Regional Notes - Events - Gatherings & Groups - Travel Information
|Post your notes about vegetarian events, vegetarian travel or general information for Minsk, suggestions such as hotel recommendations, travel agencies, or any other regional vegan and vegetarian related information. Separate pages exist for each city and state/province, so please add information relative to Minsk only. For restaurant reviews, go to the listings page.
Subject: 'Minsk for vegetarians'
Posted by Stevie on: Sunday, August 26, 2007 at 08:30 AM PST
Out of places I have visited in Europe I haven't been anywhere nearly as frustratingly challenging to be a vegan vegetarian as Minsk (and I've been to Minsk more than once).
Firstly, there is the difficulty of reading menus in Cyrillic if like me you are a beginner in speaking Russian. This can be overcome by taking a native speaker with you if you don't know Russian but Cyrillic is only the beginning of the difficulties. Vegetarianism as a concept is something which Belarussian people really struggle to get their head round. And with the standards of waiting service if you make a complaint about something rather than expect some customer care the waiting staff may well get upset and argue (and I mean argue) with you.
Further there is the frustrating widespread practice of ingredients being included that aren't listed on the menu (e.g. cheese, butter, cream, margarine). Is the cheese used vegetarian cheese? You’ll need to ask yourself I’m afraid but I would be both stunned and humbled if it is. A number of the eateries (e.g. Saloon, Bar 05, Il Patio) struggle to entertain the concept of modifying a dish from the standard way that they prepare it. The concept is as alien to them as a landing from planet Zob. This can make negotiating a vegetarian meal quite a mission.
Places to avoid:-
What a place. If Hollywood conjured up the movie “Nightmare on Elm Street” then this place in Minsk was “Nightmare on Masherov Avenue”.
In Saloon I ordered vegetable soup. When I pointed out that there was meat in the soup I was told that, 'because it's only a little meat it's vegetarian soup. The other soups have a lot of meat.' I then instead asked for the mushroom soup emphasising without cream. Sure enough it came with cream and I was told, 'It's only a little cream'. Astonishingly when the bill came I was billed for the dishes that I had sent back. I asked for the Manager. The Manager backed the waitress completely and joined in the argument and they tried to put a group pressure on me. Fortunately I had a native with me to help. It took some persistence to get the offending items removed from the bill. In the end justice was served (if not decent veggie food). Clearly communism is well and truly consigned to the history books in this establishment - profiteering is the name of the game now in Saloon.
Although I haven’t given it too much thought this is possibly the worst place I’ve ever been to in my life. Best thing about this joint is the exit door. It is truly a victory for the human spirit that I don’t wake up in the middle of the night having the shakes from this place coming into my thoughts while I sleep. Shudder.
Despite a waitress being rustled up who spoke decent English (something I was very grateful for as my Russian is still a very poor standard) Il Patio seemed incapable of giving me a pasta dish without cheese (it took them 3 attempts). Factory production line style produced food. If you want something even slightly customised try elsewhere.
In Bar 05 regardless of what you say it will be impossible to get a baked potato served without cheese. Perhaps unbeknown to me this place is the centre for the Cheese Appreciation Society of Belarus. People could travel from miles around just to try the cheese from this place on a potato. Don't eat here. The waitress spoke decent English (again I am grateful for that when I have so much of my own linguistics to develop) but it wasn’t any use. Trying to stop them putting cheese on a baked potato was as futile as trying to stop a T34 tank.
Chinese place near Masherov Avenue (sorry I’ve forgot the name)
There is also a Chinese place close to Masherov Avenue that had a grand total of 1 dish on the menu (menu in English again I am delighted to say) that didn't appear to be meat based. This was a dish mostly of tomato. When I put it into my mouth it was an assault on my taste buds as pleasant as being rolled over by the previously mentioned T34. Again I haven’t given it that much thought but it was possibly the worst tasting dish I've ever had in a Chinese restaurant. There seems to be a lot of 'worsts' in eating in this town. I love Chinese food. Not from this restaurant.
Restaurant Voglia Matta
I am humbled to be stunned at how it can take an hour to prepare pasta with tomato sauce in a restaurant with a grand total of 1 customer. Maybe they are out harvesting the tomatoes from the neighbouring countryside, I have no idea. Cream is added to the tomato sauce whether you ask for it or not. On another visit they managed to serve 2 similar appearing dishes to the wrong people (only identified when the person who ordered the ‘without chilli’ option had their mouth feeling like an inferno).
There is a branch of Lido in Minsk but they could not offer me a single vegetarian dish without cheese, milk, cream or butter when I asked. They weren’t unpleasant about it and I appreciate their honesty.
Poor choice for vegetarians. I read a review of Minsk that listed this place as the best bet for vegetarians. I can only assume that this recommendation was a well intended attempt at comedy. Best avoided.
I had a word with the staff about what they could offer me. 'Nothing' was the answer. Again their honesty is appreciated.
If you are going to Minsk you may wish to try the following:-
A Tibetan restaurant with a very polite and helpful manager who speaks good English. Some vegetarian dishes are on the menu and he will also help in pointing out the egg / dairy free veggie options. A place of tranquillity for vegetarians when compared with the seeming vortex of madness that is ordering in so many of the other eateries in this town. There’s not exactly a huge amount of stuff for vegetarians but the choice here is as good as it gets that I’ve found in Minsk. Located about a 5 min walk from Ploshad Yakuba Kolasa metro.
This place is part of a chain with branches sprinkled through ex-Soviet Europe. A few vegetarian dishes on offer but beware the fish extract in the boullion used to make the miso soup. There's 1 on the main drag (Nezavisimosti Prospekt) and another on Ulitsa Lenina St. Both are close to Oktyabrskaya metro. A big winner in terms of mega central location.
An all together more pleasant Italian eating experience than Il Patio. Cheeseless pizzas available on request. I’m not able to advise about the content of the pizza bases I am afraid. Located centrally about 10 mins walk from Oktyabrskaya metro just past the Dinamo football stadium. They seem able to get their head around the idea of customer focus even if there isn’t very much for veggies to choose from.
A Caucasian restaurant that doesn't have a lot of vegetarian options at 1st glance but the staff were very
helpful in getting me a couple of vegan veggie variations from the menu. An extraordinary display of out of the box innovative free thinking in comparison with some of the other establishments – a commendable philosophy that I endorse whole heartedly
An upmarket place where the helpful staff eventually (and I mean eventually, it took quite a bit of perseverence between us) managed to get me something different from the menu rustled up. Better than nothing. This joint is located in between Oktyabrskaya and Nimega metro stations.
Some simple tips to consider when trying to order food in this country:-
* Learn as much Russian as you can before hand. Same as anywhere – having a go at speaking the native tongue is always appreciated even if it is just the most basic of words
* Take a Russian speaker with you if you can if your Russian isn’t so good. A native to the area would be even better
* Take a copy of the vegan passport with you – you may find a waiter / waitress prepared to read enough of it (you’ll be lucky) to take in the meaning of it. If so you might get a veggie meal somewhere
* Smile, be pleasant, stay calm, try not to let frustration get to you
* Get in some accelerated training in perseverance before you go – Be prepared mentally as an Olympian effort may be needed. Crooks like those in Saloon will try to grind you down
* When it goes wrong try to look positively on it afterwards as a character building experience. After all we’re all going to die 1 day
This is another place where sadly it feels like all the cabbies look upon tourists as fodder for a big rip off. The metro in comparison is quick, simple and inexpensive.
Best of luck.
More local events & info at: Member Community Forum