A hub for art lovers and the local Cossack population, Café Cossachok might not be to everyone's tastes, finds Jennifer Harper

So often it is only newly opened restaurants that find their way onto these review pages. But what about the stalwarts who have managed to survive recessions, property crashes and changes in public spending? How are they doing? Having never eaten ‘Russian’ before, my friend Elizabeth and I decide to find out how Scotland’s only Russian restaurant, Café Cossachok, has managed to stand the test of time since opening its doors way back in 1998.

 

Backing onto the Trongate Arts Centre, Café Cossachok has a big glass modern frontage with a dedicated gallery area to the right, and ample seating and bar to the left. The interior is quirky, with colourful woven shawls adorning the ceiling, rustic wooden floors and benches, Russian movies silently projected on a loop on to the walls and the walls in the toilets plastered with sheet music.
So far, so good. Our waitress is friendly and happily explains the menu to us – it’s an inviting and intriguing mix with a range of dishes traditional to the people of the former USSR. Cabbage features heavily in many dishes, from the borscht country soup and golubtzi, which is Ukrainian stuffed cabbage, to babushka blintzes, which are pancakes stuffed with cabbage and other vegetables, topped with orange sauce.
Obviously going all Russian today, vodka has to be involved somewhere, so we’re delighted when we’re handed Cossachok’s famous cocktail list. Elizabeth chooses Putin It Off (£4), which is made with pear vodka, while I go for the Cosmopolitan (£3.50) made with Cossachok’s own homemade cranberry vodka. These are simply delicious and bring very big smiles to our faces.

Having been distracted by these visions of beauty in a glass, it takes us a while to get round to ordering food. On this occasion we forego the cabbage soup in order to share Cossachok nibbles to start – deep fried rye bread strips with a cheese, garlic and mayo dip (£3). It arrives presented on a large plate split into three, with rye bread on two sides and a generous offering of dip in the middle. It’s not to our taste. The rye bread is over-fried and too crunchy, while also being soaked in oil. The dip too is completely overpowered by the garlic.

For the main course, I opt for chicken stroganoff (£9.95), while Elizabeth chooses chicken shashlik with tomato and herb sauce (£10.75). The stroganoff is again a generous portion, served with boiled rice and colourful roasted vegetables. It is pleasant enough with the creamy sauce bolstered with soft button mushrooms and leeks, making this a plentiful dish.

Elizabeth’s chicken shashlik is well presented with two skewers of chicken served hanging from a meat hook, accompanied with roast cherry tomatoes, boiled rice and a bowl of tomato and basil sauce. While the chicken is tender, the sauce is essential as the dish would be much too dry without it.
Having finished our large mains, we ponder whether we have room for a sweet or not before deciding to share a blini glace (£4.50). We are glad that we do. It is beautifully presented with three scoops of the loveliest creamiest ice-cream wrapped in a warm pancake, which is drizzled with honey and chocolate sauce. This is a definite sweet treat.

Finishing off with tea, at our request the waitress happily swaps the tall glass cups for mugs – I’ve never seen the attraction of glass cups that become too hot to hold and are often top heavy.
Overall, Café Cossachok is a pleasant eaterie, though I suspect the cocktail list will be the attraction for many people returning. Today, the highlights for us are undoubtedly the cocktails and the pudding.
Our bill for food and cocktails only comes to £38.90, so it is good value for money. While our starter isn’t to our taste and the mains are acceptable, it is my guess that if you work your way through the menu to find the right dishes and flavours for you, then this could happily become an easy place to hang out for a relaxed meal while catching up with friends. With that theory, it is easy to see why this has become a hub for Merchant City art goers and the local Cossack population in Glasgow. n

Café Cossachok
10 King Street, Merchant City,
Glasgow G1 5QP (0141-553 0733,
www.cafecossachok.com)

HOW MUCH?
Starters £2.00-£8.95
Main courses £6.95-£14.95
Puddings £4.50-£5.95

Also on the menu:

While the traditional borscht country soup (£3.50) – with cabbage, tomato, beetroot and garlic served with sour cream and rye bread – is a must to try at some point, Café Cossachok has become renowned for its pancakes. Try blini salmon (£6.50) to start, or Moscow blintzes with turkey mince, leek, rice and parsley, and a spinach sauce (£10.95) as a main.

Other main courses include traditional chicken Kiev (£13.95), Uralskie varenyky (£10.50) which features Russian dumplings with potatoes and mushrooms, and a feta cheese sauce, or Chakhokhbili (£9.50), a spicy Georgian dish with chicken, tomato, garlic, tarragon and basil sauce served with rice or roast potatoes.
Café Cossachok is big on puddings, with a wide selection of Russian cakes on offer alongside the pancakes. They also have a value lunch menu with one course for £4, two courses £6.95 and three courses £8.95.

 

Café Cossachok, Glasgow, restaurant review
Rating60%
60%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (3 Votes)
90%

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