TThe Oxford Times sent a deeply curved ball to The Feathered Nest in Nether Westcote by allowing a Polish national just four months into his UK residency to review Kuba Wininkowski’s lunch menu, created by the award-winning chef for the celebration of Slavic culture that is Polish Heritage Days.

However amazing the chef’s skills, Poland is a very difficult country to define through food. Not only because most Poles have a memory of a ‘babcia’ (granny) who made ‘the most unbelievable pierogi (dumplings) in the whole, whole world’, that must be taken under consideration, but because a Polish heritage’ menu needs to recognise Poland’s richness and diversity while being interesting for British customers.

Kuba Winkowski comes out of this challenge absolutely victorious.

Born in Gdansk in 1980, he described his youth as one of a “free spirit, a hippie, maybe even a troublesome child”.

“I didn’t have the faintest idea what I wanted to do with my life, although I was always interested in food and started cooking at a very young age, mostly thanks to my mother, who wasn’t interested in food at all.

“As a student I went for several months to Australia. It was there I was for the first time employed in a restaurant, an Italian venue run by two Serbs. I was doing dishes and my post was in the middle of all the action. I smelled the food, saw the customers’ reactions and felt this amazing buzz. I can still recall the smell of fresh basil blended into pesto paste there. Since then I knew I wanted to pursue a chef’s career.”

After becoming a bachelor in financial management to appease his parents, in June 2004 he moved to the UK. “I was one of the first Poles to move here after Poland joined the EU,” he said. “Back then, Poles needed to register and I was within the first 300 who did it. My wife, who had moved a couple of months later, was in the third thousand”.

Ten years older than most of his colleagues, in 2007 he graduated from the Thanet College in Broadstairs (now East Kent College) and found employment at Raymond Blanc’s two-Michelin star Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons restaurant, in Great Milton, where he worked for three years before becoming first sous-chef, and then head chef at The Feathered Nest.

In 2019, on his second attempt, he won the competition and was named The National Chef of the Year by the Craft Guild of Chefs. “There were 21 judges, holding altogether 28 Michelin stars. My absolute idols tasted my food; it is the best thing that has happened to me yet.”

Served at The Feathercote Inn until the end of the month, Mr Winkowski’s high-end lunch menu (£45) is infused with unique Polish produce, most of which is prepared by the chef himself.

From ‘ogorek kiszony’ (a distant cousin of a British gherkin), through ‘chlodnik’ (Polish-Lithuanian beetroot-buttermilk gazpacho) and pork roll surrounded with brilliantly reinvented sides such as ‘bigos’ (cabbage and sausage stew) and ‘powidla’ (prune paste) to the desserts, Winkowski’s cooking will satisfy the most demanding Polish critics while still being a modern, intelligent European cuisine within its own right.

The Feathered Nest Country Inn, Nether Wescote, near the Wychwoods. Book at 01993 833030