Robert Jackman

How to have a Russian weekend in London

  • From Spectator Life
Traditional Kulichi at Zima restaurant

Benedict Cumberbatch’s turn as Greville Wynne – the British engineer who helped MI6 smuggle secret intel out of Soviet Russia – in The Courier has shone a light on London’s Cold War past. While the USSR and KGB might be gone, our capital still has a few souvenirs from the era – not to mention plenty of modern Russian culture and cuisine to boot.

If you’re feeling inspired by The Courier, here’s the guide to throwing the ultimate Russian-themed weekend in London:

Where to eat and drink

Mari_Vanna_London.jpg
Mari Vana, Kensington

While the old Soviet bloc wasn’t exactly famed for its cuisine, London’s eastern Europe and Slavic food has come on leaps and bounds since the days of Perestroika (as you might hope).

Of the various Russian eateries found around West London, Kensington’s Mari Vanna is generally regarded as the most fashionable. With a charming, rustic atmosphere, the deli and restaurant serves everything from authentic stroganoff to hearty Ukrainian golubtsy. That it’s currently sold out of caviar says something about London’s post-pandemic economy – even if I’m not entirely sure what.

If you can’t get a table, try Frith Street’s street-food inspired Zima, which delivers a modern take on the same decades-old Russian classics. Whet your appetite with borscht or dill soup, before getting stuck into crab fritters, pickled cabbage, and creamy chicken-stuffed blinis.

With more gold trimmings than an oligarch’s bathroom, nearby Bob Bob Richard – home of the infamous ‘press for champagne’ button – deserves a mention. Truffle, potato and mushroom vareniki (the effortlessly-satisfying dumplings beloved across the region) are probably the most authentic option on the menu. Wash them down with a shot of vodka, served at -18c.

If you want to dine like a real Muscovite your best bet is to head to one of north London’s various Georgian restaurants.

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