My heart sank when I heard that my country for Eating Eurovision was Bosnia Herzegovina. The idea was for the participants to eat the cuisine of each of the countries entered into the Eurovision song contest while staying within the M25. I realised immediately that Bosnian Herzegovina was going to be a challenge however I reasoned that London was such a multicultural city that surely there was a Bosnian Herzegovinan restaurant or food store somewhere. I started by researching what the highlights of Bosnian Herzegovinan food are. According to my sources (Visit Bosnia Herzegovina and internet encyclopedias) the cuisine is rich with an emphasis on diary products and meat particularly beef, lamb and pork. Popular dishes apparently include Bosanski lonac a mixture of meat and vegetables slow roasted and served in a ceramic pot, jagnetina lamb grilled over an open fire and baklava demonstrating the Turkish influences in Bosnia Herzegovina.
Now to find a Bosnian Herzegovinan restaurant or food store. I searched every restaurant listing, tried every internet search with no luck. I even rang the Bosnia Herzegovina embassy where a surly lady informed me that “this is not the sort of information the Embassy provides” however “from a personal point of view I can tell you that there are no Bosnian Herzegovinan restaurants or shops in London”. Very helpful. Not wanting to admit defeat I decided to try an Eastern European restaurant and try to identify the dishes on the menu which seemed the most similar to the cuisine of Bosnia Herzegovina. That is how I ended up at Baltic.
Right next to Southwark tube and the Old and Young Vic theatres Baltic does a roaring pre and post theatre trade. A large crowd of smokers were gathered outside the front door which I took as a good sign of an authentic East European restaurant but was it the sign of a Bosnian Herzegovinan restaurant? Inside a long dark bar acts almost like a runway spitting you out into a cavernous dining space with lofty ceilings lined with wooden beams. “Are you sure this will have Bosnian food?” hissed MTV boyfriend. “You do know that it’s a Balkan state not a Baltic state”. I reasoned that Baltic’s menu was supposed to draw inspiration from the whole of Eastern Europe and Russia. An overly ambitious menu perhaps but it could be my only hope of eating something from Bosnia Herzegovina.
Baltic’s menu is so exhaustive that it was exhausting dancing from Russian blinis to Serbian pelmeni and even including a Moldavian salad (knowledge of which perhaps came a little late for Tamarind and Thyme who had been similarly searching all day after being allocated Moldovia). Sadly though there was no Bosanki Lonac, Jagnjetina or even Baklava on offer. MTV boyfriend tried unsuccessfully to suppress his mirth and contented himself with an I-told-you-so-smirk. “You would have been better off going to one of the two hundred Turkish restaurants in London” he said “at least they would serve Baklava“. Unwilling to accept complete defeat I decided that we would try to order dishes that seemed the most similar to the cuisine of Bosnia Herzegovina.
I decided that Baltic’s Georgian Moussaka would substitute for Bosnian Herzegovian Musaka which is described as a baked dish made of layers of potato and minced beef. Georgian Moussaka offered some slightly dry minced lamb rather than minced beef and was wrapped in a thin layer of aubergine and surrounded by cubes of roast potato which I imagine was an interpretation provided by Baltic rather than Georgia. Still, it was a hearty and flavoursome dish.
Rather than Jagnajetina, Baltic’s roasted lamb comprised pink tender strips of lamb curled over slivers of aubergine, pepper and zucchini gussied up with a creamy sauce. It was the sort of food that leaves a warm residual feeling. Service was erratic but a big jug of iced water was provided for our table upon a request for tap water which should not a remarkable event but sadly in London it is.
Apart from it’s utter failure as a Bosnia Herzegovinan restaurant (which in fairness was never a title Baltic had claimed) Baltic is actually a pretty good restaurant. Particularly if you could nab one of the cheaper pre or post theatre set menus. I can only hope that Bosnia Herzegovina’s Eurovision entry Regina with its entry “Bistra Voda (Clear Water)” has better luck in the competition than I had in finding Bosnian Herzegovinan food in London.