Mari Vanna, a Russian restaurant in London, is like walking into someone's family home. Its style is retro, the atmosphere nostalgic and the decor is utterly bonkers but in such a good way and I loved it.
Twitter friend and I visited a few months ago and it’s been on my ever growing list (ok on my spreadsheet) of things I’ve wanted to share and blog about ever since, but life has been pretty busy. I hope you will enjoy the photos and I can certainly recommend it as the perfect place to go for a special treat as it certainly has that wow factor.
The restaurant is one of a small chain, the first opening in St Petersburg with other branches in Moscow and New York.
This one is located just off busy Knightsbridge, the cheerful red front door with its bell and buttons only gives a small hint at the delights waiting inside. Once opened we found ourselves being transported into a Russian fairytale.
Although we hadn't booked and it was a busy Saturday afternoon the staff welcomed us and we were quickly seated. The magic had begun. The menu arrived on a wooden clipboard, decorated with matryoshka (Russian nesting dolls) and a silver teaspoon.
The restaurant offers traditional Russian food with influences from Armenia, Georgia and Uzbekistan. On the menu were blini pancakes served with sour cream, which reminded me of my trip to Moscow when it was still in its Soviet Union days, as well as other popular dishes such as borsch (a beef and beetroot soup) and caviar.
I'm well known for my love of cake and so we jumped straight into desert ordering the honey cake (medovik) and the sweet dumplings to share.
The impressive multilayered honey cake consists of several layers of honey filled sponge interspersed with buttercream. It arrived beautifully presented on blue and white vintage china accompanied with a cut strawberry and certainly has that wow factor. Oozing with the sweetness of the honey it tasted exquisite, and surprisingly deliciously light.
The sweet dumplings were equally amazing and were served warm in a large bowl accompanied by sour cream with cherries.
Selection of tasy treats
To finish we were offered a large crystal bowl full of sweets and biscuits which we nibbled at while we chatted and drank our tea.
The atmosphere was relaxed and unhurried which gave us ample time to soak up the unique atmosphere.
I loved the high ceilings and the twinkling chandeliers which provides a sense of grandeur and elegance.
Being in Mari Vanna is like sitting in someone’s parlour with its lovely homely feel. What makes this place truly special is its amazing decor or more to the point the sheer amount of it. I love the attention to detail and its one of those places the longer you look the more you see.
The counter displays a range of tchotchke (miscellaneous items) from Russian dolls to bowls, flowers to food. Behind are rows of shelves with an assortment of jars and a ceramic Russian pechka stove, which traditionally is used for cooking and heating.
The walls are decorated with vintage portraits and there are fresh flowers on the tables.
The display cabinets with their shelves crammed full of more tchotchke with jars of homemade jam and matryoshka dolls which makes one feel that they are visiting the home of an eccentric relative.
Pretty coloured glass windows
The chandelier in the entrance hall
Before you leave don't forget to check out the toilets located on the first floor. The decorative theme continues along the staircase and corridor leading to them.
Rest assured the OTT theme continues in the toilets. The ladies has rolled up individual hand towels and assortment of trinkets.
The gents are also uniquely decorated, complete with shaving brushes and old bottles.
We had a fab and fun time at Mari Vanna and can certainly highly recommend its cakes and charming, quirky decor.
Address: Mari Vanna, 116 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7PJ
The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds