Zima, a Russian street-food bar and kitchen, opened in London's Soho at the end of last month. Neil Gerrard talks to Russian chef and owner Alexei Zimin about the Frith Street venue and why Russian street food probably doesn't yet have the recognition in the UK that it deserves
How do you define Russian street food?
Russian food hasn't been particularly prevalent on the UK food scene. Why do you think now is the right time to introduce it to the market?
So many people from Russia and from other Eastern Europe countries live here, and the Russian food you will find in Zima is the common cultural code for all of them. Also, London has some good Russian restaurants, but nothing so casual that people from around the world can dip in to enjoy the diversity of our cuisine in whatever quantity they please.
Do we have a great enough appreciation for Russian food in this country?
The best and shortest answer I can give is I hope so. However, I think the answer is probably not. There are some stereotypical concepts of caviar, salmon on blinis and borscht, but it is still largely unrepresented. London is such a culturally diverse city that I hope to reach the world here and share the best of what we have in the most accessible fashion.
What has the initial reaction to Zima been like?
I couldn't be happier with the feedback we have had from our customers and the kind words of the press so far. I love what I do and if people enjoy it also, then what more can I ask for?
You are known in Russia for the Ragout restaurant and cookery school. Could you see yourself opening something like that here?
Maybe, I mean, it is a question of demand. The whole idea of Zima is to teach people in the UK, wherever they have originally come from, about our cuisine, so it would make me very happy if there was a demand for such an idea. I say to anyone reading this: if you don't ask, you won't get!
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