Borsch, Vodka and Tears

Food To Drink With

by Benny Roff

Firstly, a confession. Borsch, Vodka and Tears (the inner suburban Melbourne restaurant specialising in Polish food and boasting a collection of 100+ vodkas) is by far and away my favourite restaurant in the known universe. It is a small place with a big attitude and an even bigger heart. I would and indeed have celebrated almost all my birthdays there for more than a decade... so when I learned this book was about to be published I was elated and immediately ordered several copies for friends.

If you do happen to be in Melbourne, please do go to the restaurant and experience it for yourself. The ambiance of the restaurant is one of exuberant and anachronistic hedonism balanced with great food - simple Polish recipes cooked perfectly every time -  and even better vodka. If you can't get yourself to the restaurant, the book does bring the spirit of the place to life (pun intended). You don't need to be crazy about vodka to enjoy this book, there is much discussion on Polish cuisine and customs and the idiosyncratic ways of both imbibing and cooking.  There is also a lovely history of the restaurant itself and those who built it.  The book feels lived in, like the restaurant, it seems to bring its history with it and involve you as a reader; it is engaging and informative and does not simply ask you to expand your vodka palate – it shows you how to do it.

The book captures perfectly the Belle Epoque reminiscent atmosphere of Borsch, Vodka and Tears, with a generous sprinkling of humour and an excellent selection of favourite recipes found on the menu. For me this is the place to be on a cold Winters night, either at home with the book, leafing through the pages of cocktails or sitting in the noise and clamour of the place itself, trays of mini vodka glasses teetering to and fro, Polish music bouncing off the walls and the shimmer of absinthe and vodka in the air...

Published in 2012 by Hardie Grant Books, Borsch Vodka and Tears is available online or at jolly decent bookshops.