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Little Water – how refreshing! Here at last is an independent restaurant in the heart of Covent Garden theatreland – and it’s about as chilled as they come. Even better, it’s welcoming and serves affordable, tasty small plates. But surrounded by big gun chain restaurants like Strada, Jamie’s and Loch Fyne, or well-established oldies like Orso and Joe Allen, it feels like a minnow. You just hope it won’t sink or get gobbled up.

Little Water Covent Garden

After leaving the theatre (a stupendous performance by Kathleen Turner, in the less stupendous Bakersfield Mist) on a cold and drizzly London night (hey folks, it’s nearly JUNE!), umbrellas to hand, we attempted to get into Opera Tavern for some of their rather delicious tapas. However the screechy voices of a girls’ night out (sadly typical of Covent Garden) backed up by the bellowing tones of city boys (idem), would have driven us away fast even if we’d managed to get a table. So out we trotted, only to spot Little Water right next door.


Strangely, Little Water (which we learned is the translation of ‘vodka’) doesn’t look much like a restaurant from outside; the cool white paint, glazed partitions and general aesthetic somehow don’t spell food. Its concept is equally unusual, as it’s about vodka-pairing. When you discover that the young chef-owner, Elena Stradze, is from the depths of Siberia via Moscow, then it all makes sense. We were lucky to go there on a quiet (rainy) night so have the opportunity to chat with her.

It’s about time those smart young Russians who’ve moved to London turned entrepreneurial, and this convincing example comes with zero bling or swagger. It turns out that Elena is a recycled lawyer in her 30s whose epiphany followed a Cordon Bleu course in London. Here she is below, talking about her plans in an utterly charming way, backed up by super efficient, cheerful Gemma, an Englishwoman from Paris who’s helping launch the restaurant which opened in April.


Elena’s passion shines through, firstly in the long list of exotic house-infused vodkas (mint-flavoured anyone? tarragon? or how about garlic & dill? – all at £5 a 25ml shot). Then there’s a single harvest version, Kaufman – in fact the world’s first vintage vodka, distilled 14 times and filtered twice, at £10 a shot. Well now I’ll confess that I didn’t even taste one, the discovery was just so unexpected (nor did I have a decent camera, so apologies for the iphone snaps). Typically I stuck to red wine – which luckily they serve for diehards like me.


What we sampled on the plate was salivating stuff, and as understated as the chef herself. No pretentiousness, just quality ingredients, well prepared and seasoned. The olive oil that glistened on a bunch of side-salad, for example, was top quality, while our chicken livers (above) were perfect: tender, pink and velvety. Having attempted to cook them once in my life and failed miserably, only producing a kind of paté (mush?), I was full of admiration.


The man kicked off with marinated herring with onion and boiled potato (£6) which he demolished rather fast, even before my fork got there, while my Moorish courgettes (above) marinated in mint and lemon with pine kernels and raisins (£6) made a luscious textural, sweet-savoury balance. According to the menu I should have washed them down with a mint or saffron vodka, but that’ll have to wait for next visit when I’m determined to try their roasted marrow bone with garlic and parsley. The Dorset snails (£9) might also find their creepy way to my palate.

Meanwhile, anyone who goes there, please try and persuade them to open at lunchtime too, as for now it’s evenings only. Then perhaps Little Water will become really Big.

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