Although located just a short walk from Harrods, Borcht ‘n’ Tears refuses to conform to any conventions of luxurious interior design. When customers phone ahead to ask about the dress code, the answer is always, “Come as you are.” Words printed on the paper place-mats poke fun at the Knightsbridge location, “where even the dustmen have double chins,” the live music every night is a welcome ingredient, and the sense of fun is fuelled by an extensive range of vodkas. The hefty wooden dining tables are dented and scuffed because people have danced on them.
What the owning Bogdanov family does take seriously, though, is the food. Delicacies of Russian origin, such as five varieties of Russsian mushrooms (delicious marinated) or distinctively crisp Russian gherkins, feature in a starter menu with nearly 20 choices. Opt for a broad selection of these and you have a delightful meal in itself. We especially enjoyed the Piroski (small, traditional meat-filled pastries, to be dipped in the sour-cream) and Pilmenni, beef and pork-filled pasta shells cooked from frozen because that’s the way shivering Siberian housewives used to make them. And the eponymous Borscht, that Russian cliché, Beetroot soup, rises above its unpromising ingredients to become a creamy concoction with lingering hints of spices.
The fifteen-plus main courses go beyond the inevitable Chicken Kiev and chicken-based Goulash to such exotica as Ukrainian Lamb Plov (lamb cuts cooked in peppers, raisins and prunes), Kulibiaki (salmon, egg and mushroom in flaky pastry), and Squid Kommissar. Apparently the richly creamy Beef Stroganoff impressed a Marks & Spencer product planner so much that he phoned hoping to buy the recipe. Perestroika or not, the chef refused to disclose it.
Borscht ‘n’ Tears: 46 Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge, SW3 1NX. Tel: 020 7584 9911