The Conrad Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road is home to the most delish and authentic Eastern European delights!
It’s probably obvious with a name like mine that I know a thing or two about Eastern European food, which is why when Dubai welcomed the upscale, contemporary, and cool Slavic restaurant Vesna to its shores, I got (very) excited. Okay, so I’m not Russian, but my Polish roots mean that when it comes to things like borsch soup, pierogi dumplings, and meat stews, I can safely say I know my stuff, and I can also safely say that Vesna did not disappoint.
Meaning “spring” in Russian, Vesna brings a breath of fresh air to the Dubai food scene, serving up a mouthwatering blend of Russian, Belarusian, Georgian, and Ukrainian cuisines with a mix of modern and classic flavours. The menu offers everything from chicken kiev made with Japanese breadcrumbs, aubergine caviar, mushroom crepes, and seabass baked with cheese, to Georgian lamb stew, creamy mushroom noodles, and shrimp cous cous.
Located in the mezzanine of the Conrad Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, Vesna stands out from the off. Greeted by the sparkling hostesses, who are all donned in dresses with a bold floral, Russian-peasant style print (which can be spotted all around the restaurant from the drinks menus to the throws on the sofas), we were whisked off to the bar area for a pre-dinner tipple. The ‘Experiment N1’ is the perfect refreshing choice – vodka, basil leaves, lemongrass, and lemon juice. Just the ticket to getting our taste buds ready for our Slavic feast.
The restaurant is ‘split’ into two areas, the bar section which has huge velvet sofas, golden gilded tables with traditional Russian pottery and flowers on, and richly textured curtains which help divide the two areas along with a brick feature wall. Moving through to the dining area, the brick walls continue, but the velvet sofas are replaced with elegant and simple dining tables and details like chandeliers and framed pictures on the walls.
Sitting down at our table, we put our faith in the hands of our wonderful waiter (Russian, of course) to recommend a selection of starters that best highlight the variety of dishes Vesna is so famed for (everything on the menu sounds so good, it would be impossible to choose), and each and every one brought something totally new to the table. Literally.
There’s the fresh and light ‘Vinegret Salad’ made with organic baked beetroot, diced potato, peas, carrots, and peppers, the decadent Odessa-style organic baby chicken which is slow baked with herbs and blended into a mousse and served cold, and the utterly divine herring fillets blended with lemon juice, homemade cottage cheese, and diced red onion served with slices of toasted bread to scoop it up with.
If we could, we would have had another round, but it was then on to one the highlights of the evening, the big steaming bowl of Borsch – something that instantly brings back memories of big family Christmases sat around my granny’s table. Borsch is an eastern European staple, and is essentially a beetroot soup, but at Vesna it comes with a twist, and organic beef, beetroot, and garden vegetables are slow cooked with aromatic herbs and Indian spices to make for the most homely, warming, and delicious bowls of goodness you can imagine. Served with sour cream and a small homemade pastry, I think I could actually live on this stuff.
Then came the homemade Vareniki dumplings, stuffed with fresh porcini mushrooms and potato purée, pan-fried to perfection, and I was officially in heaven.
Worried we were too full at this point to eat our mains (yeah, right, who I am kidding?), it was then on to the Beef Stroganoff, where the most tender and flavoursome of Australian black Angus was slow cooked with mixed champignon, cloves, onions, and fresh cream and served with a slightly spiced potato mash, to perfectly round-off a hearty meal of Slavic food made with soul.
If, by this point, you can manage to squeeze in a dessert, the Vesna apple fritters made with green apple compote and lightly fried pastry, the light and creamy honey cake, or the Birds Milk vanilla soufflé won’t take much convincing. Just a word of warning: don’t wear anything tight, and prepare to be rolled out afterwards. But boy, is it worth it.