London’s got Russia on the brain, and not just because of world politics or the centenary of the Russian Revolution. Grumbling about oligarchs is a major pastime these days, but Russian London isn’t all posh bars and mansions in Belgravia. There’s also a young, creative, trust-fund-free Russian community running dumpling-obsessed supperclubs, film pop-ups, art shows and start-ups.
Of the 300,000-odd people of Russian descent in London, about half were born in Russia. The expat population has spiked in the last decade, leading to the jokey name Londongrad. But we’re an internationally minded bunch. When we do hang out together it’s usually to enjoy a nostalgic meal of pelmeni, or to do good. The London-based charity Gift of Life, for instance, helps cancer patients with fundraising events starring Russian classical music and theatre stars. It’s a long way from ‘Meet the Russians’. Sasha Raspopina
Did you know? The Russian spring festival Maslenitsa, also known as ‘pancake week’, is widely celebrated in London in the last week of February. It’s a great time to feast on blini!
Sasha’s favourite Russian places in London
Home to Russian and post-Soviet art and photography, Calvert 22 Foundation in Shoreditch also has a bookshop stuffed with publications on everything New East, from brutalist architecture to Gosha Rubchinskiy.
If you’re hungry and adventurous, look out for appearances by the Mince & Dough Russian Canteen, a pop-up serving some of the best Russian dumplings in the city. (Try them at Calvert 22 Foundation until February 26.)
Sample infused vodka and modern versions of traditional zakuski (cold hors d’oeuvres) at Zima Russian Street Food & Bar in Soho.
Exchange your steak and ale pie for some Russian pirogi (not to be confused with Polish pierogi) at Stolle in Camden.
Remember 1917 at the Royal Academy’s exhibition ‘Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932’, open now. Exhibitions and events at the British Library, the Design Museum, Tate Modern and Pushkin House will also mark the big centenary.
The best of Russian London, according to you
‘Dacha shops in Finchley and Fulham, Mari Vanna restaurant and Calvert 22.’ Anna V via Facebook
‘Borshtch ’n’ Tears has served Russian classics since 1965.’ Natasha S via timeout.com
‘Zima, and Banya No 1 spa near Old Street.’ Irina V-C via Facebook
‘Bob Bob Ricard is the best place for borscht and chilled vodka.’ Sasha T via timeout.com