Cafe Eilat - Warsaw 1993 - culinary anti semitism

By Trevor Fox
October 27, 2008

As expats in Warsaw in 1993 we used to go to the Pink Elephant Club at the British Embassy once a month . I don’t know whether the embassies still do this but Thursday night was open night for UK expats and all you had to do in pre-global terrorism days was to show your blue hardback passport to the barman who made a note of its number and your name, not for security purposes but to ensure that you paid your food and bar tab.

Along the road from the embassy was the Café Eilat on Ujadowskie Street. This was started by a Mr Pruszczynski, a Polish restaurateur from Montreal. The premises were owned by the Polish-Israeli Friendship Society. The menu was New York deli-style, not kosher, but with enough non-meat dishes on the menu. A lot of UK and US expats ate there in the evenings and you got to read English papers, although they were at least a day old. None of the clientele, or the owner, were Jewish.
I went along one evening to be greeted by Mr Pruszczynski who apologized for not being able to serve fish any longer. He had put a written note on each table saying that the Warsaw Town Council had received complaints from local residents about the smell of fried herring and loud piano music coming from the restaurant and that grilling fish was henceforth to be banned. The fact that the menu did not include fried herring or that the restaurant did not have a piano had been ignored by the Council. Mr Pruszczynski went on to state that in the Polish mind fried herrings and loud piano music were synonymous with Jews and the fact the restaurant was called Café Eilat and the premises were owned by the Polish-Israeli Society, were enough for the authorities to enforce this ban or any other ban they thought up. He called it blatant anti-semitism.

When I last went to Warsaw in 2004 the Café Eilat was still there but the business had been sold and it was a mere shadow of its former glory.


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