St Petersburg, Manchester

It’s hard not to feel charmed by Olena Zabornikova.   Walking into her restaurant is like visiting a lovable but slightly dotty aunt.   The entrance draws you in from a quirky and quiet part of university town, and once you work out how to avoid being snared by a Spar supermarket, it is like walking through a time portal.  To be blunt, the decor is old fashioned.   The tables laid in the style of a 1960’s Inter-City train, and the dishes in which the food is served give the impression of having been collected over many years from Portobello Market.   And just as you sit there admiring the old pictures and Russian relics, the volume of the Eastern Europop is racked up and mirror balls reflect the disco lights, discolouring your dining partner’s face and turning the room into a cross between Peristroika and Studio 54.   Apparently there is live music here at weekends, news of which has entered St. Petersburg high up on my list of weekend “must-dos in Manchester”.

The service, on the night we visited with a Groupon voucher in hand (£18 for two 3 course meals), was being delivered exclusively by Olena, whose English is okay, wine knowledge less so.

The Chilean Merlot I selected was out of stock.   Rejecting the suggested alternative of Jacob’s Creek (aka liquefied jam WKD), I managed to find a safe bottle of Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon, a brand which regular readers will know is my recommended defensive weapon of choice when navigating a mass market dominated wine list.   At £18.95 this wine is fairly rather then well priced.  A bit more imagination would be nice though.  In Manchester it should be possible to put a good list of £15-30 wines together.  The Mark Addy does this in Spades, for example.

The food menu contains plenty of Russian staples.  I was expecting cabbage and potatoes to feature prominently.  The Duke of Stroganoff apparently inspired the choices of half a dozen soups, a similar number of blinis, and a dozen mains ranging from beef steak through flattened chicken breast to minced lamb, all served with your choice of mash, chips or rice.

My blini was plain, but Fred’s Derevenskiy - chicken, mushroom and noodles was sublime.  Imagine a Chinese soup but make the flavours more subtle and the texture slightly thicker and it just makes you keep spooning.

We swapped experiences for main course.  The chicken breast was tougher than the estimable curtains hanging next to our table, but my lamb Barantchiky with rice was like a top class seekh kebab, but softer, less spice, more thickly ground and served with a spicy sauce that was so good it’s recipe is currently being guarded by US Navy SEALs, and, presumably due to the resulting potential supply chain problems, it is served in tiny portions.

The Russian cake was the pick of desserts.

I think the kitchen is generally on top of stuff and on occasions inspired.  You cannot complain about the cost either.  Even at full price our entire bill would have been about £60 plus service.

There is also a large range of vodkas, if that is your thing.   Personally I am starting to love those that are served frozen.

See what you make of it.  St. Petersburg offers something a bit different and if you take vodka rather than wine with your meal you will probably love it.   Either way, you cannot fail to walk out with a smile driven by the warm welcome, the quirky ambience and Olena’s enthusiasm.

St. Petersburg
68 Sackville Street
M1 3NJ
T:  +44 (0) 161 236 6333

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