Going Green: Eating Vegan in St. Petersburg
After over four months of living in Russia in total, I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to be a vegetarian here. My host family in Yaroslavl were not even taken aback by it, and I’ve only had one incident where I’ve had to argue that no it’s not because I’m punishing myself and yes I can live without salami (I was force fed a piece anyway). Now being a vegetarian is becoming mainstream, I thought I’d take it one step further and explore the vegan scene in St. Petersburg, where I’ve already noticed that veggie options are much better catered for. While veganism is becoming more popular and widespread all the time, it is still relatively uncommon. However, one visit to the hip Loft Project ЭТАЖИ (Ligovsky Prospect 74) and you wouldn’t think so. It is home to more vegan/vegetarian food than you would see on any other random street in St. Petersburg, or even in the UK, so I took one for the team and sampled some of it.
My first taster came in the form of a solo trip to Animals, which I found while exploring behind the Loft building itself. There is a complex of little shops in (what looks like) enlarged cubicles. There’s books, art…and vegan food. The menu was quite small and simple, offering dishes such as Penne pasta with seitan in marinara sauce, or Seitan-Stroganoff. It made the most sense to go for a Russian-style dish à la vegan, so I ordered the tofu-spinach pelmeni and a slice of cake. Because let’s be honest, a vegan cake is a healthy one. The portions were decent size and well-presented: the pelmeni just as tasty and filling as I imagine normal pelmeni to be, and the cake was sweet and not too dry.
I came back to ЭТАЖИ with some friends who were keen to try some vegan food, and to continue on my path towards achieving full health goddess/ eco-warrior status. Considering previous attempts to get people to join me had resulted in various amounts of scoffing and disbelief, it was nice to have company, although our Russian friend had not been amply warned and sulked with us for not providing her with more meat options – she cheered up after some chicken soup. The food court on the second floor offered many veggie/ vegan options but we decided on a fast-food stall called Vilkii ne protiiv (so maybe not becoming a health goddess anytime soon). Between us we had a Caesar roll with tofu in breadcrumbs in the place of chicken, pita bread with tofu and mushrooms, a vegan Shawarma with humus, falafel and vegetables, and some extra falafel on the side. This was all delicious and filling, and considering how much eating vegan food out and about can cost in the UK, the prices were even better (ranging from 100 to 200 roubles for each item).
Leaving cooked food to one side, researching for this post also allowed me my first foray into raw food. RA Family on Kuznechny Lane does a raw take on pizza, pasta, soups, and other well-known dishes, with some interesting (and aesthetically pleasing) results. The interior is also beautiful – appropriately arty, chilled and spacious – my favourite so far. My friend ordered the olive salad and a slice of pizza, and I went for the lasagne. It was probably the healthiest lasagne I will ever eat in my life, considering it was made up of slices of tomato and courgette with vegan tomato and green pesto. The brownie with ice cream was also great: the brownie was made up of nuts and dates and actually tasted nice, but not very chocolatey – I was expecting the same kind of miracle which occurred at ‘Animals’. The berry sorbet was wonderfully fruity and delicious, though. The food overall was probably the priciest of all the places I tried, but raw food is fashionable, therefore it tends to be more expensive. I was content in the knowledge that a similar place in Camden would have charged me about £10 for a lettuce leaf.
So, if this article proves anything, it’s that eating vegan food out is definitely possible in St. Petersburg, and is becoming ever more popular. There are, of course, numerous other places I’ve missed out and am yet to try. Comment below if you have any suggestions!
This article was brought to you by Claire, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz.