Our hearts skipped a beat when we heard that a new Russian restaurant had recently opened near Victoria station. Despite a sizeable community in London, quality Russian eateries are still a rare find.
The location of Sobranie – a glass-walled unit near the Victoria Place shopping mall – does not immediately suggest cosiness nor the ‘French refinement’ the website promises. But we were greeted with a smile and warm service.
Sobranie (‘gathering’ or ‘collection’ in Russian) moves away from serving purely Russian fare – perhaps a clever move, considering Victoria’s office and tourist crowd. The menu features a very curious combination of Soviet classics, Caucasian favourites (the owners are from The Caucasus) and French staples (snails and calves’ livers).
But the interior – parquet floors, live keyboard music and space for dancing – made us nostalgic for the good old USSR (a sentiment that perhaps not everyone shares).
The food, however, was perfectly decent. We went for mostly Russian dishes: a Russian vinegret salad (beetroot with red kidney beans) and borsch were fresh, if slightly under-seasoned; herring dressed with mayonnaise, eggs and beetroot (a dish also known as ‘herring under fur coat’) was moreish.
A spatchcocked chicken was juicy, and a rack of lamb came quite pink. The best dish was dumplings filled with beef, which were light and tasted ownmade. A dessert of kartoshka (a biscuity ball of cocoa) was nicely bittersweet, although the famed Napoleon – layers of pastry and custard – was on the dry side. The wine and vodka list was uncharacteristically short.
Our main complaint was with the prices. Charging £10.95 for a dozen dumplings or £16.95 for four or five tiny pieces of lamb with a handful of vegetables is difficult to justify (although we were told there is a lunch special for £12.95).
Disappointing, despite the warmth of the service and care shown in the cooking.