Dinner is served: traditional draniki and toasted tsybriki

What will be on offer at cafes and restaurants serving foreign tourists during the World Ice Hockey Championship, and at what price?
By Svetlana Stasko

‘Bread and circuses!’ is the famous demand of the Roman crowd, who sought food and entertainment from their rulers. Minsk will soon be filled with bustling fans, singing their hockey team songs. While our ice rinks will certainly be providing entertainment, what of food provision at our cafes and restaurants?

The Ministry of Trade has advised the capital’s restaurateurs to serve at least eight national dishes during the tournament, and to chat to foreign visitors in English. Naturally, fans are likely to head to Karl Marx pedestrian street, so I headed there to ‘test the waters’. The nearest coffee house, where the interior is inspired by the style of a quaint British cottage, is close to the metro, serving European cuisine and a prevalence of British dishes: porridge, omelette, toast, pancakes and traditional British pies. Breakfast can be had for just Br100,000 (about $10) while lunch costs around double the amount.

Service and cuisine are sure to meet hockey fans’ expectations, but it’s not hard to imagine how busy Minsk will become. Finding a table may present a problem in the centre, although there are over 1,500 cafes, restaurants and snack-bars across the capital, able to feed over 70,000 people. In the evenings and at the weekends, the most popular destinations tend to become very busy, so how will they cope with an additional 15-20 thousand tourists seeking service?

I popped into a pizzeria on the main street, to discover whether they’ll be serving draniki and the expected eight national dishes on their menu. Deputy Director Vera Ledoshchuk tells us, “There’s plenty of time until May. By then, our menu will have gained new dishes, with emphasis on national recipes.”

In the next cafй, I’m told that Belarusian traditional dishes prevail: borsch served in pots, sauerkraut soup, machanka, vereshchaka, six kinds of draniki, and Belarusian tsepeliny (dumplings). “We’re used to serving foreigners, as we’re near hotels and the railway station. People often ask for authentic dishes and want to sample Belarusian beer,” says Tatiana Kiseleva, the Deputy Director. “In May, we’ll focus on tourists arriving for the championship, being ready for orders in advance.” Breakfast costs about Br50,000 (about $5), while lunch is about 100,000 ($10), and dinner 200,000-250,000 ($20-25).

It’s to be expected that cafes and restaurants located near the ice rinks will be most busy. Luckily, Minsk-Arena offers a shopping and entertainment centre, Arena-City, nearby, with several eateries and a food court on the second floor. Diners can chose from six individual counters serving different menus and seat themselves in the central hall, which boats 400 seats. It is the first food court in Belarus.

Arena-City pizzeria can feed a great number of fans, assures manager Tatiana Getmanchik. Its dining room seats over 200 and, of course, it offers a take-away service. Most pizzas cost Br 50,000 (about $5). “We have 45 varieties of pizza and our Italian visitors have told us that ours is tastier than some served in their homeland.”

Belarusian culinary professionals are keen to help Minsk restaurateurs, with some projects developed especially for the championship — such as a guide entitled Sauces. These are an easy way to made simple dishes more tasty, as is popular in Europe. Several of the recipes are from remote corners of Belarus.

With our cafes and restaurants adopting such a positive attitude towards livening up menus, native Belarusians are sure to be attracted to try out dishes too: pechisto meat, fermented oat soup, pancakes made from pumpkin, rare pyzy and many other delicacies will be on sale, honouring the culinary heritage of our forebears.
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