Places to eat and drink
Slavutych Shato Brewery (Ukrainian)
In Kiev you rejoice when you stumble upon a place with an English menu. Shato is one such place. Although it is pricey by Kiev standards it is definitely worth a visit thanks to its English speaking staff, English menu, great view for people watching and tasty beer. You’ll recognise it easily owing to the giant pint glass sign hanging above its entrance!
I opted for the chicken Kiev (when in Rome and all that), crispy potato pancakes and the original Shato beer. Portion sizes were not the biggest but were still filling enough. I thought the beer here was very good and I’d definitely like to drink it again in the future.
My total bill came to 240UAH which was quite high (I had a three course meal and three beers in Palat No. 6 for 150UAH the day before) but is still minute compared to places I eat in back home and is compensated for by the great view you get of the street outside and the opportunity to people watch in a comfortable and cosy location.
I’d definitely recommend a visit here if you find yourself hungry and just off the main square. Additional bonus points for the waitress telling me I looked like Justin Timberlake – and, before you say anything about tips, this was after I’d already paid my bill!
Click here to visit the Slavutych Shato Brewery website for more information.
Palat No. 6 (Ukrainian)
Palat No. 6 is a funky little bar hidden in a basement down a dingy back alley. If you can find it, it is well worth a visit. Loosely hospital-themed, the barmen and waitresses wear nurse outfits and doctors’ scrubs. The place offers a vast range of drinks at dirt cheap prices (beers come in at under 50p, most other drinks under £1) and a wide array of shots served in test tubes. You might be offered the chance to don a straitjacket and have liquor syringed into your mouth by the waitresses or, if you’re really unlucky, asked if you would like to undertake the ‘helmet challenge’. This involves you wearing a helmet that is set alight and necking shots as the staff heartily clobber your head with an assortment of items. Not for everyone, I’ll admit!
Palat No. 6 offers an English menu and serves hearty food in large portions that help steel you against the brisk outdoor conditions of wintertime Kiev. The red borscht here is particularly good and inspired me to try making my own version after I returned home. Don’t get too excited by the banana spleen dessert option – it isn’t, as our group thought, some grisly play on words but a simple misspelling of the more traditional banana split! My entire meal – which consisted of three beers, a starter, a main course and a third of the banana spleen – was an absolute bargain, coming in at under a fiver (150UAH).
Open till 2am, Palat No. 6 would be the ideal way to spend a boozy night in Kiev and is a must visit if you stay at the nearby Kiev Central Station Hostel.
Burger Farm (Burgers) THIS RESTAURANT HAS NOW MOVED LOCATION
This tiny hole in the wall take-out joint was recommended by the owners of the hostel I stayed at. I was famished after a long day travelling to Kiev so I made Burger Farm my first stop. Located directly beneath the Fazenda Bar (see below) it is a tiny cubicle barely big enough to contain the two bustling workers within. The menu is limited to a small selection of burgers and sides and is scrawled on the glass above the service hatch. It is in Cyrillic and there are no English translations but, as some letters in Russian are the same as in English, you can fathom one or two of the ingredients to make better informed choices. Practising your Russian alphabet briefly before leaving will be beneficial here and at other restaurants.
I ended up choosing a plain old cheeseburger. The patty was cooked to order so the wait was substantial but the burger I received was tasty, juicy and well worth the wait. My fellow hostel goers ordered different variations and were similarly pleased with their purchases. Prices are relatively cheap across the board. If you find yourself staying in or near the hostel I did, you could do a lot worse than stopping off here for a bite to eat. Once you finish you can head upstairs for drinks at the Fazenda Bar.
Click here to visit the Burger Farm website for more information (in Russian).
Fazenda Bar (Cocktails) THIS BAR HAS NOW CLOSED
If you order a meal from Burger Farm before coming here make sure you finish it first – the gruff bouncer won’t be happy otherwise! Split into two separate sections each with a distinct Soviet era flavour, Fazenda Bar is a cosy cocktail bar popular with the local student population. A chalkboard above the bar displays a wide range of cocktails in Cyrillic and English, some familiar, others less so. There are regular 2-for-1 offers available so trying out the lesser known options becomes less of a lottery.
The bartenders are friendly and willing to at least attempt to explain the drinks available. When we visited the place wasn’t very busy but the few locals present seemed happy to come over and chat and we spent some time conversing with a couple of Ukrainian students which was nice. The place also afforded me the chance to snap the funniest picture of my Ukraine trip – I have no idea how many people must have attempted to use the toilet in this manner before that sticker went up!
Click here to visit the Fazenda Bar website for more information.
Golden Gate Irish Pub (Ukrainian and Western)
On my last night in Kiev I met up with a few of the other people staying at the hostel in the Golden Gate Irish Pub. Recommended by a Scottish chap currently residing in Kiev, Golden Gate is a sports themed bar showing simultaneous sporting events and decorated with football shirts from around the world – I was pleasantly surprised to find a Sunderland shirt just beside the exit! The barmaids are friendly and the range of drinks available is ample although prices are, as you’d expect for a bar catering to the international crowd, a tad higher than nearby bars. Food is available and is nice enough – I once again went for borscht and it didn’t disappoint.
I have seen other people complain about waiting times and staff attitude but our dishes were brought out promptly and pleasantly although this might have had something to do with the low customer count at the time of our visit. There are pool tables available if you fancy killing some time and a dartboard should you desire a game of arrows.
Where I stayed
Kiev Central Station Hostel
When I visited Kiev I stayed at Kiev Central Station Hostel and I must say it was one of my most positive hostel experiences yet. The owners, Aricio and Joanna, are extremely helpful and welcoming hosts. I was somewhat apprehensive about visiting the city as a solo traveller due to recent political events in the country but they did all they could to reassure before I arrived. They also helped me sort out the particulars of my trip such picking me up from the airport, arranging my visit to Chernobyl (which they paid in advance for me to the tune of $120/£80!) to ordering taxis and providing helpful advice and annotated maps of the local sights.
The hostel is part of a small Ukrainian residential block and is split over two separate floors. It is a little way out of the city centre but, as someone who enjoys walking everywhere on their travels, this didn’t bother me. I was picked up from the airport by Joanna so I didn’t have a problem getting here but people making their own way to the accommodation may struggle to find it owing to it not being signposted at all on the street outside. It is right next door to a small cafe which can help somewhat in locating it. There are a number of nearby restaurants and bars in which you can get to know your fellow travellers if you so choose.
The hostel provides a number of rooms (both private and shared), has 4 showers and 3 toilets and also has facilities for cooking and laundry. There is a large fridge stocked with beers and water available at reasonable prices which you take based on a trust system which you mark on a chalkboard and pay for upon leaving. The common room is spacious and allows you to mingle with fellow travellers and forge bonds with new friends. The hosts are often there to chat with and are always eager to offer advice and information about the city. There is a laptop available for guests to use which, while a little battered and running on the Linux operating system, is still very convenient. As well as being very helpful, the hostel owners also provide towels for guests which is great if you are, like me, only travelling for a few days as it will help cut down on wasted space in your bags.
Overall I would highly recommend Kiev Central Station Hostel. Although far from luxurious, it has all the amenities one would need while travelling, is available at little cost and has extremely friendly and helpful staff. Although I imagine the place can be hard to find due to lack of proper signage if you are not picked up by the owners, it is definitely a gem worth hunting for.
Click here to visit the Kiev Central Station Hostel website for more information.