For Ukrainians, as for many other cultures, bread has considerable symbolic, ritual and cultural significance – not to mention its food value! So Ukrainians in London and Londoners in general are very fortunate that, for over 50 years, they have been able to buy «Колос» (‘Kolos’ – ear of wheat) authentic Ukrainian rye bread. The Kolos Bakery was founded in Yorkshire by Ivan Prytulak, after he came to the UK as a refugee. He brought with him from Ukraine an authentic recipe for bread, and the bakery he established in 1961 has prospered and is now run by his sons. ‘Kolos’ bread can be bought in many East European food shops around London, and is a perfect accompaniment to traditional Ukrainian dishes such as ‘borshch’ (beetroot soup), herring dishes and salads.
Wine and beer
Many regions of Ukraine (particularly Transcarpathia and the south) have a tradition of wine-making, and since Independence Ukrainian wines (particularly dessert wines from Massandra and dry reds from the Odesa region) have been imported into the UK. At various times these have been available to buy in supermarkets, delicatessens and online.
Ukraine is also fast gaining a reputation for its beers, particularly those from Lviv and Kyiv, including the famous “Obolon”, which is served in Ukrainian and East European restaurants and bars in London. And songs have even been written about Lviv beer:
«Львівське пиво – то є кляса,
Робить з хлопа супераса ...»
“Beer from Lviv is really classy,
It turns a bloke into a superhero …”
London can also boast a unique combination of Ukrainian scholarship and oenology in the person of Dr Marko Bojcun. For several years from the late 1990s Marko taught history and politics at SSEES, and subsequently led the Ukraine Centre at London Metropolitan University. Now he grows grapes and makes wine at his vineyard by the river Lea in London (as well as writing articles and commenting on Ukrainian affairs for the media!).
Restaurants and cafés
Over past decades several restaurants and cafés serving Ukrainian food have existed in London. These include ‘Kozachok’ in Richmond and, later, ‘Divo’, which in 2007 opened just off Pall Mall in central London, to mixed reviews in the British national press. Initially “London’s first luxury Ukrainian restaurant” claimed to serve authentic food in an authentic setting, but in time changed its style to a fusion of East European and international cuisine. The restaurant subsequently closed down. Two Ukrainian restaurants which have opened fairly recently are ‘Albina’ in Canning Town and ‘Prosperity’ in Twickenham.
The ‘Karpaty’ Ukrainian Social Club is situated in the basement of the London Branch of the Association of Ukrainians (in Holland Park). Here, at the weekends, members and their guests can sample traditional Ukrainian food and drink, including ‘varenyky’ and ‘holubtsi’. Here, too, a traditional Christmas Eve dinner is prepared and served every year.
In the London Ukrainian culinary scene a special mention should be given to Mrs Melnyk’s café. Justyna Melnyk came to the UK after the war, and in the 1990s took over a transport café in Acton High Street. Her main customers were drivers and conductors based at the bus station (the Old Tram Depot) opposite. But a well-kept secret was that Mrs Melnyk also prepared traditional Ukrainian food, and Ukrainians from all over London would come, bringing their visitors (including high-profile ones, such as Patriarch Mstyslav Skrypnyk of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church), to this unassuming Ukrainian culinary centre. Sadly, the café is no more, and the Old Tram Depot has been replaced by a new housing development …