Barbara Szwed moved to the Dandenong area from Poland in 1990. An avid cook, she began catering for Polish people all over Melbourne, cooking traditional food for those who were missing it. In 2010 she opened Kluska, one of Melbourne’s only Polish restaurants. Kluska is Polish for “dumping”.
Located in an unassuming Federation building on Foster Street, around the corner from Dandenong Plaza, you could mistake Kluska for a house if it weren’t for its blue and yellow sign. You’ll hear diners speaking Polish at a low hum. The bar is lined with a formidable selection of vodkas and beers from the Eastern European country.
The extensive menu is full of hearty, rich food including bigos, or hunter's stew, which is one of Poland’s national dishes, made from stewed meats and sauerkraut. Szwed uses beef, pork sausage, prunes and mushrooms in her version.
Of course, Kluska offers an abundance of dumplings. There are eight kinds of pierogi on the menu. And pyzy, or Silesian dumpling: a flourless potato ball filled with either mushroom or beef, and then steamed. They have a pillowy, marshmallow-like texture.
Sitting in rows on the bar are pączek, Polish doughnuts. They’re made from a yeasty dough similar to brioche, filled with a sour jam, then glazed and sprinkled with orange zest. A 70-year-old Polish friend of Szwed’s makes them at home especially for Kluska.