Though pierogi joints are a dime a dozen in the Polish capital, one of Warsaw’s most iconic streets, Krakowskie Przedmieście, lacked a fast-casual spot that served the country’s famous dumpling dish until Syrena Irena opened its doors. Offering handmade pierogis, the same attention and care paid to the food itself has been extended to the new bistro’s interior, designed by graphic agency Mamastudio and architecture firm Projekt Praga.
The restaurant’s concept was simple: a modern spin on traditional Polish cuisine. Fortunately, the designers found plenty of inspiration in the historic building where Syrena Irena now resides. Originally a hotel café in the 1950s, the space was replete with classic details, including arched windows and intricate mouldings.
Projekt Praga and Mamastudio have updated the interior with vivid pops of colour — introducing a contemporary aesthetic while retaining the building’s old-world charm. “We wanted to incorporate the brand’s boldness into the interior while maintaining both the simplicity of the culinary concept and the airy space,” the architects explain.
Mamastudio designed the restaurant’s brand identity by taking cues from the aesthetics of the Polish School of Posters and from Warsaw’s nightlife in the 1960s. In keeping with the interior’s marriage of past and present, the firm settled on the iconic Mermaid of Warsaw — a symbol that dates back to 1390 — to serve as the restaurant’s mascot. A collaboration with illustrator Ola Sadownik, the logo was designed to mimic a retro cut-out, alongside “expressive and slightly clumsy” typography.
Diners are whimsically welcomed at the quick-service counter, where a vibrant blue bar and mosaic checkerboard flooring make a bold statement — and foreshadow the restaurant’s aquatic theme. Above, a neon light installation casts an electric purple glow, alluding to Warsaw’s lively club scene.
The restaurant’s signature siren, pierogi motifs and other thematic graphics have been incorporated into its branding and interior, adding pops of playful pink that are carefully balanced by muted greige throughout.
Save for a wallpaper mural of Herbert James Draper’s Ulysses and the Sirens, the dining room takes a more subtle approach. Drawing from the rational design language of Polish modernist architecture, bespoke graphic tables and metal accents anchor the space, while mid-century-inspired seating, milky glass sconces and blonde herringbone floors incorporate contemporary design trends.
Despite the dining room’s apparent simplicity, no detail has been left unconsidered. Even the neutral metal railings — which at first glance fade into the background — are a riff on the shape of scales, like those found on the tail of the restaurant’s mascot mermaid.
While Syrena Irena promises pierogis that rival your babcia’s, its design is proof that honouring tradition doesn’t have to be boring. With its daring use of colour and respect for classical elements, this high-design bistro will appeal to diners of all generations.