Happy grilled pork chop
Happy grilled pork chop

In Snezhinka we came up against our worst dining fear: a menu entirely in Russian. And not a small menu either. 8 pages of Cyrillic stood between us and dinner. Would we starve to death in a cosy cafe, slumping decorously over striped satin cushions and wrought iron chairs? No, because we’d stuffed ourselves with bread, cheese and ham over the past week, so we had plenty of calories in reserve. And also no, because we could read Russian.

Sort of. DJ and I had almost learned the Cyrillic alphabet (Leonard was concentrating on her Mongolian) so we smiled at the waitress, ordered some wine and beer and told her we needed 5 more minutes. The waitress came back. We needed just 5 more minutes. She came back again. Just 5 more minutes, we were nearly there. Again she came back and again we told her that we needed a few more minutes. At this point the waitress revealed she could speak English and translated the entire menu in 2 minutes flat.

We’d actually done quite well; our only mistake was to translate the fish section as steaks, which is only a minor error really, unless one of us had tried to order our omul fillets rare.

I ordered the grilled pork chops because I cannot eat enough pig. Leonard and The Wandering Australian, a fellow traveller we’d rescued from a lonely evening in an empty Soviet apartment block, ordered the beef Stroganov. DJ, once again I have forgotten what you ordered. I’m looking at the receipt and I seem to have forgotten Russian too, so it’s a bit of a mystery.

Beef stroganov
Beef stroganov

The thick pork chop was beautifully cooked and came with a scattering of dill and a smiley face drawn on the plate in balsamic vinegar, which made me feel extra welcome. It also came with a portion of chips mixed with cooked onions. This is such a good combination. Chips need to come with an onion topping more often. Imagine how good for our health they would be then.

The beef Stroganov was fantastic and, unlike the Stroganov at Cafe Pushkin, you couldn’t feel your arteries hardening as you gluttonously stuffed down more creamy, lardy beef. The sauce had a chunky curd flavour with a lactic tang, and a hint of paprika that relieved the dish of its more extravagant richness.

Orange pancakes
Orange pancakes

We were a lot more successful when it came to translating the dessert menu. There’s nothing like a slathering desire for sugar to boost your language skills. DJ ordered the cheesecake, The Wandering Australian ordered a double chocolate soufflé and Leonard and I went for orange pancakes.

The pancakes arrived with swirls of sauce and scoops of ice cream. Leonard took a bite. She froze mid-chew.


She chewed again.


She swallowed.


The syrupy orange sauce swirled so attractively around the pancakes was strong on citric acid. Very strong. It was the very opposite of a homeopathic orange sauce – the essence of citrus distilled so perfectly that the room took on a hazy orange hue and scurvy was permanently eradicated within a 10 mile area.

We finished our meal, finally, we some vodka. We’d been in for a week and not touched a drop of the hard stuff – why had we even bothered flying out there? We drank a few glasses of Russian Standard and felt the warm self-confidence that suffuses people who are considerably more drunk than they think they are.

The meal was Rub3,997 (£85) without tip, which covered 4 mains, 4 desserts, some sides, a litre of beer, a bottle and a glass of wine and 7 shots of vodka. I would be so much richer if I wasn’t such a drunk.

10 Responses to Snezhinka, 2 ul Litvinova, off ul Karla Marska, Irkutsk

  1. Di says:

    Even I can’t remember what I had this time. I blame the vodka.

  2. Did you watch Around the World in 80 days, last night?

    there was a scene on the Trans-Siberian express, where the menu was in Russian and the 2 presenters were reduced to making animal noises when making there order……for some reason you came into my mind!!!

    did this happen to you?

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      No it did not! Because a) I can, like, totally speak Russian, Mongolian and Chinese b) almost every menu I came across was in English as well as Russian/Mongolian/Chinese and c) if it wasn’t, the waitress/waiter spoke English. Bet they made all that animal noise stuff up for the cameras.

  3. pah, you’ve just spoilt the romance for moi!

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      Sorry RCC. The world is a small place these days and everyone knows how to say LOL and ‘You get me?’. All our waiters ended their sentences with ‘innit’. It’s the internet’s fault.

  4. i had a big mac on sunday…..i’m going to blame the internet for that!!


  5. Di says:

    I love the way that Leonard’s approach to learning Mongolian did not incorporate learning any of the Cyrillic alphabet. I like to think that’s because she was learning it in the original Mongolian script instead (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mongol_khel.svg).

  6. Di says:

    Hmmm… link couldn’t cope with the brackets!


    • ginandcrumpets says:

      All that time learning the original Mongolian script and we when get there they don’t use it anymore. Crushing.

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