Sunday, 6 July 2014

Mari Vanna - Knightsbridge

Walk past Harrods, past the Mandarin Oriental hotel and the Maclaren showroom within the One Hyde park complex (the most expensive retail estate in London) and modestly sat next door you will find Mari Vanna. Where else to find London's best Russian breakfast than in flashy Knightsbridge? The staff were very keen to welcome me into the dining room for breakfast despite no sign of it being served on their website or on the menu outside. And that was reflected by the fact that I, along with two others were the only people here.

The dining room felt very much like it could have been someone's front room and at one point in the buildings history it almost certainly was. There is most bric-a-brac I have ever seen in a restaurant including some huge Russian dolls (a favourite of my missus) but all beautifully presented in sideboards and glass cabinets, it added to a relaxed but classy feel.

I decided to go for the Oliver salad, sounds a world away from a fry up but it does include Doktorskaya sausage, so almost there! First arrived a selection of Russian breads and then a Russain Salad consisting of a big bowl of carrots, peas, potato, gherkin and sausage in small cubes, all in bound together with mayonnaise. 
Each spoonful gave a different flavour from the sweetness of the peas and carrots to the sharp gherkin. The sausage reminded me of my childhood – Billy sausage! The different breads were something new to me. All very dense, a bit like Rye bread, one slice was strongly laced with fennel and caraway seeds, while another was flavoured in a similar way but much more subtly. They made a good accompaniment to the salad which despite becoming a bit samey still compelled me to dollop another spoonful onto my plate. You get decent coffee in here too, my macchiato was perfect.
At £8 for the salad and bread I can't call this a cheap breakfast, but when you take into consideration the location, the service and the quality of the food it is very good value.

This is a relaxed but very well run restaurant, the service was 'proper' and attentive. There are many nice touches that give raise a smile, from the teapots filled with flowers on the tables to the bill arriving in a little purse.

Quick mention for the toilets too, where wacky bric-a-brac decor continues. There is a full library of Russian literature if you in there a while, with Russian newspapers as wall paper and mementos to Leningrad’s past footballing triumphs also hang for the walls. You can give your shoes a shine or even have a shave in here, very handy!

The verdict
Eccentric little place in an exclusive neighbourhood. Worth a visit if you are after something completely different.


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