How to have a Russian weekend in London – Review from The Spectator

Banya No.1 - Review from The Spectator

Benedict Cumberbatch’s turn as Greville Wynne – the British engineer who helped MI6 smuggle secret intel out of Soviet Russia – in The Courier has shone a light on London’s Cold War past. While the USSR and KGB might be gone, our capital still has a few souvenirs from the era – not to mention plenty of modern Russian culture and cuisine to boot.

If you’re feeling inspired by The Courier, here’s the guide to throwing the ultimate Russian-themed weekend in London:

Where to eat and drink…

What to do

Fancy some Russian culture to boot? In normal times, you couldn’t walk through the West End without finding a production of one of the great Russian playwrights. Sadly with much of theatreland still in semi-hibernation, it’s slim pickings this autumn. Chekhov’s gun remains silent.

You may have better luck when it comes to visual arts, with eastern European enjoying somewhat of a Saatchi-inspired boom in London. Covent Garden’s David Kovats Art Gallery and Shoreditch’s Calvert 22 are two of the more impressive galleries dedicated to bringing the solid contemporary work from central and Eastern Europe.

Dedicated Russophiles will already know Pushkin House, the Bloomsbury town-house which functions as an unofficial embassy for Russian culture. As well as organising an annual prize for the best non-fiction book about Russia, it also hosts intimate recitals with some of the country’s best classical musicians .

For something entirely different try Hoxton’s Banya No.1, which offers the authentic Russian sauna experience. Treatments include an ‘invigorating’ encounter with birch twigs, being rubbed in honey and coarse salt, and a spell in a steam room followed by a sudden ice-cold bucket shower.

What to see

Robert Jackman

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