A brief history of studies exploring the absence of maternal love is interspersed throughout proceedings, and it’s remarkable to see their conclusions played out in such vivid emotional detail. Masha never cries. But she never really shows joy either. Marcel and Vadim are both slightly aggressive but desperately needy – presumably as a result of having to jostle for emotional and physical space in a Russian orphanage.
The family’s early struggles and mutual incomprehension are genuinely tough to watch. But mainly thanks to the endless good nature of dad Claudio – who shares both a look and an air of saintly propriety with Ned Flanders – the family begin to gel and it’s a lovely thing to behold.
The name of this Old Street cocktail bar may have delicate drinkers running for the hills, since a Gibson is also the name for a martini with a pickled onion bobbing in its depths. There’s nothing inelegant about the setting though, a small space that’s been given a 1920s look. Well, the Kirstie Allsopp version, with DIY lighting effects from decanters filled with tea lights and such. It’s an attractive room, if not all that authentic. But what is the real deal is the skill behind the operation, with bartenders having done their time over at prohibition-themed Nightjar down the road. And you can tell, with that vague ’20s decor, a similar tome-like menu and flamboyant decorations on drinks. And there’s table service from a flapper girl, which feels a touch unnecessary in a bar this size, especially when the barman can hear your pleas for recommendations (it really is a long menu). Thankfully, our flapper is unflappable, breezily rattling through our best options based on spirit and flavour preferences. I opted for an Electric Earl (£11), which is a knock-out mix of gin, earl grey liqueur, grapefruit juice and a whole host of citrusy ingredients. They blend it with in-house bitters made from the ‘buzz button’, a flower whose bud has an electrifying effect on the tongue that lives up to the drink’s name – my tastebuds were dancing for quite some time after each sip. A less classy version, The Great Japito (gin, tamarillo puree, Campari, tonka beans, pink grape soda, £11), was