Russian Fairytale
A vision realised on the Cowley Road

88 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JB, tel/fax: 01865 250819

November 2002

At the Russian Fairytale delicatessen shop on the Cowley Road, Raissa Goutsal has created a small corner of her mother Country. Both tourists and locals have welcomed this unique piece of Russia into Oxford with open arms!

Amongst the wide variety of available delicacies on the shop’s colourfully-laden shelves there are not only traditional Russian foods, but also Albanian, Greek, Slovenian and Yugoslavian products. You can find anything from famous Russian vodka and caviar to traditional Yugoslavian fish Bakalar and Greek olives. There are more than 25 types of Polish meat products available in the store. Many of the foods available are also suitable for vegetarians, and some of the products are also organic. For those keen on searching for new types of spirits it may be interesting to note that Russian Fairytale stocks over 35 different varieties of vodka (including the popular new Russian Standard and the famous Gzhelka), as well as Russian beers.

Freshly made Borsch and Solyanka soups are available every day, or why not try the home-made Pirozhki (pastry) with various stuffings. If you really want to spoil yourself you can try the famous Russian dish of bliny with red or black caviar. There are also a number of unique and unusual Christmas presents from Mother Russia, such as Russian cookbooks in both Russian and English languages, handicrafts including matreshka (the ever-popular Russian dolls - available in large sizes for containing your bottle of vodka or champagne), calendars and much more. For the utmost luxury, there are fine chocolates, or hampers made up for you according to your specifications.

If you have already done all your shopping for December 25th and New Year, don’t worry. The Orthodox Russian Christmas is on January 7th, so why not take the opportunity to celebrate again and brighten up the dark mid-winter days of early 2003!

Russian Fairytale customers will soon be able to indulge themselves with Russian cuisine in the Russian restaurant, opening January 2003.

December 2000

A few months ago three women put into action something they had been dreaming of for a long time: to create a small corner of Russia in Oxford. When we think of home, our thoughts often turn to food, and this certainly forms the basis of Russian Fairytale's business. Nevertheless, they have also managed by what seems like magic but is probably 99% hard work, to provide a small window onto Russian culture through crafts, tapes, CD's, books and videos.

For those in search of a Russian gastronomic experience, or the chance to experiment with Russian cuisine, there is a wealth of opportunity, with an emphasis on organic ingredients as well as cookbooks in English and Russian. The delicatessen counter serves traditional delicacies: salads with salted herring and vegetables, beetroot and walnuts, and other evocative mixtures; soups including borshch and solyanka (a less well-known but delicious thick soup with frankfurters and gherkins); and of course different kinds of sausage, stuffed blinis, piroshki (small pies) and caviar, as well as cakes and sweets.

Among the exotica on the shelves it is also possible to find potato dumplings, kefir (Russian whole milk yoghurt), cod liver pate (which I am assured is delicious and have yet to try), marinated gherkins, whole salted herrings, dried fish, honey cakes, a superb homemade halva, and a variety of Vodkas - fifteen different kinds and rising. As well as a very fine 'Kosher Vodka' from Lithuania (the label declares that it meets the demands of kings) there are some rare pre-Perestroika varieties, and vodkas flavoured with cranberries and lemon. Russian Fairytale has attracted the attention of customers from other eastern European countries, and has also begun to stock food from Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia.

It would be an unusual and satsifying place in which to do Christmas shopping. Hampers can be made up to your requirements, but there are also presents ranging from boxes of chocolates at around £3-£5 to handpainted lacquer boxes with fairytale scenes at £55, and, of course, matreshki: the painted dolls with a succession of ever smaller dolls inside. Everything is good quality, including traditional handpainted wooden bottle boxes - Russian doll shaped structures with different scenes and decorations which can hold a bottle of vodka or champagne at £25 - £30 (excluding the alchohol), and which would be a permanent and attractive feature of any sideboard. While stocks last there are calendars for 2001 of Russian landscapes, cities, icons and museums, and - my favourite - a Russian 'tea drinking' calendar with seasonal recipes for tea-time delicacies.

For anyone with a knowledge of or a desire to learn Russian, there are tapes of short stories as well as music, and - a real bargain - videos of Russian films at £5.50: classics by Dostoevsy, Tolstoy, Gorky and Chekhov, and some of the works of Tarkovski, who directed the well known film about Andrei Rublev.
Above all there is an atmosphere redolent of shopping in days long gone: personal service and friendliness without pushiness. They are genuinely delighted to share their interest with you and explain their wares, but are equally happy to leave you to browse to your heart's content.

If you are reading this with regret that you have already done all your shopping for December 25th, don't forget that the Russians celebrate Christmas on 7 January - a Sunday this year - so there is further good cause for celebrations in the dark mid-winter days of the new year. And, of course, it is in the nature of such a shop to have a changing and developing stock, so the real answer is to explore for yourself.

Jessica Rose

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