Fairground Attraction: Poland’s most innovative food & drink space opens to fanfare
Beckoned down a flight of shabby concrete stairs, visitors are met by a wild scene from their craziest dreams: the air is a swirl of raw energy, big beats and disconnected shouts.
On occasions, stilt walkers and fire eaters file past as partygoers squash through the scrum to enter a circus-style tent through the maniacal jaws of a cackling clown. At other times, fighters jostle through the crowds making a beeline for the boxing ring ahead. Before reaching it, they must first tread and tiptoe over a crazy golf course. Above, the pungent aroma of dozens of ethnic food stalls drifts overhead in a pungent fog.
There is no easy way to define it. Refusing to be classified in the strictest sense, Warsaw’s latest Food & Beverage concept is the most experimental to debut in the history of the country. Set on a thin piece of scrub between the Wisła river and a major urban highway, what was formerly a derelict, overgrown leisure complex has been revived as Lunapark, a fantastical world that challenges all the senses.
Created by a collective comprised of Katarzyna and Dagmara Dziedzic, Krzysztof Stelmach, Piotr Dorak and Ewa Siemionow (the same team that revolutionized the nation’s street food scene with Nocny Market, an ethnic food market set on the decaying platform of an abandoned train station), it’s already proving to be the sensation of the summer.
“Essentially,” says Ewa Siemionow, the PR manager of the group, “we’re just a collection of people who’ve just somehow ended up involved in Warsaw’s gastro and entertainment scene – professionally, we all came from different fields such as law, advertising and TV, but together we decided to open a riverside club called Hocki Klocki. Next came the Nocny Market in 2016 and that was followed by two bars late last year in downtown Warsaw: Warmut and Gram.”
Acclaimed as each and all of these projects has been, they pale next to Lunapark in both size and scope. “Primarily, Nocny Market focuses on street food and related culture,” says Siemionow. “Lunapark, on the other hand, is a whole complex that goes way beyond food. If anything, it’s more reminiscent of a music festival town.”
By no means is this an exaggeration: acting in tandem with a busy, neon-lit street food zone are bars set in a carousel and fairground shooting gallery; a games area; open-air cinema; and two facilities set aside for clubbing. Laidback and gentle by day, come nightfall the atmosphere amps up as hundreds descend to celebrate summer. Wandering performers prowl amid a menagerie of characters from the front end of cool; just by being here, you feel part of something special.
“Our philosophy is simple,” says Siemionow. “We open places that we think Warsaw is missing and which we would like to visit ourselves. Our primary aim is to make them unique and high-quality, but also inclusive and relaxed – we want venues where everyone can feel good. We also love using forgotten bits of Warsaw and returning them to life.”
Looking a little dishevelled and DIY, Lunapark is a good case in point with its ad hoc air lending it a free-spirited streak that feels independent and creative. But if it all looks so effortlessly easy then the reality is usually anything but.
“The headaches we face when creating outdoor venues are always the same,” continues Siemionow. “First, you need to acquire the plot and conduct many conversations to convince the owner about the potential of the project. Then there’s the neighbours: they need reassurance and you have to demonstrate to them that you’re a friendly business run in harmony with their lives and in accordance with good neighbourly principles. Fortunately, where Lunapark is concerned, everything has worked out as planned with no real obstacles to report.”
A reflection of Poland’s own changing F&B culture, the launch of Lunapark feels a seismic moment in a country whose own food revolution only kicked-off at the beginning of the decade. “Our food and drink culture is developing dynamically,” says Siemionow, “and it’s become clear that Polish people are very aware and increasingly curious about new products: they want to learn more and travel. Well our group is the same. We travel, try new things, learn and then introduce whichever exciting trends we’ve seen into the places we run.
“Nocny Market, for instance, was created after we visited the night markets of Asia; Warmut was heavily inspired by our time in Northern Spain, whilst Lunapark… well, that’s pretty much a collection of our own weird ideas mixed in with some global inspirations!”
Exciting, experimental, innovative and edgy, the result is a remarkable space the likes of which hasn’t been seen before.
(ul. Wał Miedzeszyński 407, fb.com/lunaparknadwisla)