MARI VANNA Knightsbridge
16A Knightsbridge London SW1X 7PJ
020 7225 3150
Mari Vanna is a mythical Russian hostess who welcomes you into her pimped up fantasy dacha and then stuffs you with pancakes, dumplings, cream and cakes, washed down with intensely flavoured vodkas. You submit because she is utterly charming and seductive; as you leave you realise that not only has she emptied your wallet but also that your trousers don’t seem to fit anymore.
There are bicycles hanging from the walls and chandeliers from the ceiling, tchotchkes galore and enough period ephemera to liberate your fantasies be they Chekhovian or more revolutionary in spirit. Even the men’s loo is a treasure trove of Soviet era knickknacks as if you had stumbled into the magical attic of a benign Red Army Field Marshall.
And what about the food? Well it’s Russian and the motherland isn’t renowned for the sophistication of its cuisine and if the borsch isn’t as rich and dense as it might be, the rest of the menu delivers quite satisfactorily.
Courgette pancakes were light and fluffy with the smoke salmon delicately flavoured as was the Russian sour cream.
Pancakes with salmon roe offered another deliciously salty carbohydrate excursion. There is also an Oscietra caviar option for this dish at £55 for 15gm and £100 for 30gm.
The dumplings were ideal comfort food, reassuringly bland and designed to fill you up after a hard day at the Sloane St fashion gulag.
Some care is taken in the kitchen and there is some attention to detail. Extras such as the bread are excellent and although the wine list is limited, drinkers are well catered for with flavoured vodkas. The horseradish version brought about a major thermonuclear incident in my mouth and whilst delicious is probably best avoided on an empty stomach. Prices are oligarch friendly but there are various set lunch offers.
Rather cleverly Mari Vanna simultaneously runs outposts in Moscow, St. Petersburg, New York and London (with rumours of further openings in Las Vegas and Miami) and her fantastical spirit infuses the space. If you are looking for a witty and deconstructed take on Russian food then Mari Vanna is not for you but if you want to get some Kremlin kicks in a rather endearing space then give it a shot. Take your mother, take your wife, take your mistress, take your mother’s mistress, in fact why not take them all at once because once they fall under Mari Vanna’s spell, peace will break out and you will all walk out into the cool Knightsbridge evening air holding hands and singing gentle Russian folk laments.