Stepping from Knightsbridge, past the multitude of door bells and into Mari Vanna, is like passing through a teleport and coming out in a babushka’s home in Old Moscow or St Petersburg, without the inconvenience of cars, check in, planes and security.
Cupboards are full of knick-knacks, pretty porcelain plaques painted with blue flowers hang on the wall, china is vintage – a myriad of styles which all harmoniously gel together, the walls are covered with photos – rather charmingly of the Russian staff and their families “so it reminds us of home” the manager put it. The overall feeling is very homely, and welcoming, and interestingly foreign to my English eyes.
Mari Vanna was an apocryphal resident of St Petersburg who welcomed strangers into her home, feeding them the best Russian food from fine china and fine linens. All the guests had their own doorbell – hence the multiple bells outside the restaurant.
We were visiting for a Russian afternoon tea, a delicious selection of Russian treats – starting with savouries – rye bread topped with salmon, pirozhki stuffed with meat or fish, blinis with sour cream and caviar, all were as fresh as could be, some still warm, all delicious. Far more interesting than sandwiches.
Cakes followed, whimsically decorated with sugar flowers and butterflies. The star of the show was the honey cake, layers of thin sponge and fluffy cream all soaked in a delicious honey caramel sauce, happily there were two pieces each to enjoy, admire and revere (yes it was that good) before eating. Also present was a fluffy and cloud like milk pudding and a so so chocolate cake. Georgian tea was served in a Russian tea glass.
Not realising the set tea was for two we also requested a side of the “mans’ tea” a platter laden with salami, cured meats, smoked cheese and olives – with different breads, herby spiced butter, and a glass of beer to wash it all down, I found the meats slightly too strong for me, but Gary greatly enjoyed them and a box of leftovers was packed up for his wife.
It is certainly worth going just for that wonderful honey cake (which Gary reproduced here), the savouries were equally good, the people watching is excellent, I would happily go back with a friend and linger for a few hours.
Service is charming, friendly and staff are engaging and happy to chat.
The Russian afternoon tea for 2 was around £35, well worth it for the food, atmosphere and people watching.
Fuss Free Flavours and Big Spud were the guests of Mari Vanna, thank you for a lovely afternoon tea
Mari Vanna – Wellington Court, 116 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7PJ
Telephone: +44 (0) 207 225 3122