Ukrainian Chef to Open London Restaurant Staffed by Refugees

Ukrainian chef Yurii Kovryzhenko and his partner Olga Tsybytovska will open their debut modern Ukranian restaurant in London’s Brompton Road, Chelsea, in July. Named Mriya (Ukrainian for ‘dream’), the restaurant will will be a stylish neo-bistro with the chef’s signature cuisine, and it will employ Ukrainian refugees.

The well-known Ukrainian chef, gastro-diplomat, TV presenter and all-round ambassador for Ukrainian food told us: “For us, this is more than just a restaurant. This is an opportunity to talk about Ukraine and its unique identity. This is a chance for Ukrainian refugees to find work to their liking. It is an opportunity to create something unique and cosy in London, which has supported us in these difficult times and surrounded us with love.”

The Mriya menu: traditional Ukranian dishes

The chef, who trained at Ecole Ritz Escoffier, Ferrandi Paris and Basque Culinary Center, will put classic Ukrainian dishes on the menu, with a touch of creative flair – after all, he was a sculptor until the age of 29.

“Ukrainian cuisine is one of the most sophisticated in the world. For a long time, it was in the shadows. Now it’s time to talk about it,” said the chef.

The menu will give prominence to traditional dishes like borscht and chicken Kyiv, as well as the variations on local Ukrainian vegetables, and dishes like zucchini pancakes with stracciatella and smoked trout; and vinaigrette with strawberries on green pea cream and crayfish necks. There will also be a separate refrigerating room where they will ferment vegetables according to ancient Ukrainian recipes, reflecting the importance of fermentation in Ukrainian cuisine.

Vodka and food pairing options will also feature, to acknowledge the important partnership of food and vodka in Ukrainian culture. It will also ensure that everyone knows how to say ‘budmo’, a popular Ukrainian toast, which literally means ‘let us be’. The wine list will have a strong Ukrainian presence to showcase the country’s wine production, with added Georgian and other Eastern European wines alongside old world wines.

The chef Yurii Kovryzhenko and his partner Olga Tsybytovska

The chef, and his partner and restaurant co-founder Tsybytovska, were left stranded in the UK when the war broke out during a visit to host a dinner at the embassy in London. They have since channelled their energies into fundraising for back home, joining forces with chefs like Jason Atherton. They have already hosted 20 charity dinners in four months and raised about £400,000.

The duo are busy recruiting staff, which has involved posting messages to groups of Ukrainians in London on social networks to offer jobs to refugees.