If like me you are a lover of small eats like cicchetti, meze, dim sum or tapas, the idea of Russian “Zakuski” will interest you, and there is no better place to have these intriguing dishes in London than Bob Bob Ricard (BBR).
The menu at BBR is eclectic, listing some British classics like Cornish crab cakes, Beef Wellington and Afternoon Tea alongside cheeseburgers, macaroni cheese and Grilled lobster and chips. I was pleased however to have found “Zakuski” in the same menu - the Russian version of small eats traditionally taken with Russian vodka.
Designed by architect David Collins, who also designed The Wolseley, the restaurant is simply resplendent. No one can be indifferent to Bob Bob Ricard’s decor - some might find it slightly over the top, but I loved its lavish, quirky and nostalgic feel.
I was lucky to be invited by Kavey alongside Rejina, Rachel, Mimi and Neil to a Sunday Roast and Vintage Vodka Tasting. It was hosted by the owner Leonid, who showed an encyclopaedic knowledge of the vodkas and accompanying dishes we were to try.
We started proceedings with “Kauffman Special Selected Vintage 2006” vodka (£7.50 for 25ml) served with “Jellied ox tongue with creamed horseradish” @ £7.50. The vodka was light and smooth, and went down well with the aspic and ox tongue. This was a beautifully presented dish, packed with interesting flavours, and the first time I ever got to try ox tongue!
The second vodka we tried was “Stolichanaya Elit” (£4.75 for 25ml) served with “Russian salt-cured Herring, raw onion rings and new potatoes” @ £3.50. Interesting to note was the unusual combination of flavours, and how the salt-cured herring tasted rather sweet after the Stoli.
Our next vodka “Imperia by Russian Standard” (£4.75 for 25ml) was served with “Salmon roe on hard-boiled quail eggs” @ £4.50. Decreed by Czar Alexander III in 1894 as “The Standard of Vodka” for the royal court of Russia, “Imperia by Russian Standard” also got my seal of approval (!) and was the perfect accompaniment to the “egg on egg” canapé it was served with.
Some of the other “Zakuski” dishes that we tried included:
“Chicory, pear and cured ham salad, with olive oil jelly cubes, almonds and olive oil dressing” (a weekly special, price not listed in menu) – beautifully presented, I loved the idea of olive oil jelly cubes.
“Wafer-thin cured Orkney beef with a crunchy celeriac salad, fresh blueberries and roasted hazelnuts” @ £10.50 – similar to the Italian “Bresaola”, this dish had some lovely flavours and textures, and looked great too.
“Wafer thin pickled beetroot and goat’s cheese salad with fresh mint” @ £7.25 – in my opinion this was the most beautifully presented dish, the pickled wafer thin beets tasted fresh and zesty and was counter-balanced by the saltiness/creaminess of the cheese.
“Potted shrimp” @ £8.50 – I am a real fan of potted shrimp, and make it at home sometimes. It can be made a day in advance, and in my experience everyone loves this quintessentially British dish. Again I loved the presentation, and the delicious hints of cayenne pepper and nutmeg.
The next vodka was the “Beluga Noble Vodka” served with “Quail eggs mayonnaise with anchovies” (not listed in the menu). I loved the pairing of this vodka with the anchovies, as with the salt-cured herring and Stoli, the combination of flavours was superb, leaving a deliciously sweet flavour in the mouth.
“Meat Pelmeni” @ £12.50 was served with “Beluga Gold Line Vodka” – I enjoyed these meat dumplings, traditionally served with white vinegar and sour cream, and felt they went well with the chosen vodka.
The “Stolichnaya Gold Vodka” was served next with “Salo on Rye bread” @ £3.50 – I had tried cured-fat before as the Italian version named “lardo”. I love eating these ultra-thin slivers of cured-fat on bread, never tiring of its unctuousness. It was however the first time I had eaten it with vodka, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well they went together.
The “Sipsmith Vodka”, the last we tasted, was in my opinion the most interesting of them all. Copper-distilled artisan barley vodka created in Hammersmith, it was incredibly smooth and with a light spiceness to the palate. To my surprise, it tasted of juniper, giving a strong resemblance to dry gin. It was served with “Malosol cucumbers” @ £2.50 which had been pickled for 24 hours on the premises. Another perfect combination.
Our tasting was followed by a sensational Sunday roast rib of 28-day aged Aberdeenshire Scotch beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, caramelised carrots and parsnips. The meat was, as expected, incredibly flavoursome and the accompaniments were cooked to perfection.
We ordered various desserts and shared these among us. All were excellent and included:
“Grand Marnier soufflé with chopped fresh orange in a Grand Marnier sauce” @ £9.50.
“Bramley and Cox apple jelly with cream, corrugated apple and shortbread” @ £6.50.
“Warm chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream” @ £7.50.
“Raspberry sherry trifle” @ £7.50.
“Plate of BBR cakes (Battenberg, Victoria Sandwich, Rum Baba, Cream Horn Chocolate Baleron, Raspberry and custard tart) @ £8.50.
BBR has a theatrical feel to it, which means an evening there is about much more than just the food. There is a sense of glamour, which makes it in my opinion a great venue for a special or romantic occasion, with a sense of “Brief Encounter” about it. If you happen to visit, I would strongly recommend their signature cocktail “Rhubarb Gin & Tonic” @ £7.50 as an aperitif.
Cost: this was a complementary tasting. However, I have quoted the prices of the dishes whenever they were available. For a tasting of 6 zakuski dishes with accompanying vodkas, I would estimate it to cost in the region of £50 per head including service.
Likes: delicious, sophisticated food (particularly the zakuski dishes), lavish but quirky decor, some stunning vodkas, Soho location.
Dislikes: Despite the excellent wine list, I could find only one option under £20.
Verdict: Excellent cooking at higher than average prices in one of the most beautiful restaurants in Central London. I would highly recommend a tasting of various zakuski dishes and accompanying vodka shots. An experience not to be missed.
...What Others Are Saying...
Katrina Coulson on 14th March 2011: Thank you! BBR were fantastic...the service and food was exceptional ...everybody who came along keeps raving about the place and have booked to go back. " We loved the experience", Thank you, Katrina.