18th Feb 2017
On leaving my largest and longest ever meal, there were no taxis to be had. This was Moscow in the early 90s, and my indignant boyfriend barked at the doorman “Call yourselves a 5 star hotel?!” leading the doorman to sheepishly don his top hat at 3am and venture out into the Moscow blizzard, hailing passing cars till he found one to take us home.
We had actually left before the food stopped coming, but we couldn’t eat any more. The New Year’s eve menu at the famous Metropol Hotel on Red Square, favoured by Rasputin, filled a page of A4 and I fear we were only about two thirds of the way though it. The (at least a pint of) caviare arrived in a large silver bowl embedded in ice, with silver spoons. The blini were mysteriously absent and the Russian lady to my left had languorously eaten her way through most of it before they appeared.
Meanwhile, for the rest of my trip to Russia, I was mostly the hungriest I'd ever been. It was before the days of restaurants, just after perestroika, when free enterprise was in its infancy. MacDonalds had just opened and there were queues, quite literally, for miles. We were all hungry. Shops sold enormous whole salamis or tinned caviare, but nothing much else – not ideal for tourists wandering around without tin openers or knives. There was ice cream being sold on most street corners. No-one seemed to have noticed it was -18C though and the Russkies were happily consuming it. But, it was the first time I ever went to a supper club. These clandestine restaurants in peoples’s homes were only known about by our friends so we would wait, hungry, all day, before being taken out for another underground dining event. How much the internet has changed things!
We will have a Russian menu with a few interesting foreign influences (not MacDonalds!) to warm you all up at the end of January. Also you get to taste the very special Torte Napoleon which takes hours to make, and is composed of 16 separately baked layers of pastry.
Beet cured salmon
Zakuski (cold appetizers)
Vinegret (v) - Beet salad with a host of other ingredients, judging by the name some French influence here
Olivie (v) - the classic "Russian Salad" - rated the best he'd ever had by Aleksandr Popov (that's because we make our own mayonnaise)
Koreyskaya Morkov (v) - the ubiquitous but mysteriously named "Korean Carrot Salad" - they don't have such a thing in Korea. My friend maintains it's the Russian equivalent of Chicken Tikka Masala (it doesn't exist in India); you can get it everywhere in Russia.
Blini and Home-Cured Beetroot Salmon Fluffy blini served with beautiful, jewel-like cured salmon with dill and sour cream sauce
Classic Russian Borscht (v option available)
Golubtsi - Stuffed cabbage leaves with pork and beef - tasty and filling, a classic dish found all over the Russian Empire
Kasha and Kotletami - whole buckwheat with meat patties, a typical homestyle dish. Buckwheat will surprise you.
Mushroom Stroganoff (v) Mushrooms are a big part of the Russian diet and so is sour cream! Often the most popular dish.
Sharlotka - Russian Apple cake
The Absolut classic Napoleon Torte - more foreign influence here - apparently NOT named after Napoleon, but the city of Naples ( rated 10/10 by Oksana Sytnik when she tasted it!)
Price will be £45 of which £35 will go direct to MSF.
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