Over the last week the world has been watching Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with mounting horror, as devastating airstrikes have taken place in the capital of Kyiv and over a million people – mainly women and children – have fled for their lives. Many of us have been searching for ways we can help the people of Ukraine, and now London’s top chefs and restaurants have launched initiatives of their own to raise vital funds for those caught up in the conflict such as #CookForUkraine and fundraising dinners.
London-based Ukrainian chef and author Olia Hercules (whose parents and brother remain in the war-torn country) has been vocal throughout the crisis, sharing ways in which her followers can support those in need. Now she has teamed up with her long-time friend and fellow food writer Alissa Timoshkina – who is from Russia but has family roots in Ukraine – and foodie influencer Clerkenwell Boy to launch the #CookForUkraine fundraising scheme.
Created in partnership with Unicef’s NEXTGen London team, over 60 London restaurants have already signed up for the initiative and have raised over £50,000 in just a few short days. Through the scheme, restaurants, bars, cafés and hotels can add voluntary donations of up to £5 to each of their bills throughout March, and the likes of Petersham Nurseries, Sessions Arts Club and St. John have already signed up.
Other restaurants have been getting more creative with their contributions. The Big Mamma Group – the team behind Instagram-favourites Ave Mario, Gloria and Circolo Popolare – has concocted a new garlic-topped bruschetta served with Ukrainian salo and a shot of vodka, while the chefs at Old Street Italian Officina 00 and Soho House are re-creating a Ukrainian dumpling dish, with Soho House pledging to match all funds raised through their global houses and restaurants. Meanwhile, all three branches of Shuko Oda’s celebrated Japanese Koya will be putting on a special Ukrainian-inspired green borsch udon, served with onsen tomago. Proceeds from all of the dishes will go directly to the charity.
Still more are taking fundraising efforts into their own hands. Carousel, the award-winning Charlotte Street spot known for its revolving line-up of guest chefs, will be hosting a Ukrainian sharing lunchtime feast in collaboration with chef Yurii Kovryzhenko on Sunday 13 March, with all the proceeds from the ticket prices and accompanying raffle going straight to the fundraiser. And when Romy Gill cooks at their International Women’s Day supper on Saturday 12 March, every penny raised will also benefit the campaign, as will a percentage of the sales from her edition of 6 O’clock Gin. At the Drunken Butler in Farringdon, chef Yuma Hashemi will be putting on a special evening event to fundraise, while Townsend in Whitechapel will be hosting a five-course dinner with five different chefs, with Hackney favourite P Franco in charge of the wines.
There are high-profile auctions and raffles taking place, too. The Doyle Collection hotel group, who run the Bloomsbury, the Kensington and the Marylebone, will be running an auction and raffle in honour of the cause, donating one room per hotel for the charity. Meanwhile, KOL in Marylebone with be offering up a table at their much-lauded Mexican restaurant to raise funds.
Overall, the #CookforUkraine campaign is hoping to raise more than £1 million, just as its Syrian equivalent did. There has already been interest in supporting the cause from around the world – America, Canada and New Zealand have been in touch to discuss getting on board – meaning that mission could easily become a reality.
Celebrating Ukrainian favourites
The humble chicken Kiev – which many restaurants are campaigning to have changed from the Russian spelling to the Ukrainian ‘Kyiv’ – is making a comeback, with numerous top restaurants adding it to their menus. For the first time in four decades, Kensington institution Il Portico will be serving the dish, with £5 of the £15 price tag going to Ukraine – the move has proved so popular that the dish sold out within two hours on the first day it was launched. Meanwhile, Kensal Green’s Parlour is donating the profits from its own Kyiv, too, as are bar and restaurant group Drake & Morgan, who are raising funds for the Red Cross.
Meanwhile Ognisko Polskie, the Polish Hearth Club in Chelsea, will also be serving up Kyivs alongside Ukrainian borscht and even a special cocktail created in honour of the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Made up of Polish vodka, apricot brandy, lemon juice, and blue curacao, the cocktail is designed to perfectly mimic the colour of the Ukrainian flag. The club is also organising a fundraising dinner for Saturday, with both the Polish and Ukrainian ambassadors expected to attend.
Donate through dinner
Restaurants and chefs across the capital are showing their support by hosting special dinners to raise funds for the cause. FIVE for Ukraine sees a collaborative effort from some of the city’s leading chefs, who will join forces for one night only on Monday 7 March to raise funds for Action Against Hunger’s DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. Nieves Barragán Mohacho, Tom Kerridge, Lisa Goodwin-Allen, Ed Wilson, and Angela Hartnett and husband Neil Borthwick together, will each be creating one course for this special £125-per-head supper-club style event at Barboun in Shoreditch. With cocktails by Monica Berg and Alex Kratena from Old Street’s Tayēr + Elementary, wine donated by Mentzendorff, and restaurateur extraordinaire Paulo de Tarso hosting, this promises to be a night to remember.
Dimtri Magi, the former head chef at Davies & Brook, is also hosting a £200-a-head supper at the Estonian embassy on Monday 7 March. While restaurateur Rebecca Mascarenhas and two Michelin-star chef Phil Howard are teaming up to host Eat Out To Help Out Ukraine, a series of fundraising dinners on Monday 14 March at their restaurants Elystan Street, Church Road, Kitchen W8, Home SW15 and Flour + Water. Expect amazing ingredients, innovative menus and appearances from guest chefs, including Tomos Parry of Brat. Tickets for each event are on a first-come, first-served basis and are just £15 per person, plus a voluntary donation of a minimum of £110 with all donations going to The British Red Cross Ukraine appeal and UNICEF. And on Monday 7 March, Mexican-Japanese restaurant Los Mochis in Notting Hill will be donating 100% of their dinner service revenue to The Help Ukraine Emergency Appeal.