Chef Yurii Kovryzhenko and partner Olga Tsybytovska were giving a cooking masterclass in London in February when their homeland was invaded and they were left stranded. Now, six months on, they have opened a Ukrainian restaurant in Earl’s Court.
Kovryzhenko’s CV makes for impressive reading: he previously opened a Ukrainian restaurant in Georgia, became a food media personality in Ukraine and represented the country three times at the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore. The Michelin Guide credited him with “modernising” Ukrainian cuisine.
Mriya, which translates as “the dream”, is intended to act as a “cultural embassy” for a nation that has dominated the headlines this year. Speaking to the Evening Standard, Tsybytovska said: “Really, food is the opposite of war. It unites people and brings joy and pleasure…So I want other people to come and be surprised. I want them to discover new combinations of food and be impressed with Ukraine.”
On the menu there is borsch, the most celebrated soup of Eastern Europe, chicken Kyiv (of course) and honey cake for dessert. However, many of dishes offer lighter twists on traditional favourites, including “golubtsi-style” (cabbage rolls) stuffed courgette flowers and seafood pearl barley risotto with miso sauce. There is also reportedly a room dedicated to making ferments and pickles.
As for drinks, a range of Ukrainian wines and vodkas are available.
Mriya is also staffed by refugees who were displaced by the war.
While Kovryzhenko’s mother fled Kyiv to find refuge in Lviv, Tsybytovska’s family remains in their home just south of the capital. Speaking to The Guardian, she described food as an “instrument” that can connect her back to Ukraine.