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no pięknie!

Who says you need to leave the office to have lunch? A quick sandwich eaten over a keyboard can be perfectly nutritious and it saves you plenty of precious time. A Chinese takeout has never killed anyone either (as long as you order from a trusted place) - you just have to be careful not to leave any sweet-and-sour spots on a pile of important files. You could even take a trip to a tiny room that is graciously called . You could heat some mac and cheese in a microwave. You could eat it, never ceasing to discuss the latest project with a colleague from the desk nearby. You could. But why?

You could also have a real lunch. Leave your desk, fill lungs with fresh air, smell the roses, forget about work and dine with people that you don’t have to watch in fluorescent light for eight hours each day. It could be colourful and beautiful. Oh beautiful!

Maja and Julia, founders of No Pięknie! (roughly translated, it means ), prefer the second option. They believe that finding time for a proper meal is an investment that pays off - you come back to work relaxed and full of energy to conquer the rest of the day. No Pięknie! is a healthy lunch break, served in a private apartment in the centre of Warsaw each Wednesday. They usually eat with kith and kin, but last week we were invited as well.

We arrived a little early to take a sneak peek behind the scenes. If we had secretly wished to catch Maja and Julia unprepared and running around the apartment in sheer panic, we would have failed miserably. Everything is in perfect order: Julia is grating white radish for a salad, Maja is busy blending green peas, two cheesecakes sit in the oven and every plate and every utensil is washed within seconds after being used. When we point that out, girls laugh: The large table is now full of delicate plates, white napkins, jars of nettle water and homemade lemonade. And fresh flowers.

Both Maja and Julia have vast cooking experience. Even though they had to come up with quite a few lunch menus already, they are still full of ideas. They enjoy spontaneity in kitchen. Things that requires precision, like baking, are not exactly their cup of tea. They cast an amused, but a bit worried look at the oven:

We hear the first bell ring. The sunny room slowly fills with people, greetings and laughter. Most of the guests are frequent visitors, some of them can be called regulars, some came back after a break. Some people have known each other forever, some are exchanging handshakes for the very first time. We sit at the table, we talk about ourselves, about food, about the weather, some people gossip about common friends, someone is showing pictures from his latest trip. According to No Pięknie,

The company is indeed very pleasant, but I’m pretty sure I would have enjoyed this particular meal just as much had I been locked in an isolation cell. The food is hearty, simple and homey. Having finished the first bowl of spring soup with young vegetables, I really appreciate the fact that here, unlike in restaurants, you can ask for a second helping. Light (and perfectly green) zucchini fritters go perfectly with a fluffy paste of green peas and feta cheese. I could eat a whole bowl of the crunchy salad, made with celery, radishes, daikon and bittercress. I leave something for the others though, mostly because my newly met table companions all turn out to be really nice. It’s time for coffee, freshly brewed in chemex, and the cheesecake, served with homemade blackberry jam. And even as a moderate cheesecake enthusiast, I can say that all the worries about this one were utterly groundless.

When we’re leaving, the Kaffeeklatsch is still going on. It looks like someone has finally succeeded in convincing people to the common table idea. Like in many trendy coffee shops, there is a large table in the centre. What is more, people are actually talking to each other instead of hiding behind books and laptops. Oh beautiful! No pięknie!