· Sunday July 20, 2014

I first found Datscha after scouring Berlin in search of a hearty bowl of authentic hot pink Russian borsch soup to kick the winter blues. Served with sour cream and rye bread in an elegant ceramic bowl, their borsch hit the spot, starting my personal love affair with the restaurant.

Near the lively hub of Friedrichshain's Simon Dach Straße, Datscha is always busy. The insides are decked in colourful 70s wallpaper and hold a jumble of armchairs and wooden furniture, plus — without falling into tacky Ostalgie — a light touch of Soviet décor such as the odd Lenin bust. There's a very smoky smoking room, not for the faint-lunged, and tables out front too. With its homely atmosphere, Datscha is perfect for a slow lunch or an intimate dinner date. The bar stays open late selling Russian beer and a fine vodka menu.

Made with fresh, regional produce, the food is comforting without the stodginess often associated with Russian cuisine. Dishes like the pelmeni and wareniki – generous servings of soft boiled or fried handmade dumplings filled with minced meat, potato or chicken – taste like they've been crafted according to a family recipe with a light, modern touch.

Other highlights include the blini – thin savoury Russian pancakes, rolled up and stuffed with sour cream and spinach, salmon or red caviar. Share a plate for two so you can try them all. Also on the menu are meat-heavy dishes like beef stroganoff, steak Kiev and “Putin-style” wild salmon (?!) for a real gut-fill. Too hard to pick? For those keen to laze-and-graze away a Sunday, Datscha do their own take on the popular Berlin brunch, offering a buffet of goodies so you can sample everything .