Ukraine has a distinct and delectable culinary culture, and with creative restaurants, lively bar scenes and vibrant food markets, exploring its major cities is the best way to get to grips with the country’s gastronomy. Lviv showcases historic coffee shops and the blossoming craft brewery scene; Odessa, a port city, puts the produce of the Black Sea (anchovies, sprats and mussels) front and centre; and Kiev, the capital, is home to top chefs and the atmospheric indoor Besarabsky Market, which is full of pickles, preserves and piles of fresh herbs.
Insider’s Kiev: where to eat and drink
This hip spot specialises in modern regional Ukrainian cuisine — try Black Sea anchovies, Danube herring and even wild boar pies.
Klukva & Brukva
Vareniki, Black Sea mussels and chicken Kiev (with red cabbage ‘marmalade’) are all taken to new levels.
A bookstore-cum-café, Kharms is a cool courtyard spot with great freshly roasted coffee.
Salo, cured or smoked pork back fat, is a national obsession in Ukraine. Cold, fatty and white, it’s sometimes spiced with paprika and is the perfect partner for vodka, briny pickles and dark rye bread.
Three local dishes
Sour, thick and moreish, Ukrainian borscht is made with beetroot, oxtail, dill, potatoes and cabbage. It’s especially good with freshly baked pampushky (soft, round, garlicky buns).
These little dumplings filled with potatoes, cheese or sour cherries are divine. Savoury varieties are often sauteed, drizzled with flavoured butter, and served with sour cream on the side.
A herring pate usually containing eggs, bread, apple and sour cream, forshmak has long been popular among the Ashkenazi Jewish community, and it’s widely eaten in Ukraine.
As featured in the March issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).