[London, SE1] Baltic
I was prepared to be a bit disappointed at Baltic after I’d read the menu online. I’d be the first to admit that geography isn’t my strong point and I’d struggle to know exactly where the Baltic was. Baltic, the sea, that is. And it looked as though Baltic, the restaurant, might also be struggling as the menu darts hither and thither across the far reaches of Northern Europe.
I needn’t have worried though. I was about to have a thoroughly decent dinner. There’s a narrow, slightly unwelcoming, shop front entrance which takes you into a long, narrow and seemingly soulless bar area. The restaurant is at the back of the bar space and is a much nicer place to be – high ceiling, glass roof, comfy chairs, not so dimly lit that you can’t read the menu.
Bread was quickly offered. A choice of four – I picked a rye on the first offering and had scoffed it before my starter came. More was proffered and this time I took a white, assertively flavoured with caraway. Both good.
The starter was just the sort of thing you want on a chilly winter’s night. Siberian Pelmeni were a generous portion of well flavoured nuggets of pork and veal, encased in thickish dumpling dough. Even with my poor geography skills I know that Siberia is nowhere near the Baltic so is about as local as paella is to being a traditional Lancastrian dish.
The main was pork schnitzel “a la Holstein”. Now, I’m even vaguer about where Holstein might be. Cast my mind back 45 years to “O” level 19th century history and I’m sure it cropped up – although apparently the dish is named after a German bloke of that name, rather than the place. In the event, it was pretty much a bog standard schnitzel – thin pork escalope, bread-crumbed and fried. It sat on some sautéed potatoes and fried onions. The Holstein bit comes by a scattering of capers and a couple of anchovy fillets. It was all OK. Not particularly interesting and I rather wished I’d had the main course sized portion of the Pelmeni.
I didnt bother with dessert but there was a good espresso. Service was efficient – one member of staff seemed to be tasked with a constant perambulation round the room looking for dirty pots to pick up.
I'm a big fan of Baltic, actually.
Their menu does tend to wander a bit more than it should, stretching all the way to the southern balkans, but if you treat it as a northern european restaurant it produces some very good food in a style that's otherwise fairly hard to find at that level in London.
The pelmeni are good, but the pierogi are even better, and the smoked fish options are always well done. The real highlight, though, are the game dishes - I've had a great rabbit with spatzle dish, and lovely roast goose with red cabbage. And the wine and vodka lists are both very interesting - it's one of the few places to get Georgian wine in London.
Finally, it's always worth checking for special deals on timeout - you can usually eat for half price from the a la carte menu if you're organised.