Here we go, word association. Russian – who`d like to go first? A nervous hand popped up “er, Oligarchs? “ Good – next. A few predictable suggestions came in, including some dark mutterings about spies and various nefarious goings on. I narrowed the discussion down to Russian food, and we didn`t get far beyond Borscht, pickled herring and lashings of vodka.
Armed with this less than encyclopaedic bit of collective wisdom, Lady H and I set forth to 45 Frith St, which is right next door to Ronny Scott’s Jazz club. Zima has a great logo, very Boho, and very befitting of a country with some epic art. Zima`s walls echo this with prints, paintings and folk art such as the painted wooden panels and sledges.
Number 45 is an old and elegant building, and seated at the next table was “the grandmother of performance art” Marina Abramovic. You won`t find any more committed than her to the cause. And we got commitment from the waiters too, with great service from the word go as we got stuck into our dark bread and Vodka Platter. It’s all home cured on the premises, and I`m sure very authentic, depending whereabouts on that huge part of the world you come from. As an amateur Russianist, I`m just going to run down the list and tell you that I loved the mushrooms, the coleslaw / unfermented sauerkraut, the pickled herring and red cabbage, but would not have missed the very lightly treated cucumber or the slices of nearly pure pork belly fat. I couldn’t taste any vodka though, so I`m assuming I misread the brief by not ordering some shots at this stage.
I got beaten to the draw on the Sturgeon, burnt cauliflower, cream, dill and cherry toms so went for that peasant favourite, Cabbage Rolls. The sturgeon was flavoursome & interesting, having the texture of a firm whitefish, but with a subtle lingering aftertaste more reminiscent of one of its oilier cousins. It didn`t take long for her ladyship to clean the plate, heaping praise on “the best cauliflower” she had enjoyed in ages. Over in cabbage roll land I was very much enjoying my Russian beer and the delicate cream, tomato and pea shoot notes joining up with the meat filled cabbage leaves and hints of garlic on my plate. On a cold night on the Steppes, those peasants know how to live well.
Lady H had a shot of something I struggled to pronounce, and we shared perfect thin pancakes, slathered with jam and sour cream which had us beaming happily just prior to grabbing our coats. After a poor attempt at “Do svidanya!” we settled for a very English “goodbye!” on the way out, but I think they forgave us.
Go for: a different and inexpensive night out with excellent service in the heart of Soho
Zima bookings on 0207 494 9111