Apart from the hipster youth hotels that have mushroomed in Kiev since the Euro Cup, Lviv’s impressive coffeeshop export to Ukraine’s capital is the latest sign of the city’s rapid Europeanization. The impressively cosy café, with its recessed lighting, artsy murals, retro coffee posters and wainscotted walls is a welcome touch of Vienna in a city that has been more ready to embrace commercial Americana. While the café’s Lviv outlets—include ‘factories’ where workers make their pralines and other chocolate goodies from scratch—the Kiev branches are less Willy Wonka, more arthouse.
The clientele is quite sophisticated for the city, with iPad-toting hipsters sitting next to turtlenecked intellectuals and bilingual office workers. It’s a far cry from the cheesy Double Coffee, which was a center of Kiev coffee culture just three years ago.
Unlike other venues though, Lviv Chocolate Factory bans smoking through the entire premises, and doesn’t even serve alcohol, let alone beer or wine. The waitstaff also speak Ukrainian, and not Russian, as is the norm elsewhere in Kiev. However, it’s just this sort of dogmatism that propels a brand forwards, and creates customer loyalty. Think of Steve Jobs and his dictatorial decisions with the iPhone.
The Lviv Chocolate Factory also has a wonderful storefront space selling a gizillion varieties of chocolates, pralines, and other sweet goodies. The sugar and caffeine high is sure to cure a lingering hangover from the night before.
There are three branches in Kiev, with some swearing by the one on Andrivsky Spusk, while others say that the larger one on Gorkova is cooler. Explore them all and make your own decision.
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This stylish Indian eatery is a welcome switch from the traditional curry places in Kiev, which are claustrophobic dens, with heavy subcontinental knick-knacks cluttering a space enclosed from the outside by thick, often-musty curtains. In contrast, Nirvana is a Buddha Baresque tribute to Indian style, with tasteful still lifes, Sanskrit lettering on the walls, and cosy back rooms where patrons can recline on resplendent Asian diwans as in an Uzbek tea room. Like China White in London, the restaurant/lounge heralds a new fusion style that combines Indian elements with global lounge vibes to create a new aesthetic. With Hare Krishna look-alike DJs spinning Asian lounge on weekend nights, who’s complaining. Surprisingly, the food lives up to the décor, packing a nasty punch despite its minimalist trappings. Though the portions are small, the curries are rich and creamy, and yet not as heavy on the stomach as traditional kormas and vindaloos. The yellow lentil dal has a tarty tang, and, with some persuasion, the curries can be made spicy enough for the best of the chilli snobs. The nans are a bit stiff, but the potato-filled parathas are soft and chewy. The restaurant’s lighter Indian cuisine—not as doused in saturated fats like ghee--is also easier on the stomach and a heavy curry session there doesn’t make you feel like a heavy piece of lard later. You’ve still got plenty of energy for a night of clubbing after.