Mari Vanna is one such place; tucked next to the glossy One Hyde Park in Knightsbridge, this restaurant transports you to a Russian grandma’s dacha, crammed with trinkets, old family photographs and flowery crockery. The décor is fabulously kitsch and cluttered, yet the place is very polished and utterly charming.
|Rye bread & pickles|
The menu includes authentic Russian classics – we started with a jar of crunchy pickles and delicious pickled mushrooms marinated in dill and allspice, which were a great accompaniment to the rye bread.
|Russian Olivier salad|
|Herring with new potatoes & onion|
Russian salads are not the green, leafy kind, but instead chopped vegetables bound with mayonnaise – our Olivier salad included carrots, cucumber, peas and potato with Doktorskaya sausage. We also shared Russian blinis (not the little rounds, but larger, soft pancakes) with salty orange pearls of salmon roe and sour cream, and fresh, briny salted herring with new potatoes and onion.
From the mains, I went for the Siberian Pelmeni - little silky dumplings filled with meaty minced beef and pork, served with more sour cream on the side. The beef fillet stroganoff was also good, served alongside nutty buckwheat with mushrooms.
We finished with a delightful honey cake made up of soft honey soaked sponge layered with a creamy filling, next to a chunk of gooey honeycomb. It felt only right to follow this with a shot of their honeycomb infused vodka (other flavours include a powerful horseradish).
The food is the perfect rich, stodgy antidote to the cold, rainy streets of London at the moment, and the service is excellent. Although I was lucky enough to be taken to Mari Vanna, the food is not too pricey (depending on how greedy you are with all the starters), especially with their lunch set menu at £18 for 2 courses, or £25 for 3 courses. There is nowhere else like it in London, and I defy you not to be won over by its fairy tale charm.