On a list of things not to wear on a hot summers day, a mink hat and wrap would probably be pretty high up. However, when faced with the question of what to wear to a ‘Soviet Chic’ themed dinner, fur instantly comes to mind. And so it was that on a sweltering evening at the height of summer that I left my house ensconced in the warm clutches of an outfit rather better suited to colder climes.
My destination for the evening was the Gothe Institute in South Kensington, where for the duration of August a ‘festival of private and underground dining’ was being held, known as Supperclub Summit. The idea here was to showcase the best of the London supperclub scene, in a big foodie festival. Tonight it was the turn of the Russian Revels to show us how Soviet food should be done!
After a veritable sauna of a tube ride across London I arrived hot and flustered, not to mention rather nervous about attending my first supper club alone. I needn’t have worried. My nerves were quickly calmed with a friendly greeting and introduction by one of the hosts, Karina, and my body temperature restored to it’s normal state of affairs with a mouthwateringly refreshing vodka and watermelon ice-lolly, served in place of the traditional pre-dinner aperitif. As we mingled, taking in our surroundings and getting to know each other, tasty little pre-zakuski of tender stuffed prunes and blinis topped with aubergine caviar were offered up on trays brought round by (not so) Young Pioneers kitted out in red neckerchiefs and hats.
When dinner was called I nestled myself in to an empty seat at one of the long communal tables between a friendly Italian man and a couple of chatty Russian girls. A Young Pioneer came round to take our drinks order, and as we all decided on a couple of bottles to share between us, it felt like having dinner with old friends.
As the first course arrived – a selection of zakuski, or Russian tapas – our glamourous hosts gave an introduction to the meal. They explained that the dinner was very much influenced by family recipes that had been passed down, and inspired by their memories of Russian food, updated and adapted by them to give a chic contemporary feel. The whole point of the Russian Revels supper clubs was to show that Russian food didn’t have to be bland and boring as many people think, and prove that it could in fact be fun, delicious and sexy. And so it was! With the talk over, we chomped down on plump little Russian pickles in a basket of bread, shimmering with gold luster, unctuous slivers of salo (lard) on rye bread, deliciously salty cods liver pate, borscht inspired tartlets – all washed down with ice cold vodka. The numerous little dishes complementing each other perfectly, giving a real feel for the variety of Russian flavours.
As we talked, more and more animatedly as the wine went down, the first course was cleared away and replaced by the second. Baked potatoes snuggled in beds of hay were passed round and we all helped ourselves to steaming platters of rare roast beef. So far, not so Russian – roast beef and baked potatoes, although delicious, could have been from anywhere, but the curd cheese and Georgian lobio (a spicy bean dish) gave it a distinctive Russian feel. Finally we tucked into ‘pick your own berries’, and ‘Russian Bear Cake’… which I could describe better had I not had so much to drink by this point!
At the end of the evening, despite feeling rather like a roly-poly pudding, I felt like it was time for a dance. The Russian music was blaring and energy was high… but sadly it was not to be. Instead we all said our goodbyes and wobbled off into the night, full of tasty Russian food, and wonderful memories of a warm summers eve in London.
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The Russian Revels next event, which they describe as a ‘mingling club’ is happening very soon. 19th September in fact. Take a look at their website for more info