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Originally from Moravia, in what is now the Czech Republic, Antoni Hawelka first tiptoed into the restaurant trade in 1876, adding light snacks to his grocery business in Krakow's Main Square. By 1913 the present premises had opened and, since their full restoration in the early nineties, now give visitors to Krakow a glimpse of the city's grandeur at the twilight of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
One of the largest restaurants on the Main Square, Hawelka can accommodate up to 180 guests; and when its sister restaurant on the first floor - Tetmajorowska - is included, that figure increases to 250. The interior style is grand art nouveau, with rich greens as the dominant colour, white table linen and elegant chairs. Portraits of moustachioed military heroes gaze impassively down while formally dressed waiting staff bustle around.
The menu here is a mixture of Polish and Austrian high cuisine. A classic starter is Antoni Hawelka's hearty porcini mushroom soup, which is served in a spherical hollowed out loaf of bread. Main courses include wild boar tenderloins with bacon, lamb cutlets marinated in mustard, grilled veal and steak tartar. Crispy potato pancakes are a popular side. The restaurant company has a confectioners attached, and as a consequence offers a diet-defying selection of cakes, strudels, tarts and other sweets.
Very much a must-see for anyone who wants to jump back a hundred years and relive what many think of as a golden age, Hawelka also has a substantial and rather pretty summer terrace on the Main Square that offers an excellent way to combine fine dining with the sights and sounds of Krakow in the warm months.