In the summer of 2015 I had one of the best trips of my life! I visited family friends in Manila and spent time on the island of Panglao in Bohol. This is just a photo montage of some holiday snaps to entice you to visit. I’ve always enjoyed travelling to Asia and The Philippines […]
Have you ever been to Russia? If the answer is no, then you’re not alone, neither have we! However, if it is true that food is a window into a culture, then perhaps we could say that our appreciation of Russian culture has improved.
Like sport, food has the power to inspire and unite people in ways that little else does. This summer, we set out on an ambitious expedition to visit restaurants in London representing each of the 24 countries (including Russia) taking part in the recently concluded France Euro 2016 tournament. Our aim was to understand the power of food as a catalyst for cultural awareness, bringing London’s diverse communities together.
Our search for Russian cuisine in London led us to ZIMA Russian Street Food & Bar, a contemporary, cool, and artsy space on 45 Frith Street, Soho. Located right next to the popular Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, we discovered that ZIMA is an engine room for a spectacular transformation that is taking place with Russian food and drink.
What transformation you may ask? Historically, Russian dining had a reputation for being grim and pretentious. For many years, Russian food was stuck in the days when the defunct Soviet Union swallowed up countless other cultures. Restaurant dining in Russia meant being presented with a menu that tried to be everything but usually failed to establish any distinct identity.
Enter chef, writer, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of ZIMA, Alexei Zimin. Through his latest project, Alexei is on a mission to bring Russian food out from the cold to universal appeal by stripping off the layers and reclaiming its simplicity through the street food concept.
To understand the transformation taking place, we delved into Alexei’s journey. Born and raised in Russia, Alexei began his early career by training at the famous Le Cordon Bleu, London. Since then, Alexei has literally gone on to conquer the world of food in Russia. As well as presenting TV food shows, he is also the editor of the acclaimed Russian food magazine Afisha-Eda, food website Eda.ru and co-founder of Ragout, a successful restaurant and cookery school in Moscow. ZIMA, London is his latest endeavour, a strong contender in Soho’s burgeoning street food scene.
We visited ZIMA with Who’s For Dinner’s very own Ronke Lawal and Danielle Linton of KeepitSimpelle. For all of us, the night would be full of first time experiences.
For starters, we skipped the caviar set and were presented with a colourful array of vodkas, home-infused with healthy ingredients including horseradish, fennel and tarragon, cranberry, bilberry and basil. If we were looking for ‘healthy vodkas’ we had found the right place for them!
Small plates of venison and beef and herring tartar, infused pickles and a modern twist on the classic borsch complemented the vodkas surprisingly well, dispelling any notions of Russian food being boring.
Our main courses were served in tapas style, with small shareable platters including short-rib beef stroganoff and potatoes and slow-cooked lamb tongue and buckwheat with an oyster, mushroom, horseradish, garlic tomato sauce. The salmon and corn-fed poussin (chicken) plates were the main highlight. Far from being bland, both dishes were well seasoned with sides of potatoes, fenugreek cabbage, cucumber and radish salad.
Every time we tried something new, cheers erupted around the table proving that our first encounter with Russian food was a unanimous hit. As we embraced the food, we also embraced a fresh understanding of Russian culture: one that is fun, colourful and expressive. Meeting Alexei in person at the end of the evening for a quick chat was an extra bonus for what was already a great evening.
Street food naturally creates a sense of community and this is something that ZIMA does well in a fun and engaging atmosphere; certainly a worthy addition to London’s reputation as a melting pot of cultures.
To book a table at Zima, 45 Frith St London W1D 4SD, call 020 7494 9111. Walk-ins are also accepted.
This article is part of a social research campaign titled ‘Food, Football and the EU’ which seeks to strip away the preconceptions about cultures and demonstrate how food creates a simple common denominator which helps build communities. Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram using #FFEU16
Writers Omo and Eulanda Osagiede are the co-founders of food, travel and lifestyle blog, Hey! Dip Your Toes In.
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