With the inquiry into the polonium poisoning in London of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko revealing dramatic new evidence almost every day, this might be the time to recall how those events led to one Sheffield business becoming the Most Famous Restaurant in the World, albeit briefly.
It is 2006 and I’ve not long reviewed a meal at travel agent Boguslaw Sidorowicz’s Polish restaurant Polonium on Abbeydale Road, Sheffield, when the Litvinenko story breaks.
I give Boguslaw a call and, tongue in cheek, ask him if his food is also radioactive. He plays along, I write a story and then all hell breaks loose. The world’s press, looking for a new angle, loves the story. Boguslaw’s phone doesn’t stop ringing. The story goes radioactive.
I met him at his restaurant in the middle of it all – at first we couldn’t get in because he didn’t have the keys and his cook from Kazakhstan (no, not Borat) was playing the radio too loudly to hear – to see how he was getting on. “It started with you and it went all round England, then Europe, then the world. I got a call from Tokyo when I was shopping in Nottingham. I’ve said I’ll stop it when I get a call from the Moon,” he told me.
He opened specially for The Sun reporter who then wrote he was the only one in the restaurant and found Russian and Polish TV crews turned up without appointments. One day his website had 728,000 hits and he featured on Have I Got News For You. No wonder people pointed him out in the street.
Boguslaw, who was born in Sheffield to Polish parents, was not slow in cashing in. The new James Bondski menu featured Live and Let Pie potato pancakes, Goldfinger Golabki (stuffed cabbage), Steak Spy and The Pie Who Loved Me as well as Flamin’ Polonium dessert.
With what we know now, it is unlikely this would be repeated but back in 2006 this was quite a story. And does a Polish restaurant with a Kazakh cook sound authentic? Well yes because that nice Uncle Stalin deported thousands of Poles there.
As for the restaurant, named after a Polish folk band Boguslaw had played in during the Seventies, it closed after another year or two.