Ostannya Barykada is widely known among locals but its presence is far from advertised. Every year thousands of visitors frequent Kiev’s Independence Square, though very few of them know of the secret that lies beneath the concrete.
For one who doesn’t know, the only hint that you might get of the nationalistic eatery underground is through the glass panels next to St. Micheal’s archway. Even if you are fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the waiters underneath you, it will take much more than luck to fathom out the clues in order to gain entry.
For those who have had their curiosity piqued, read on to discover how to gain admission into Kiev’s most mysterious restaurant.
What will I need to bring?
The ability to read words in another language (or at least have a good go)
A sense of adventure!
How do I get there?
Firstly, you must make your way into the Globus shopping mall which can be found under a glass igloo in Independence Square. Once you’re in, head into the lift and press the button marked ‘OB’. This will take you down to a rather small but charming gift shop. All items in this gift shop are made in Ukraine using materials produced in the country, just in case you were wondering…
You will notice that there is a battered sticker in the lift featuring a QR code, it is a little scratchy but still worked during my visit. If this code appears too badly worn, never fear. There is another larger QR code at the back of the gift shop. Once you scan this code using your smartphone, two words will pop up on the screen. This is the password that you will need to give the person sitting behind the desk.
Do not worry if your Ukranian isn’t great, (mine is pretty shoddy too) just be prepared to give it a go and refine your speaking until you satisfy the gatekeeper. By the way, merely showing the password is not enough, you have to say it out loud. (When you consider that this is all you have to do in order to be let in on the secret, it doesn’t seem like such a big ask.)
Assuming you pass the test, you will be shown through a secret door at the side of the gift shop. It is here you that you enter the initial restaurant foyer. This is where the toilets and cloakroom are located. After establishing the number in your party, you will be shown into the main restaurant via another hidden door covered in hands. This is to signify the years that Ukraine spent under Russian rule.
I have read that in order to guarantee a table at Ostannya Barykada you should book in advance but Tim and I had no problem walking in and being seated straight away. Personally, I think that booking a table takes some of the magic out of finding the place, so if you are concerned I would recommend you visit at a less popular time of the day.
Why is it secret?
The literal translation of Ostannya Barykada in English is ‘Last Barricade’ so it is quickly apparent that this is place with a motive. The restaurant claims to be born out the of the three most famous Ukrainian revolutions, the Student Revolution, the Orange Revolution and the Revolution of Dignity. All of these revolutions have occurred from 1990 onwards. Ostannya Barykada is in no way shy about its roots, it serves only Ukranian food and drink and aims to attract those ‘who are ready to defend their values, take responsibility and change their country.’ Owing to the hostility between Russia and Ukraine, no Russian is spoken by staff inside the restaurant.
What is the food like?
When a restaurant is known for something other than its food, it can often set alarm bells ringing. I must admit that I had these same concerns upon entering Ostannya Barykada but rest assured that you have nothing to worry about. For the budget traveller, a trip to this secret restaurant will be more upmarket than what you are used to but the prices are still reasonable, with a main meal setting you back just £8/$10.
Sadly, we couldn’t eat everything we wanted as there was just not enough time/money/stomach space, but the dishes we did sample were exceptional. From our visit, I can personally recommend the dumplings with mushrooms and rabbit tongues (sounds gross, tastes amazing), the baked cheese which comes in a bread bowl, potatoes fried with mushrooms and the cheese set which included some of the most divine cheeses I have ever tasted. Let’s face it, you’re not going to go too wrong when a whole page of the menu is dedicated to cheese! I’ll be honest, I could’ve stayed forever…
Have you ever visited a secret restaurant?