173 Chapel Street
Windsor VIC 3181
+61 3 9530 2694
Autumn in Melbourne can be brutal. Okay, not as brutal as a Soviet winter but when you’re walking down Chapel Street juggling 10 billion shopping bags, you kinda don’t want Melbourne’s harsh elements to get in the way of all things fun. Or maybe I’m just a whiny brat. Whatever. After spending a few hours tearing down the South Yarra end of Chapel Street in the cold and somehow ending up at the Windsor end, BFF Marty and I stumbled across Borsch Vodka & Tears, a joint that has always been on my ‘to do’ list for quite some time. Vodka and borsch was never on our agenda that afternoon but Marty, the Gorbachev to my Perestroika and the Vronsky to my Anna, suddenly decided that he had a craving for borsch so in we went.
It was just after 4pm when we walked in, with a smattering of loved-up couples making their nests between empty tables with ‘RESERVED’ signs plonked on them. Luckily, our friendly hipster (plus the ‘steez’ and minus the pretentiousness) was able to locate a spare table by the bar which was lined with many, many bottles of different shapes, sizes and colours.
Mmmm vodka.With a drinks list spanning many, many pages, it was hard to narrow our choices down. I mean, we could have been courageous and opted for a set of three plum vodkas each (three for $14.50), leaving it up to the waiter to choose a selection of vodkas but we only wanted a couple to nip on. After all, it wasn’t even dark yet. Plus, we didn’t want to limit ourselves to plum vodkas.
In the end, Marty chose a rich and creamy advocaat ($6.50), an eggnog creme liqueur with brandy and vanilla; and a winter romance ($8), a spicier blend of rose petal and wild forest flower in one little shot glass. The shot glass in flames (courtesy of Marty’s cigarette lighter) is my passover Slivovitz ($11), a kosher plum vodka from Poland. Aged for 12 years and with an alcohol content of 70%, it was as strong and brutal as Simon Kołecki but was kept sweet with traces of prunes and vanilla. Not pictured was my sweet and earthy cocktail called The Cure ($11). Consisting of piołunówka absinthe and espresso, it’s not normally a cocktail I would order (I’m more into fun, citrus-y Jessica Wakefield-type cocktails) but as it says on the menu, the cocktail is “go0d for what ails you” and plus, I like Robert Smith so shut up.
Eeek! Flash! To soak up all the alcohol, we had food. Of course, we had food. This is a food blog, duh. Marty had the Russian borsch ($14.50), a rich, soulful mixture of beetroot, carrots, tomatoes and beans peppered with bits of bacon, apple and a dollops of sour cream. If we could find a Soviet equivalent of a bowl of pho, this would be it. Tasty, soothing and full of flavour, he totally lapped it up and scooped the remaining dregs with the slices of rye bread provided.
Meanwhile, I had an entree-sized plate of cheese and potato pierogi (four for $17). I must say that I felt ripped off, receiving only four dumplings for seventeen-frucking-dollars. I mean, I know that pierogi ain’t cheap for dumplings, but at Court Jester, they charge something like $7.50 for six pieces so what the fruck, dudes? Still, I was too hungry and too tipsy to care (after all, that plum vodka was SCULLED, baby) so I eagerly dug into my crispy cocoons of cheesy, potato-ey (with a bit of fried onion-y) goodness along with the rocket salad that came with it. Not bad, but not worth the price.
Had we been a little hungrier and had our tables not been reserved for another party, we would have probably stayed for a proper meal – perhaps some Polish sausages or some salmon and steak. Sadly, it was time to leave the Eastern Bloc and time to head back to the city for more shenanigans. I can see myself coming back for more as it’s the perfect place for a drink and a light feed on a cold Winter’s night. Just stay away from the pierogi if you’re looking for value for money.