seems a good sign. I’m still slightly worried though that I’m about to help myself to the vegetables that are a side order for customers, which are meant to be served by the staff, but I go for it.

And then another problem emerges, there are lots of potatoes. So, I decide that I probably didn’t order chips and that’s why the salad option was only a little more in terms of the price. I realised that I’d ordered burger and salad, not burger and chips. But, it’s important to be positive, so I decide to go with this option and collect a heap of potatoes and some vegetable things. So, that’s that sorted.

I ordered beer as well. Actually, I tried to do that bit in Polish, but that confused the waitress and me, so we reverted to English. I think the Polish do appreciate the effort of anyone speaking their language, but they’re keen to revert to speaking English so they can actually make some progress. The menu did say to ask the staff about regional beers, but I decided that the exchange was already complex enough and that I’d settle for some generic national beer.

I felt that I was pretty sorted at this point, with my salad (well, vegetables and potatoes) on the table, and a drink. Time passes though, and I note that other people seem to be getting their burgers and steaks relatively quickly, whilst I’m on my third bowl of salad. I’d started to be inventive by this point and so now had a load of chickpeas in my bowl, which are hardly the culinary equivalent of a chicken bake. After 40 minutes of waiting, I did start to ponder exactly what was happening, whilst deciding that chickpeas really aren’t that exciting taste-wise.

Then this bloody thing flashes. I hadn’t paid much attention to it and I assumed that it was decorative, but it was flashing in a very vibrant red colour and people around seemed quite jealous. I could have done without it if I’m being honest. I decided I had better try and translate what it said, and it’s something along the lines of “when the light flashes between the salt and pepper, go and collect the food from a barrel”.

Right, two things here. Firstly, everyone else is getting their food brought to them, whereas I have some flashing device. Secondly, it sounds like I’m supposed to go on some Dungeons and Dragons Quest, I’m thinking what bloody barrel? I’m not hunting around the restaurant for a barrel. I have a quick look at the counter and don’t see any food, then I realise that it must be alerting the staff to that the food is ready. So I ignore the flashing condiments tray, which is fortunate as it stopped flashing.

So, I sit there thinking, the staff member isn’t collecting my food very quickly. It did pass my mind to go and hunt for food from the kitchen, but this isn’t likely to end well. Chefs don’t tend to want customers randomly collecting food that they place on worktops and we’ve already established that I don’t hover very well.

Then the bloody thing starts flashing again. At this point, I decide to look confused at the table and see if any waiting staff come over and wonder what’s happening. This technique worked well, a different waitress comes to the table and tells me something in Polish. It’s along the lines of “you need to collect the food”. I say I don’t speak Polish. Now this is slightly frustrating for them, as they then have to play guessing games on what language I do speak. But, she guesses I’m English and no doubt decides it’d just be easier to bring the food to me. I still have no idea how this blasted ordering process is working, but this makes me content as the problem is now solved.

And the food. Now, presentationally this isn’t great. I’ve had to use the flash on my phone camera because the restaurant is quite dark and that of courses draws attention. So, not only have I caused a scene by being the only person with a flashing condiments tray, I’m now making more light disturbance moves. I was going to start repositioning items on the plate to make it look better, but then I decide that’s becoming ridiculous. So, that’s the only photo that I took.

Anyway, onto the food. My first reaction is that I realise I did order chips, but I’ve just eaten about eight potatoes, so that’s a carbs overload I hadn’t intended. The chips weren’t very exciting anyway, lacking in any seasoning, although that’s partly probably me just telling myself that I don’t need any more potato based products.

The burger itself was better, but by no means perfect. The crusty roll was excellent, it had firmness and yet didn’t require a hammer to break into. The lettuce was, well, lettuce and pointless, similar to the tomato (as in pointless, the tomato wasn’t lettucey). The bacon was far too English, I prefer American bacon which is all crispy and has a powerful punch of taste and adds some crispiness to the proceedings. Well, it would, it’s crispy. The burger came with pickled cucumber, which is always marvellous, I can binge eat that on its own.

The burger itself, which I ordered medium, but it came more well done. The taste was fine, nothing exceptional, but it needed more seasoning and something a little extra. It came with a BBQ sauce which added a little extra flavour, but although the burger was still moist, it wasn’t there taste-wise in terms of the best that I’ve had.

On the bright side, the payment process was much easier than the rest of the ordering process. It was clear that this was a pay on the way out exercise, and I’m pleased to report that this went marvellously. So, overall, everything was fine and the entire meal of burger, chips, salad bar and large beer came to £9. That’s expensive by Polish standard, but it’s not unreasonable all things considered.

Incidentally, on the way to the restaurant, I was handed by students a sheet of KFC discount vouchers and a sheet of Burger King discount vouchers. I’d add that they were students paid by the fast food companies, not just random kids who do that sort of thing for a laugh. So, I feel I did marvellously not getting distracted and ordering two Whopper Meals for £4, which is excellent value it has to be said. But, as a side issue, I realised when writing this that I’ve left these vouchers in the restaurant, so they’ll likely think I’ve been trying to hint at something.

Anyway, I might just go to Burger King tomorrow.