14 January 2014

Mari Vanna, Knightsbridge

'Magical' is the word Ellie used to describe our dinner experience last Friday and I couldn't have agreed more. I woke up the next morning in something of a beautiful haze of good food, great company and chilli vodka shots, reminiscing about a wonderful meal. We had dined at Mari Vanna in Knightsbridge; a restaurant that somehow I had not been aware of until I drove past it one day and noticed how pretty it looked outside.

The extraordinary detail in the design of Mari Vanna assists in making you feel like you are entering a quintessential Russian house, adorned with china ornaments, stacked dolls, plants, Russian literature in the book shelves and beautiful chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. 

Unless you're up with your Russia facts, you may be wondering why they still have their Christmas decorations up. Christmas in Russia is celebrated on 7th January and is part of a ten day holiday at the start of every new year so Mari Vanna were still very much in festive mode!

We settled at our table in this quaint little restaurant and ordered ourselves a bottle of the Mtsvane-Kisi Georgian white wine. We were informed by our friendly waiter that it was something of a tradition to begin the meal with a vodka shot. Taking little convincing (well, it was Friday!) we downed one of their house-infused chilli and honey vodka shots before being presented with this fantastic Russian tea bread board - perfect to soak it up with!

It was lucky the waiters here were so friendly as we had quite a few questions about the menu before we could order - neither of us were seasoned Russian cuisine eaters. Were were recommended the courgette pancakes served with slightly salted salmon (above right) and I ordered the Khachapuri - Georgian cheese bread. God, I love cheese.

The pancakes were light and so delicious; I'm not sure how they got so much flavour out of the somewhat bland courgette. I even enjoyed the smoked salmon and I've never really been a fan of the stuff. The Khachapuri was as good as it looks. Gooey, mature cheese melted on a fresh bread base - how could it be bad? (I took a slice away with me and had a bite of it cold the next morning - it tasted even better!).

For our main courses, Ellie ordered the beef stroganoff with buckwheat and I had the duck breast in cowberry sauce.

 The duck was succulent and the tangy cowberry sauce complimented it well. I loved the potatoes served with the whole bay leaf - I might have to borrow that idea! Ellie's stroganoff was wonderfully creamy and the meat tender. It actually worked very nicely as a side dish to my duck!

Just as an aside from the food, here are Mari Vanna's ladies toilets. They have as much detailed decor as the dining area!

These were our desserts - a heavenly layered Prague chocolate cake with Russian ice cream and Ellie's creamy strawberry cake (can't remember what it was called but I think the picture will do the job...).

A truly scrumptious finale. We found the food at Mari Vanna fantastic and combined with the great service and delightful surroundings, it was just an all-round quality evening. We loved it.

We stayed on for a post-meal cocktail as we gossiped some more and picked at the little bowl of sweets and chocolates we'd been given. Initially, we were told that we only had our table for 2 hours and that we'd have to vacate after that. We arrived for our reservation at 7pm and ended up leaving around 10.30pm...you do that maths! (I hate it when people say that, sorry). It was a relief for us that they were so accommodating on this busy evening as we just didn't want to leave!  

There are branches of Mari Vanna in St Petersburg, Moscow, New York and Los Angeles. In fact, I will be visiting the sunny LA venue next month - I'm all booked in for brunch! I'll be interested to see how it compares to it's gorgeous London sister.

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  1. I used to work for an interior architecture awards scheme, and I remember Mari Vanna being one of our entries! It didn't win sadly, but it's bloomin' gorgeous!

    The food looks fantastic too.

    1. Oh wow, really? I can't believe it didn't win - it was clearly a travesty! xx

  2. Ah wow! This places looks amazing. I think I read something about it recently and then promptly forgot, but now I've seen this I think I'll have to book, even if it's just for that cheesy bread alone!!

    Rosie xx

    1. The bread was aaaaaamazing (especially for breakfast!) xx

  3. OMG! This post makes me miss Russia so much - you would actually be surprised how many little soviet kitsch places still exist on Russian soil. I am more than jealous of the Khachapuri (there was a fab georgian restaurant in my little Russian hometown!). They have got it spot on the with алёнка chocolates too (the ones with the scary baby on the front!). This just took me straight back to the motherland - I MUST GO! Thanks so much for sharing - can't wait to get down there! xxx

    Grace x

    If you're interested in comparing your restaurant fare to the home kitchens of Russia have a look here: http://theartofwandering.blogspot.com/2013/10/i-am-not-glutton-i-am-explorer-of-food.html

    1. Do you know what, it's so interesting to hear how spot on Mari Vanna seem to have got it. I've never been to Russia so really didn't have anything to compare it to but reading your comment made me love it there even more! Thank you for posting and you should definitely pay it a visit! I'm going to have a look at your link right now xx

  4. I can't even believe this is a chain! This is like heaven in a teashop/cocktail bar/restaurant for me - the décor is so beautiful! I'm excited to see how LA compares (take me with you?!)

    Katie <3

    P.S Are you wearing a dress or top? Sorry if you said already, couldn't see it! <3

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who hadn't heard of it. It really is a gorgeous little place - very girlie! I'm so excited for LA, Beverly Hills is one of my favourite places EVER. Sure you don't fancy booking yourself a flight out for 4 weeks time? ;)

      It's a dress and I wish I'd got a full length picture of it - completely forgot! Show's I'm not a natural fashion blogger, eh! xx

  5. Wowee a Russian restaurant! I don't believe I've ever come across one before, and it looks ever so pretty - I totally understand how the pretty lights lured you in :)
    Classic Caroline - choosing the duck dish :p I'm glad to hear it lived up to your expectations
    Nice to see Ellie again too
    x x
    {The Lobster & Me}

    1. No neither had I! I'm so glad I finally did though! And yes, you know me well....I canne resist the old ducky! xx

  6. You look beautiful! i absolutley love Russian culture and this place looks AMAZING; i'd love to go there one day after seeing the delicious looking food too
    Mahsa xx

  7. Caroline that looks right out of a fairytale!
    My sister-in-law is Russian, and yet I've never been to a Russian restaurant. Such a shame!
    I knew about their Christmas, but never heard of any of the foods - and that chili vodka sounds great.

    {Teffy's Perks} X

  8. This looks fantastic - it's going straight into my to book list!!

  9. Ooh Caroline this looks amazing! I love all the decor and especially the reservation sign, that's such a nice touch!


  10. This looks like such a brilliant and unique spot, all the food looks delicious! Definitely going to make a note of it for next time I'm around London :) I love how adorable the style of the interior is, that reserved sign is so cute!

    Hannah's Haven

  11. This looks like a such a unique dinning experience. The cheese bread looks amazing, but you can't t really go wrong with cheese and carbs.


  12. Wooooow this. looks. AMAZING. More like an opulent palace than a restaurant. I don't think I've been this taken by a restaurant's decor ever! I will check out the NYC one, though it doesn't look as nice as this one =/ Thanks for sharing!


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