On tonight’s Travel Man episode, Richard Ayoade takes his machine-gun wit and ever-upright demeanour to St Petersburg, where he’s joined by affable UK comedian and presenter Rob Beckett.
The pair take a unique tour of the unique Russian city, complete with tank taxis, novelty ice skating and Soviet-themed hipster cafes. They also spend a considerable amount of time sitting near each other in various St Petersburg eateries, where classic Russian dishes throw their safe British taste buds for more than one loop.
The complexities of being a caviar virgin
Ayoade quickly learns that sampling three of 15 types of salt-cured fish eggs is no ordinary escapade. That's due to the fact that the best surface on which to eat the stuff is the skin of one’s hand, given human skin is tasteless – a tidbit that doesn’t sit well with our fearful host. Luckily, the exclusive bar serving up these testing treats is also known for its 35 different brands of vodka.
“I could have done without that”
If you’re ever lucky enough to visit St Petersburg and are presented with a menu that offers a dish called herring in a fur coat, be prepared to face five kinds of confusion. Or at least, that’s the picture painted by Ayoade and Beckett's experience.
For many, the herring half of the dish is daunting enough, as it’s a pungent fish with a taste that insists on lingering in the palate for much longer than is desirable. But it’s the mysterious "fur coat" aspect of the meal that raises Richard’s over-expressive eyebrows.
What is this pale hair-like substance that envelops the featured fish? Some kind of rare, shredded cabbage? Slim strands of cheese? Noodles of death? You’ll have to tune in to find out.
Not just lard, but a platter of lard
By now, you get the sense that back home, neither Ayoade nor his dining companion is overly adventurous when it comes to meal time. The pair’s experience with an entire platter of lard is no exception.
As you may deduce from the above grab of Beckett’s first foray into lard territory, he takes to the bite with the trepidation of a toddler during its first swimming lesson.
Ayoade, on the other hand, rises above the fear and dives in head first. Could a thick slice of waxy lard be the food that broadens his gastronomic horizons forevermore?
Watch the St Petersburg episode of Travel Man at SBS On Demand: