A midweek launch involving quaffing berry infused vodka and dining on caviar is one way to spice up a rather mundane week. This was all thanks to Alexei Zimin, one of Russia’s most celebrated chefs who just launched Zima, his new street food bar and kitchen.
The name Zima translates as ‘winter’ in Russian and with its similarities to his surname, it seems an appropriate fit. This is his first venture outside of Russia, having already opened two successful restaurants in Moscow and St Petersburg. A man of many talents, his expertise extends beyond the kitchen including magazine editing, restaurant critiquing, television presenting and tutoring. He clearly has a passion for food and with a wealth of experience, having trained at Le Cordon Bleu, we were looking forward to the evening ahead.
Set amongst the bustling Frith Street, Zima is tucked away next to the legendary Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club in the basement of a Grade-II listed townhouse. As you descend down the hidden stairwell and enter the intimate venue, it feels like stepping into a local restaurant in Moscow with its traditional motifs, propaganda porcelain and decorative rugs hanging overhead.
In true Russian fashion, not long before sitting down, we were presented with an array of vodkas to taste. They arrived in miniature bottles emblazoned with the Zima branding with beautifully hand written tags attached to each listing out each flavor. The strawberry and basil fusion had a beautifully aromatic smell and yet an extremely muted taste in comparison. Whereas the Sea Buckthorn had a subtle citrus aroma with a potent taste, although it went down much better once discovering its properties in slowing the aging process. Exclusively sold in Zima, there’s an abundance of other flavours to try including a concoction of garlic and honeycomb, which is highly recommended but may need to be avoided on date nights.
Soon after an array of tapas-style delicacies was handed out. We started on the Oscietra Caviar Set, served with potatoes and a light traditional dip. Caviar tends to have a very subtle flavor and so the dip used worked well without overpowering such a delicacy. We then moved onto a very traditional dish of Russian Olivier salad with braised beef rump. Comprising of diced beef and potatoes, pickled vegetables, red lettuce and chives mixed together with mayo, this was a very enjoyable dish and its popularity came as no surprise. To finish, we ended with the best dish, a Venison Tartare. The minced meat was full of flavor and the Caperberries added a stylish touch.
Zima has a wide range of other offerings inspired by the cuisine of Russia and the former Soviet Union with a strong focus on fish with dishes prepared around sturgeon, herring, scallops and crab. It will open to the public at the end of the month so when Easter Sunday is long gone, why don’t you treat yourself to another foodie extravaganza, this time Russian style.