Despite an estimated 150,000 Russians living in London their cuisine remains relatively underrepresented in the city’s restaurant scene, compared to, say, New York. Fear not — Londongrad’s establishments can still take diners on a great culinary tour of Mother Russia, without the hassle of a lengthy visa procedure. There’s far more on offer than dumplings and vodka, catering to many tastes and price points, and covering a variety of regional cuisines, from Eastern Europe and Siberia to Central Asia and the Silk Road.Read More
9 Revelatory Russian Restaurants to Try in London
Where to try “doctor’s sausage,” “herrings in fur coats,” and other Russian specialities all over the city
1. Borshtch n Tears - Борщ И Слёзы
B’n’T is rumoured to have opened all the way back in 1965, staking its claim as London’s first Russian restaurant. Its name combines a tongue-in-cheek reference to nostalgia, the process of chopping onions and a beetroot soup that’s far more enjoyable to eat than to pronounce, especially when sour cream is involved. Combine borshcht with some hot starters — pirozhki (buns stuffed with meat or cabbage), pelmeni (Siberian meat dumplings) or chebureki (deep-fried pasties) — and prepare to fight the food coma with karaoke or a shisha session in the secret garden.
2. Mari Vanna
Meals at the popular Knightsbridge restaurant are equal parts opulent and homey, with the atmosphere of an intimate townhouse dinner party hosted by a recently widowed Russian heiress. A word of advice to avoid getting lost in the extensive menu: Start with an Olivier salad. This Russian staple created in 1860 has survived over a century of socio-political upheaval and corresponding iterations in ingredients. For those feeling bourgeois — order the ox tongue version; for those who perhaps identify a little further to the Left — try one with doktorskaya kolbasa (“doctor’s sausage,” the Russian poor man’s mortadella).
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3. Dacha Russian Shop
A “dacha” is a Russian summer country house where friends and family convene for staycations filled with day-long outdoor barbecues. No summer house? No problem. Dacha’s weekend brunch buffet is a steal, serving a smorgasbord of Russian specialties at £8.45 a head. Load up on blinis or grab something from Dacha’s shop, which stocks London’s best selection of Russian delicatessen: fresh, baked, preserved, savoury, sweet and alcoholic. For those wondering, yes, they sell AK-47-shaped bottles of vodka.
4. Stolle UK
Stolle is a popular chain of pie bakeries with branches in Russia, London and New York. Stolle’s “pirogi” are known for their beautiful decorative crusts and a variety of meat, fish, vegetable, cheese or fruit fillings. If eating at the restaurant (which serves an affordable selection of Russian dishes), skip straight to the sweet or savoury pie selection. Wash it down with tea served in traditional crystal drinking glasses, or a cold kvas — a refreshing fizzy drink made from fermented rye bread, with a light taste of molasses. While you’re at it, sign up for one of Stolle’s baking classes.
5. Bob Bob Ricard
The swanky Soho icon, owned by Russian restaurateur Leonid Shutov, is known for its highly Instagrammed “press for champagne” button. The predominantly European menu also boasts Russian-inspired dishes with an upscale twist: lobster, crab and shrimp pelmeni, truffled potato vareniki and house favourite — Oysters Brezhnev. Keep eyes peeled for the opening of Bob Bob Cité, its City-based sister restaurant, where Michelin-star-winning chef Eric Chavot plans to serve snail dumplings and brioche-stuffed chicken Kiev.
6. Zima Russian Street Food And Bar
Zima is a contemporary take on a “ryumochnaya” — a Soviet-era drinking establishment known for its relaxed atmosphere and affordable food. Sure enough, the laid-back Soho spot serves the cheapest caviar in London (£1 per gram) and accompanies Russian-inspired street food and cocktails with live sports screenings. The homemade “nastoykas” (infused vodkas) come in a rainbow of flavours (from sea buckthorn to strawberry), best sampled in a 10-shot taster set accompanied with hot and cold starters. For bonus points, order the ukha (fish soup) if watching a game played in Rostov-on-Don — it’s the town’s local specialty.
7. Erebuni Restaurant
This Clerkenwell restaurant serves a wide selection of Russian, Armenian and Georgian cuisines — the last two are revered by Russians for their Asian flavours and use of spices (not unlike the British affection for Indian food). Don’t leave without trying Georgia’s traditional adjarskiy khachapuri — an extraordinarily tasty boat-shaped flatbread with melted cheese and egg; and the Armenian ker u sus — a comfort dish of skirt steak and potato that translates to “shut up and eat.” Pay no attention to the name — cheer for your team while watching the game and celebrate its victory (or defeat) with some shots and a go at Russian-language karaoke.
8. Pasha Spa
Pasha in Camberwell takes its inspiration from the Silk Road — more specifically, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russian-speaking countries with “-stan” in their name. Aside from South Caucasian and Central Asian classics like manti (spiced meat dumplings), lagman (a rich noodle soup) and plov (an Uzbek specialty of rice, vegetables and meat, slow-cooked in a cauldron with animal fat), Pasha also serves the strangely named Russian appetizer — seld pod shuboy, a.k.a. “herring under a fur coat.” Rest assured: no animals, except for a herring, are harmed in the making of this dish.
9. Zakuski at Broadway Market
London E8 4QJ, UK
Zakuski, the catering company with a stall at Broadway market, is named after Russian appetisers. The word itself roughly translates to “things you bite into” (in practice, often after a vodka shot). Zakuski’s stall serves a rotating selection of colourful and predominantly vegetarian salads and mezzes. Try the “Korean carrot” — a tangy marinated dish invented by ethnic Koreans living in the USSR, who, lacking access to the proper ingredients for making kimchi, created an alternative that became wildly popular throughout the Soviet Union.
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10. Opera Restaurant and Bar
East London is home to a number of Eastern European communities, so it’s no surprise that Opera in Leytonstone has Russian, Lithuanian, Bielorussian and Ukrainian dishes on its menu. Try the shashlik (meat grilled on skewers) and layered honey cake, a Russian classic dating back to the 18th century. Legend has it that a young chef created the cake for Empress Elizabeth, oblivious to her hatred for honey-based dishes. Luckily for him, she loved it and the cake remains one of Russia’s most beloved desserts to this day. Those following Chef’s Table on Netflix might recall it from the episode featuring Moscow chef Vladimir Mukhin.