What do people in Ukraine usually eat?

Ukraine Kiev in lockdown: secretly to the restaurant

In fact, the Ukrainian capital Kiev has been in a tight lockdown for over a month. Even buses and trains may only be used by representatives of systemically relevant professions. Although the numbers have recently developed positively, the lockdown will initially last until April 30th. However, there are some places in Kiev where the corona rules don't seem to exist. In luxury restaurants, for example. And recently also in very ordinary restaurants.

"Come by if you want to have lunch"

"You're a regular with us," the manager of a pizza chain on Kiev's boulevard Khreschtschatyk called me two weeks ago. "We'd like to remind you of our delivery service. And if you want to have lunch, just come over." It is not the first time that I have received such invitations from restaurants that I used to like to go to. A Georgian snack chain sent me a text message at the beginning of the lockdown: "Our doors in our three restaurants are only open for you, if you reserve a table in advance."

In contrast, the Kiev police report almost daily that they are cracking down on illegally opened restaurants. The fines are indeed remarkable: they start at around 1,000 euros. Could it be, I ask myself, that not only luxury restaurants but also ordinary restaurateurs take such a high risk?

The restaurants in Kiev are struggling to survive

A Sunday in April. I call the pizzeria on Kiev boulevard and ask if I can come over for lunch. "Sure, we are waiting for you!" I still want to know how to get in. Nowadays people are usually admitted through the back entrance or through the kitchen. "Through the front door, of course," replies the manager with a laugh. And the front door is actually open.

The first floor is empty. But the nice manager leads me to a hall in the basement where karaoke parties usually take place. But now, because of the lack of demand during the lockdown, the lady says apologetically, not every day as usual, but "only" on the weekend. Only a few tables are occupied and dance music is playing in the background. I have a pizza, drink black tea, and settle the bill with my credit card.

"We have no other choice, we have to open," justifies the waiter. Like many other restaurants in Kiev, the pizzeria is simply fighting for survival. The state aid is ridiculously low with the equivalent of less than 300 euros a month, which is why one consciously carries the risk that the police might drop by unexpectedly.

In the Kiev luxury restaurant Entry for insiders only

But what about the luxury restaurants in Kiev? The next evening I visit a high-priced steak restaurant near the Golden Gate, which is so popular with tourists. The restaurant was closed by the police a few weeks ago. It's already open again. The entry is now a little more complicated. Only those who are on a list of the restaurant can reserve a table by telephone. Otherwise you will be politely rejected. But a friend of mine is a regular at the steak house, so making a reservation is no problem. However, you can enter through the back door and the curtains are drawn. It's not busy either, only five or six tables are occupied. The food is good, you can pay by credit card and you don't have to wear a mask. "Honor us again soon," says the waiter. I leave the restaurant again through the back door.

Klitschko Hotel promotes illegal restaurants

The precautionary measures in the steak restaurant are probably not entirely without reason. Another gourmet temple, an Uzbek restaurant in the city center, actually seems to have been permanently closed by the police. The phone stays silent and there are no more luxury limousines in front of the door. The restaurant caused a sensation a few weeks ago because it was on an insider list of Kiev restaurants that were open despite lockdowns, which Ukrainian journalists received at the "11 Mirros Hotel" of all places. The hotel belongs to the Klitschko brothers. And Vitali Klitschko is now not only mayor of Kiev, but also an advocate of strict corona measures.

Perhaps the tough lockdown in Kiev will end in a few days. Maybe not. Many Kiev restaurants will also be open by then. Because they have nothing more to lose.