Friday, December 29, 2006


London has lots of Russian restaurants, but it's hard to find a place that is authentic (and not in an incompetent, sullen, inedible Soviet canteen kind of way) and reasonably priced. Of the ones I've tried so far, Rasputin - all the way out West in the Polish heartland of Acton - is probably the best of a mixed bunch. It's a small, cosy, unpretentious sort of place on the main road which was totally empty on our visit early one weekday evening. The charming, gregarious owner, from Montenegro, though made it easy to overlook the empty room. We sampled Russian meat dumplings (pelmeni), thei larger Polish cousins with curd cheese (pierogi), pancakes (bliny) with smoked salmon -- all served with lashings of propper smetana (a bit like sour cream). Mains included a chicken kebab and a tomatoey take on beef stroganoff which, some of our party thought was an improvement on the original. All came with piles of veg and potatoes and were washed down with a selection of Eastern European largers and accompanied by cheery Russian pop music on the stereo. We were far too full to contemplate deserts, much to our hostess's disappointment. It came to a fairly reasonable £65 for three, including a free platter of crunchy pickled vegetables as an appetiser. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area - and if you do, be sure to get in to a chat with the owner.

Rasputin, 265 High Street, W3 9BY. Tube: Acton Town (about 10 mins' walk)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sacre Coeur

I am back!!! That's not to say I haven't been pigging out all over London for the last few months, I've just been too busy pigging out to write aout it! Last night we braved a little French restaurant off Upper Street. I say braved because it came with a very damning condemnation from a fellow pigger, which kept us away for some time. But feeling adventurous (and cold) we caved in. The place was cosy, with twinkling lights and chairs glued to walls covered in music posters. We were offered tap water (bonus points from the off), and ordered a nice bottle of Crozes Hermitage to go with it (£20) from a shortish but quite interesting and reasonably priced wine list. The food arrived quickly - buttery, garlicy snails for me and a creamy celeriac and mushroom soup from the specials board for my companion (about £4-5 each). I liberally dipped in to both with my bread! (Be careful how muc you dip though: we were charged £1.60 for two bread rolls.) The mains of duck with mash and guinea fowl with saute potatoes (about £11 each) were both tender and delicious, though the latter inexplicably came with a handfull of glace cherries. The atmosphere in the place was very convivial, and complete with authentic French waiters. The main menu also features cheaper options such as crepes (£7ish) and interesting sounding sausages with things like duck and wild board (£8-9). Conclusion: we are going back, pleased at having discovered a cosy corner of France just off Upper Street.

Sacre Coeur, 18 Theberton Street, N1. Tube: Angel