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Russian Tea at Mari Vanna Knightsbridge:
Already established in New York, Moscow and St Petersburg, Mari Vanna claims to be the apotheosis of a mythical woman who welcomed diners into her home with open arms, feeding them traditional Russian food on fine china and linen. The eclectic interior is packed with ornaments, jars of jams and pickles and lace doilies. Huge chandeliers hang from the ornate plaster coved ceiling. It’s pretty and charming and rather kitch.
In fact it reminded me a lot of my local coffee shop, the Troubadour, but ‘A la Russe’…and it’s quite hard to remember that it only opened earlier this year, unlike the Troubadour which has been there since the 50s and I believe looks pretty much as it did when it opened. There’s a timelessness about the styling.
I went for afternoon tea at the invitation of the Restaurant, a new and delightful addition to their menu that enables them to provide continuous service from when they open for lunch through to the end of evening service. Our three tiered serving plate had a mixture of sweet and savoury dishes including blinis, oladushki and rye toast with herring and beetroot in the savoury line up. Sweets included ‘birds milk’, a rather beautiful strawberry tartlette and my favourite – honey cake, a light layered sponge cake with a sweet honey cream filling.
The tea, served in pretty eastern European style glasses, was silver tip jasmine tea. Very light, very refreshing and a perfect drink to accompany the morsels of sweet and savoury Russian fare. There are other options on the menu, including black Ceylon tea and Earl Grey. And if you prefer not to indulge in the set tea, there are a selection of dishes, including Blinis, Crepes and Sweet Dumplings.
I’d like to go back. It’s the type of place I’d take someone who has been everywhere in London. Mari Vanna is rather conveniently sited just off the main shopping streets of Knightsbridge and within easy shouting distance of Harvey Nichols and Harrods. And I’d actually like to try the full lunch or dinner menu. It feels comfy and welcoming and I get the impression it would be a lovely place to relax if you’d been shopping. But right now, I’m letting the calories from my last visit disperse!
Disclaimer: My tea was provided free of charge by the restaurant
116 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7PJ