Profile, venue and menu
Kurkov was born in St Petersburg and moved to Kiev aged two. He started publishing in samizdat (underground literature in the former Soviet Union) in the late 1980s and had his first book published in 1991. The 49-year-old has become the most popular contemporary Russian-language author in the world.
Jungle Cat is a wooden shack on the side of the Dnieper river, with a view across the water to central Kiev and the iconic domes of the Caves Monastery. In summer, visitors sit outside on hand-carved wooden furniture, while in the winter a log fire keeps diners warm inside.
Hydropark, Predmostnaya Slobodka, 8, Kiev
Spicy tomato soup with mushrooms; lobio – Georgian-style stewed spicy kidney beans; khachapuri – Georgian-style cheese bread; shashlyk – lamb kebab with onions, pomegranate, dill and spicy-sour sauce; grilled vegetables; Khortytsya – Ukrainian vodka with orange juice; Turkish coffee.
Never tasted so sweet
In the post-Soviet countries, Georgia is not only renowned for its food but also its wine. Unlike in neighbouring Russia, where a political dispute means that wine imports from Georgia have been banned for years, most restaurants in Ukraine will stock bottles of Georgian wine. The Jungle Cat has a couple of offerings – a bottle of red or white that are both semi-sweet and the cheapest on the menu.
The Russian ban has meant that Georgia has reoriented itself towards western markets, and is focusing on the higher-quality grapes, such as the dry white Tsinandali or the red Saperavi. “There is increasing interest in western Europe for Georgian wine, and some of the top wines are as good as the best stuff from France but at half the price,” says Chris Bowling, founder of the UK’s Georgian Wine Society. There are over 500 grape varieties in Georgia.
In Ukraine the desire for sweet Georgian wines is gradually being eroded by the new availability of reasonably priced European and New World ones, but in 2010 the country still imported over seven million bottles of Georgian wine.