Winter Palace in the Summer Heat.

Despite having spent twelve years of my life here in Chennai, I don’t really know that much about the food scene here, like I do about Bangalore. That’s because I never really went out and explored -but now that I’m here during my holidays, with tons of free time, I got the chance to go to some places.

This afternoon, I went to a small, not very well-known cafe/restaurant called ‘Winter Palace’ with my best friend (whose mother recommended it to us). I found it rather funny that any restaurant dared to call themselves “Winter Palace” in such a blisteringly hot place like Chennai, that too when they had only outdoor seating!  But I found that on the whole, I quite liked the place a lot.

The cold and refreshing Sangria mocktail.

The cold and refreshing Sangria mocktail.

The Winter Palace is inside the Russian Cultural Centre, and therefore, obviously, it serves Russian food. This I found very exciting, because it is the first place I’ve ever heard of that serves Russian cuisine, which I have never tasted before. I’m not too sure how authentic it was (because here in India, everybody Indianises almost everything) but it seemed pretty authentic, and very yummy too!

Russian dumplings with mashed potato and mushroom filling, and sour cream.

Russian dumplings with mashed potato and mushroom filling, and sour cream.

The whole place was done up in a pleasant sky blue and white, with pretty white lace curtains. Although today was a hot day, sitting here was quite nice, because it was well shaded and there was lots of breeze (also, the staff made sure the fans were all adjusted right). The menu had a lot of unpronounceable dishes (for someone like me, who doesn’t know Russian), but with descriptions of the dish given below. Along with vegetarian options, they also served fish, chicken, lamb and beef.

Tomato soup and the dish of Russian dumplings.

Tomato soup and the dish of Russian dumplings.

We ordered a “Krasnodar” soup, which is a thick, refreshing, cold tomato soup (they have choices of hot and cold soups). It had an extremely strong raw tomato flavour, and since I’m not a fan of that, I let my friend finish it. But for those who like their food healthy, this would be a good option, although they came with two little bun-like breads which I loved. For main course, my friend ordered a “Varennikhy” which was a dish of Russian dumplings with a mashed potato filling, topped with sour cream. It was quite tasty, although just a little bit bland – but still yum. I ordered a Chicken “Plov”, which is flavoured rice with chunks of chicken accompanied by a tomato puree. I loved it – the rice had a different and very nice flavor that was new to me, and it had big chunks of chicken. I enjoyed my meal! To go with it, I ordered a Sangria from their range of Mocktails – and it was so refreshing and yummy. It had a mix of green tea with orange, and was perfect for an afternoon lunch outside.

They also offered special Russian “souses” or sauces, to go with our dishes. My friend chose the “Gorchica” which was an extremely strong version of mustard sauce – it was super acidic. I chose the “Chesnochny” sauce which is a mayonnaise based garlic sauce, it was quite nice, but had a bit of an egg-y taste.

Chicken "Plov"

Chicken “Plov”

For dessert , we tried another authentic Russian dish, the “Blini”. We were recommended to try the pumpkin cheesecake, but my friend is a staunch vegetarian (not even egg) and they had no egg-less version of it, so we (I) had to let that go. Blini is basically a Russian style pancake (which could be made egg-less too), and they served it for us with a scoop of chocolate ice cream. Absolutely delicious, and very filling.

For all of this food, the bill was within a thousand rupees – so it’s a very reasonable place! The ambiance was lovely, the quantity was good, the flavours were new and exciting and the presentation of the dishes was spot on. All in all, quaint and comfy little place to go to, especially if you’re in the mood for something new, as the Russian food doesn’t disappoint!

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