St Petersburg offers a fabulous variety of Russian cuisine. From eating blinis on the street to dining in restaurants that aim to recreate the ambience and food of Imperial Russia, you’ll always be able to find something to suit your appetite and budget.
If you’re looking for a quick snack, then blinis are the original Russian fast food. These pancakes can be stuffed with a range of fillings, both sweet and sour. On a cold day, they are perfect with hot tea, and will give you an energy boost during busy days touring the sights of the city. As well as being the fastest way to fill up, blini are an essential experience.
Another traditional Russian food is piroggi. These are crucial to Russian culture; there is a saying that a home is not beautiful without a piroggi at the feast! Piroggi are made from leaved, fermented dough, and the rituals of rising and proving the yeast are immensely important to both the baker and consumers. Piroggi can be filled with cheese, meat or vegetables, or you can try sweet piroshky, filled with honey or fruit. The best piroggi are found in Stolle Pie Restaurants – the locals love them, and you’ll find outlets over St Petersburg.
There are also a wide variety of restaurants serving traditional Russian food, specializing in home-style favourites – just like a babushka would make. You’ll find hearty borscht, or beetroot soup, filling pelmeni, the Russian take on ravioli, as well as mushrooms of all kinds – funghi are a national passion.
But you might want to splash out on an extravagant meal during your stay, perhaps inspired by visiting palaces and other places associated with the Romanovs. Formal Russian dinners traditionally begin with a range of zakushi, or snacks. These include smoked salmon, salted herring, pickled vegetables, salads, cured meats – and, of course, caviar. Zakushki are often enjoyed with a shot or two of vodka.
For your main course, the classic Russian dish is beefstroganoff, a dish made from frying steak and mushrooms and adding cream. Stroganov is usually served with rice. Other Royal favourites included stuffed geese, pheasant and duck, sturgeon, and roast veal. The best Imperial Russian cuisine combines the very best Russian produce with the traditions and flair of the French chefs employed by the Russian aristocracy.
If you want to try something a little different, then Georgian restaurants are popular with Russians, and Westerners are increasingly interested in trying some during their visit to Russia, particularly since Nigella Lawson included a chapter on this cuisine in one of her books. A Georgian feast is unforgettable; you’ll have cheesebread, stews flavoured with exotic spices and thickened with walnuts, fresh vegetables from the warm south, honey cake and much more.
Whatever sort of Russian cuisine you choose, you’ll find a suitable drink to go with it. Kvass is a fermented drink, usually made from brown bread and sold from stalls in the summer. Grand dinners are accompanied by sweet sparkling wine from the Crimea, and wines from the Caucasus. And you should also make a point of trying some of the local Sovietkskoye Champagne, Baltika beer and Russian Standard vodka, of course!
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