Putin, petruska dolls, Hunt for the Red October, novichoks, vodka, furry hats and Catherine The Great’s long suffering horse; Russia conjures up many images but it’s seldom cuisine. Which is a shame, because the sprawling country is home to many incredible dishes and a passion for cooking that’s the equal of any found in France or Italy. Decried as being stodgy or fart-inducingly cabbage-laden, Russian food isn’t always easy to find in London, but here are half a dozen restaurants that’ll change your mind.
Every oligarch probably has a ‘press for Champagne’ button close to hand at all times, whether it’s on their 300ft yacht or their $20m jet, or at Bob Bob Ricard. The Russian restaurant is seriously smart, and not just by Russian resto standards, it’s one of Soho’s gems and it’s more buzzing than it’s all of its Champagne buttons pressed together.
Eccentric and creative, the restaurant fuses rich famous with Russian suave, a world where everything is gold, marble or velvet. The food is a mixture of British and Russian ‘best hits’ and comes from the kitchen of mastermind chef Eric Chavot.
Russian born interior designer Yuna Megre was educated in Britain and is the genius behind Mari Vanna. Set in a Russian home, filled with call-backs to the mother country, from the decor to the curios and with Russian folk songs in the bathrooms and crystal from St Petersburg. The food is also old-school, with old-fashioned Russian cookery recreating the Russian idyl.
Yes we Barbi-can! Erebuni serves Russian and Armenian cuisine from the shadows of the Barbican complex. The decor feels modern Russiany, and add in karaoke, DJs and entertainment and you could, just about, be in downtown Yerevan. Accompany your meal with Armenian vodkas and Georgian wines before hitting the dance floor.
Russian street food might not be your natural go-to cuisine, but you’d be missing out. Unless you headed to Zima, in Soho. The creation of Russian superstar chef Alexei Zimin (sort of Gordon Ramsay meets Pru Leath meets Rasputin), the founder of Moscow’s Ragout restaurants, a cookery school and leading Russian foody magazine Eda. It’s where London Russians come to dine authentically,
The dacha is a well established Russian tradition, a holiday home away from the city and unlike the UK not just the preserve of the super-wealthy, many Russians have one, whether it’s a humble hut in the countryside or a palace. And this delicatessen turned restaurant has fast become a home-from-home for North London Russian and Eastern Europeans looking for a taste of home.
In the oligarch/diplomat/KGB officer stomping ground of Knightsbridge, one thing remains constant, Borschtch ‘n’ Tears. Founded in 1965 (the website still seems stuck firmly behind the Iron Curtain), the menu is traditional Russia; so caviar, lots of cabbage and, of course, borscht (soup). The lighting is low, the interiors red (obvs) and the Russian music creates an atmosphere that transports you at least to the ’60s, if not Russia itself.