Russian food… what even is it? With the Iron Curtain lifted less than 30 years ago, Russian cuisine hasn’t had a chance to integrate itself into Western culture the way other European and Asian cuisines have done over the last few centuries. And that, is exactly what makes it one of the most interesting and exotic! As the biggest country in the world in terms of landmass, its cuisine is influenced by numerous surrounding nations, climates, ingredients and techniques, resulting in a HUGE variety of flavours. We’re talkin’ all sorts of crazy porridges, hot and cold soups, salads, sweets, cured meats and fish, preserved veges, drinks, desserts and like a trillion types of dumplings (which, we can all agree, the world can never have enough of).
If, like a lot of people, you can’t even imagine what Russian food is, then it’s time to expand your culinary knowledge. Thankfully, we’ve done the hard work for you and tracked down all the Russian eateries and shops Auckland has to offer. So, go on! We promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised—there’s a whole lot more to Russian cuisine than cabbage, potatoes, caviar and vodka!
Venture out to Auckland’s only high-end, Russian-inspired restaurant—The Vodka Room—and treat yourself to a taste of the Motherland sprinkled with a touch of Kiwi flair. In true Russian spirit, the design is outwardly lavish. Somehow, The Vodka Room manages to cram a bunch of ridiculously extravagant design pieces together in one space without looking gimmicky. Rather, the result is an atmosphere of luxury and exuberance, drawing on the baroque influence of the Peterhof and Winter Palaces—it’ll make you feel like royalty! The menu ranges from cold antipasto-style platters served with black bread, to traditional cold salads and a variety of hot mains, drawing inspiration from cuisines of Europe, Middle East and Central Asia. The borsch is so good, we could have sworn the head chef is Russian! (He’s not, but could have fooled us!) Want to go full Russian? Order the caviar and use it as a chaser to your vodka shots (which, btw, there are almost 150 varieties of).
Nestled in tranquil suburbia, Moloko offers delectables from Russia, as they say, with love. Serving breakfast and lunch, the menu is equal parts Russian and Kiwi cuisines… and the result is finger lickin’ awesome. The familiar big breakfast gets the addition of sauerkraut and beef shashlik, meanwhile traditional Russian pancakes get a European makeover with the addition of ricotta. For those happy to stick to the tried and true there’s plenty of choices—eggs benedict, granola, and even Ugly Bagels! For those eager to explore Soviet staples, there’s mega traditional buckwheat porridge, pelmeni (dumplings) and of course, the famed borsch. The café itself has a very peaceful atmosphere and a simple, minimalist design. There’s plenty of outdoor seating, and even better, plenty of parking!
Glendene and Food Truck
Tucked away in a modest little space in the Glendene shops is BLD Café, serving up rare delights of Central Asian cuisine. Open six days a week for breakfast and lunch, BLD also run a buffet-style dinner service every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The traditional menu is largely shaped by dishes born out of Mongol, Kazakh and Uzbek cultures. Dishes which may not have originated in Russia itself, but, which have a solid presence in contemporary Russian cuisine and are loved and served across Russia on the reg. Some of the favourites include borsch (which, obviously, no Russian eatery can go without), plov—a meat and rice dish similar to a Spanish paella, manti—massive steamed dumplings the size of a fist (almost), and super succulent, juicy, deep fried meat and onion ‘pies’ called chebureki. Can’t make it out west? No worries! BLD also run a food truck, the whereabouts of which can be tracked on their Facebook or website, and they offer home delivery and catering services, too!
Located in Newmarket, Skazka is an Eastern European fairy tale (no, really, the word ‘skazka’ literally translates to ‘fairy tale’ from Russian). Skazka is basically a cute little Eastern European mart where you will find all the Slavic staples. From Polish, Romanian and Russian-style groceries such as grains, preserved vegetables and canned meats to Russian bread, Soviet chocolates, cured meats and fish, red and black caviar, frozen dumplings, traditional drinks and Russian wines and beers… the list really does go on. But, it’s not only food Skazka is good for! There’s also Russian books, medicinal herbs, hygiene products and souvenirs, too. And to make things that little bit easier, there are the options of online shopping and home delivery. Products from Russia, straight to your doorstep in New Zealand!
Previously known as World Of Dumplings, Gastronomy is a Russian deli located in the Auckland’s North Shore, famed for their mouth—watering dumplings selection. We’re talkin’ pelmeni (meat dumplings), manti (big steamed dumplings) and even vareniki (vegetarian dumplings of both savoury and sweet varieties—sour cherry, anyone?)! There is also a variety of other frozen goods like chebureki and golubtzi, as well as a wide selection of premade Russian salads and baked goods such as yeast—free, sourdough bread and traditional Russian cakes the likes of medovik (honey cake). Other Russian goods include grains and cereals, dairy products, cured meats and fish, preserved vegetables and the traditional Russian drink kvas, made of fermented bread. Aside from the shopping, Gastronomy also offer an eat—in lunch menu consisting of soups, salads and traditional Russian mains, so you can do the groceries and satisfy your hunger all at once!
Another Russian deli in the North Shore, Uncle Delicious are especially good for all things cured meats, fish and caviar. Here you will find black caviar, red caviar, pickled veges, Russian bread, dried fish, smoked fish, salted spek, a whole lot of frozen dumplings with a variety of fillings to choose from and a range of other Russian groceries including sunflower seeds, Soviet sweets and chocolates, and a whole lot more. In addition, Uncle Delicious offer takeaway food, with a couple of dine—in tables on the premises. And boy, do they cook a delicious shashlik (meat cooked on skewers over coal)!
Image credit: Supplied