Nikita’s is a restaurant near Earl’s Court that bills itself as the “Best Russian Restaurant and Bar in London”. We went on a Saturday night after watching a play at the nearby Finborough Theatre (a light and airy wine bar and pub theatre – try the house white at £3.50 per glass – yummy.)
The door wasn’t open at Nikita’s, which didn’t bode well, but apparently this serves to enhance an air of exclusivity. (As far as I know not even El Bulli had a locked door.) A waitress, however, opened it straight away. We were led down to a richly decorated red and gold basement room. Pleasantly over the top, which was exactly what I had hoped it would be. These are the people who catered for one of Elton John’s White Tie & Tiara balls, after all.
Apparently the Russian way is to drink vodka with your meal. I felt slightly intimidated by this so we went for wine during the meal instead and had a very pleasant Georgian white. The brother decided to be adventurous and try borscht for the first time, his girlfriend had pastries (like mini sausage rolls) with a mixture of cheese, mince meat, spinach (not altogether) and I had Russian bread with smoked anchovies. We were all happy with these choices although I think the pastries were the stars. For main courses myself and bro went for the pork and lamb sausages with mash (they were actually more like hamburger patties) with a beautifully rich gravy, and the girlfriend had salmon in pastry which she swooned over.
Our dessert was of the alcoholic variety – we tried out what started off as one vodka each, which soon multiplied… They serve a variety of homemade fruit vodka, plus some expensive premium types (£9 per shot for the most expensive), but it was their herby vodkas that were to die for. (Incidentally, if you like herby vodkas, try out the Icelandic caraway-seed flavoured schnapps Brennivin – also known as Black Death. Straight from the freezer.)
What made the night for us was their resident Ukrainian accordionist (they also bring in a balalaika player at times.) Now, I have read reviews where this guy is seen as an irritant, especially written by those who have gone there expecting a romantic evening. My advice is, don’t go somewhere like this for a romantic evening. There’s plenty of warning on the net that that’s not necessarily what it’s best for. Basically, this mad smiling chappy wanders the tables joking and playing songs relevant to wherever you’re from. One of the funniest moments we had was when he wandered into a different room and the notes of Delilah start up – aah, they’re Welsh then …
Overall, recommended for good comfort food, ice-cold vodka, over-the-topness and a laugh. If that’s what you’re after, go for it!
Nikita’s restaurant http://nikitasrestaurant.co.uk/
65 Ifield Road, London, SW10
Nearest Underground: West Brompton
Some Vodka Facts
- The name vodka comes from the Russian word for water – voda.
- Vodka has been used in the past medicinally, as aftershave and in the production of gunpowder.
- Tsar Peter the Great introduced the Vodka Order (like a knighthood) that entitled the bearer to drink unlimited amounts of vodka in all Russian taverns and hostelries.
- Famous vodka drinkers past and present include Judy Garland, Richard Harris and Andre the Giant from “The Princess Bride” who drank up to two litres at a time “… to make me feel warm inside.”
- A craze was reported in 2010 where young people where partaking of the spirit through their eye to give them an instant buzz. Read the report here