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A taste of Russia - in Swaffham!

PUBLISHED: 17:00 18 February 2009 | UPDATED: 11:12 08 July 2010

It is one of the most powerful countries in the world and while its oligarchs have bought up some of our best football teams more and more of us rely on Russian oil to heat our homes and fuel our cars.

It is one of the most powerful countries in the world and while its oligarchs have bought up some of our best football teams more and more of us rely on Russian oil to heat our homes and fuel our cars.

But whatever springs to mind when people in Norfolk think of Russia it is doubtful that good food would be at the top of their list.

That could be about to change, however, with the opening of what is thought to be East Anglia's first Russian restaurant. With home cooked specialities including marinated herring fillets with onions and rye bread and tenderised lamb fillets with pomegranate, Irina Spezeva wants to introduce western palates to the delights of Russian cuisine.

The Estonian, who was born 100km from St Petersburg, is already cooking up a storm at her new restaurant, Rasputin, which overlooks Swaffham's Market Place.

She said: “The geographic location of Russia, between Europe and Asia, has had a tremendous impact on the development of Russian cuisine.

“Generations of Russians added different flavours and ingredients to traditional recipes and experimented with new spices that came from around the world.”

And the Russian experience does not just stop at the menu, the wine list also looks to the east.

Only wines from Moldova and Georgia are served and of course there is cold vodka, something which is served at the start of every good Russian meal.

Ms Spezeva earned her stripes as a chef while working in the kitchens of Swaffham's renowned boutique hotel Strattons.

Rasputin is her pride and joy and as sole owner and chef it took her a year of hard work to prepare the 40-seat restaurant for opening.

Within a week it is already offering live music at the weekends and mass catering for private parties.

And, with its deep red walls, luxurious leather sofas and staff dressed in traditional Russian costume, Ms Spezeva hopes diners will not only enjoy Russian hospitality but also learn a bit about Russian food history too.

She said: “Russian royalty had active appetites as well as enormous wealth and power.

“Peter the Great, Ivan the Terrible, Kathryn the Great and the last tsar, Nicholas the Second, were all great gourmets.

“Kathryn the Great used to have 50 course dinners and her holiday menu could consist of 500 different dishes.”

Ms Spezeva was spurred on to open the restaurant after her English friends were so enthusiastic about her food when she cooked for them at home.

She decided to call it Rasputin because he is one of the most important and larger than life characters from Russian history and it is a name English people know. Also, in Russian, rasputye means a place where roads meet and Ms Spezeva want her restaurant to be a welcoming meeting point for people.

Although some Russian dishes are now available in supermarkets Ms Spezeva said people will be surprised at how different they taste when they are freshly cooked.

She said: “I have tried the borsch from the supermarket and it is nothing like it should be.”

Call 07881 57218 to book a table at Rasputin.

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