Russian cuisine is still a mystery to many people in the UK, but with more and more Russian restaurants opening here it is a food worth trying. Similar to Polish food, Russian cuisine generally reflects the fact there's a limit to what can be grown in the country.
Therefore, vegetables such as cabbage, potato and beetroot make a regular appearance in most dishes, while milk, cream and cheese are also big on the agenda. So if you like any of these, you'll probably like Russian cuisine.
Russian restaurants - Flavours to savour
Unlike most other international cuisine, Russian food is not big on spices. Instead preserved foods play a significant role in shaping this cuisine as long winters mean that food must be stored for nearly half the year.
The emphasis in Russian cuisine is on carbohydrates rather than proteins and vitamins, particularly in the winter when the carbohydrates help to keep the body warm. This means you will find a lot of bread, potatoes, cabbage and beetroot in Russian dishes, while meat and fish is also used but is usually smoked, as this extends its shelf life. Soup is also big on the agenda, with borscht (vegetable soup with beetroot) one of the most popular dishes in Russia.
Main courses in Russian cuisine are generally hearty and heavy, with potato dumplings often accompanying meat dishes. Some main courses you may find in a Russian restaurant are pelmeni, which is potato dumplings stuffed with spiced pork, and golubtsy, which is cabbage leaves stuffed with chopped pork and vegetables.
Russian restaurants - First visit food
If you are heading to a Russian restaurant for the first time then you'll want to sample a range of dishes to get a real taste for Russian cuisine. As potatoes, bread and pastry make up the staple part of the Russian diet, why not try pelmeni, as mentioned above, vareniki, which is similar to pelmeni but with vegetables inside instead of meat, or potato with mushrooms.
Also worth trying is salmon caviar, which is a traditional Russian appetiser and is usually served on ice and eaten on toast. Other popular dishes that you may want to try on your first visit include, soleniye ogurscy (salted cucumbers), which are small cucumbers that have been kept in the salted water with spices for several weeks, and seledka pod shuboy (Herring in sheepskin coat), which is small pieces of the herring mixed with the boiled potato, beetroot, carrot and mayonnaise.
Get a feel for Russian restaurants
Russian restaurants in the UK are usually decorated in authentic and traditional style, which means plenty of bright colours on the walls along with wooden seating areas. However, entertainment is also important in Russia so expect to see dancers or musicians in some Russian restaurants in the UK.
Find Russian food in the UK
If you are looking for a Russian restaurant in the UK then you'll find there are a few to choose from, particularly in London, including:
Trojka Russian Tea Room & Restaurant, London - this popular eatery serves a variety of Russian, Ukrainian and Polish food. The restaurant is decorated in bright colours and there is usually traditional Russian entertainment in the evenings. However you can just pop in for a coffee and a cake during the day.
Potemkin, London - This Russian restaurant has a bar upstairs that sells 120 different types of vodka and a wide range of Eastern European beers. The food is authentic Russian cuisine, including caviar, and they can also cater for private parties of up to 34 people.
Things to look out for at Russian restaurants in the UK
There are a few things to look out for when you visit a Russian restaurant in the UK. The main thing is that vodka is very important to the Russians so expect to see many different types of vodka on sale. Russians drink vodka in large quantities, usually with the appetisers, so if you want to have an authentic Russian meal then make sure you order plenty of vodka with your starter!
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