Although I had eaten in and thoroughly enjoyed a meal at Baltic once before, I had never reviewed this particular restaurant until a few weeks ago. Baltic restaurant, Jan Woroniecki’s second restaurant, has become London’s destination restaurant south of the river. Situated a stones throw from the Old Vic and the Tate Modern, it specialises in East European Cuisine. Architect Seth Stein, has retained the building’s (originally an eighteenth century coach builders) beautiful and spacious design, providing a truly exquisite dining arena. The restaurant offers an extensive food menu, a range of cocktails, draft beer served in iced glasses, and Baltic’s famous myriad of flavoured vodkas.
On arriving at your table the waiting staff present a selection of bread, a beetroot caviar spread, pickles and red peppers. Having recently made my own beetroot caviar spread (Ikra Iz Svekly) I was particularly interested in sampling this. This version was far superior to my own attempts. The spread had a much finer consistency, presumably achieved with the aid of a food processor/blender, and a much more peppery taste which I think was probably created by using raw garlic and white pepper.
I then began my meal with a selection of blinis as from previous experience the starters at Baltic prove to be rather large and as it was a hot day my appetite was somewhat suppressed. There are a selection of blinis on the menu but I opted for two smoked salmon (£6.50) and two aubergine and mushroom caviar (£5.00), an interesting option for vegetarians. Both plates were particularly pleasing in presentation and taste, the blinis were not too doughy and most unlike those purchased from supermarkets. The smoked salmon, sour cream and lemon were in abundance as was the aubergine and mushrooms pastes.
This was followed by a generous serving of beef stroganoff with wild rice pilaf (£15.50) and for my dining companion, a plate of lamb shashlik with grilled aubergine and roasted red pepper, served with flat bread (£16.00). The beef stroganoff was somewhat unlike beef stroganoff I have eaten elsewhere, including at restaurants such as NEP in St Petersburg. It was indeed, therefore, quite unlike the stroganoff I myself make and am used to consuming. Although I think I prefer a traditional take on stroganoff, rather than the more experimental at Baltic, this plate was at least interesting. What made this dish different was the use of pickles and pepper in a sparse sauce which contained less mushrooms than would normally be used in stroganoff. The taste was unusual but the cut of beef was fantastic, as was its flavour.
The lamb shashlik was by far the reigning dish of the day. The meat had a wonderful flavour and was cooked to absolute perfection. The dish could have only been improved by the addition of a tomato condiment popular in Georgia which is included in Georgian restaurant Ket’s (in St Petersburg) equivalent of this dish.
I enjoyed a particularly rich bottle of beaujolais with the meal and finished off with two ice-cold shots of cherry vodka. I am not usually a fan of cherry vodka but this particular one was deep and intense with a sweet finish. There could be not better way to finish off a meal. The waiting staff were attentive yet did not make customers feel harassed and the tables are generally a reasonable distance from one another so you do not feel as if you are eating on top of each other. Although many aspects of the interior are modern, I love the old wooden beams the property boasts and the traditional, velvet curtains just inside the door which is a particularly traditional East European custom, ideal for keeping the cold out in the winter.
While I think the restaurant fare is more ideal for the winter (although the menu is changed depending on the season) the menu does not do a bad job of satisfying a hungry Londoner with a desire for a little taste of Eastern Europe. I do think that during the winter months the mushroom soup, pelmeni and pierogi are probably the most delicious food in London, if not the UK.