Any Lithuanians travelling Southampton-way ought to know… there’s a piece of home sitting on a popular city street…
Shocking as it may be, it has been nearly five years since I was jetting off to the snow-blanketed Lithuanian capital of Vilnius for the first time. I haven’t stayed away for the lack of wanting to; it’s just accommodation isn’t so simple now that the people I was visiting live in Bournemouth.
For those who followed this blog back in 2014, you will recall I enjoyed a wide array of traditional Lithuanian cuisine, and I haven’t had much of it since. That is, until I received a surprise invitation to go with my friend Mantas, his girlfriend, her sister and another of our friends, to try a Lithuanian restaurant only two streets over from where I used to live in Southampton.
Oddly enough, the establishment known as Bernelių Užeiga was reviewed by us in a previous incarnation. When it was known as La Cantina, it failed to impress us, earning the lowest score that year. However – different restaurant, different cuisine, so a clean slate for this review.
Rather than go with a traditional starter and main course program, Mantas decided we would order a variety of dishes and basically try one another’s. This was the first time our other friend Pablo had tried Lithuanian food, so we intended to make the most of it. A series of soups including the popular Šaltibarščiai (the only Lithuanian dish I can recall not liking) and, in my case, the Hot Thunder Soup (see pictured) came out to start. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what exactly was in the soup, but I would hazard a guess at tomatoes, garlic, egg whites and definitely certain types of chilli. No one was calling the fire department for me at any time, but this soup, delicious as it was, did tickle the throat and make the nose run.
These soups were accompanied by a plateful of Skrudinta Duona su Sūriu (see pictured), also known as deep-fried bread sticks infused with garlic and coated in cheese. Think fried bread from a Full English crossed with a cheesy garlic bread. It’s absolutely gorgeous. An ideal dipping instrument for any soup, or just to eat as a snack with a beer, according to our Lithuanian co-diners.
Something new for me on the Lithuanian food scene was the cold herring salad, called Silkė “Patale” (see pictured). As you can see, food coloured hot pink seems to be fashionable in this branch of cuisine. It’s the beetroot, of course. The salad itself tasted like a very rich coleslaw, in my opinion. The fish gives it all the flavour it needs – nice and salty! I love herring.
And now for perhaps my favourite dish to come out of the tiny Baltic country, the Cepelinai (see pictured). For those new to Lithuanian food, the word Cepelina comes from Zeppelin, i.e. an airship or blimp. They are potato-based as so many dishes in Lithuanian cuisine are, stuffed with pork crackling and moulded into big Zeppelin-shaped dumplings; hence the name. And they are exquisite. The ones at Bernelių Užeiga are huge, by the way, and they give you two! If you’re on a low- or no-carb diet, they might be one to avoid. If you’re hungover, however, they should be the first thing you eat!
The food here is excellent – I highly recommend it to any Southampton locals or visitors for something a little different for dinner. A wide and varied menu, very hospitable and polite service – in short, most if not all the things that its previous incarnation La Cantina was lacking. Go there, in short.