Serbia in London: Coffee, Tea or a Glass of Red?

By day an economist and by night a freelance scribe, Serbian expat Mal Božić takes a day off to play flâneur in London as part of our World in London series.

On my first day as a Londoner, above the entrance to the Knightsbridge serviced apartment building where I was staying, I saw this plaque (below). It turns out I wasn’t the first Serbian resident there. Encouraged by those Serbs who came before me, I set out to discover my own virtual little Belgrade within the cultural maze of London.

Here’s a typical trek through it.

Most Serbs start the day with a good, strong coffee. It may as well be from Monmouth in Covent Garden (filteruša for the Mitteleuropa northerners, a latte for the Italianate Belgraders, and for my southern compatriots: the nearest Turkish restaurant for your strong black stuff).

Properly fuelled, it’s a short Boris-bike spin to Daunt Books for some paper media. Its exceptional Balkans section includes the stunning memoir of a Serbian Londoner, by Vesna Goldsworthy. Read it, weep, laugh, then call your mother to tell her you love her.

Heading further west, it’s time to be confronted by one of Serbia’s eminent enfant terrible. Marina Abramović is back in town for Frieze and she will be treating us to a retrospective at the Lisson Gallery. For all who couldn’t make it to her run at New York’s MoMa this year, here’s your chance to catch up with the godmother of performance art.

By now hungry, I might head up to Maida Vale’s Babylon Supermarket for its industrial quantities of Plazma, a delicious, evil calorie-bomb biscuit to which Serbs get addicted during toddlerhood.

For something daintier, it has to be afternoon tea at Claridge’s. This legendary hotel is the birthplace of Alexander II, the current Serbian Crown Prince, born at a time when continental elites were camped out in London waiting for the Second World War to end. To ensure Alexander’s claim to the throne, Churchill’s government temporarily placed suite 212 under Yugoslav sovereignty.

With the sun setting, it’s over to the Southbank for a glass of an oaky red at the BFI, before catching a Serbian film. The recent month-long Goran Paskaljević retrospective was a treat. Really, a fitting bookend to a rewarding day in London.

Do you have any more tips for enjoying Serbian culture in London? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. Ranka Ilicic says:

    Being Serbian now living in Sydney, Australia, finding a good coffee place like Monmouth cafe was crucial for me to enjoy walks in London on my recent and first visit to this dynamic city. Thanks for your recommendation! I loved your article Mr Bozic

  2. krdr says:

    Bit of history: It is said that first coffee shop in London was opened by Serb

  3. Emm says:

    Lovely post! I love that there is so much to do in London if you only keep your eyes peeled! My personal wish? That someone in London hold Serbian language courses! It is not so much fun learning alone.

  4. Milica says:

    For Serbian Language lessons (also Bosnian, Croatian, culture etc.) please email me on milica_vukovic@hotmail.com. I work as a private tutor, so prices are lower than in schools :)

  5. Ronnie says:

    I read about Vesna Goldsworthy here, then, by coincidence, heard her programme “Finding a Voice in the Foreign Country” on Radio 4 on the same day. It was fantastic, particularly the Serbian music bits. It’s on BBC I-player for a few days more.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vh99s

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  7. Ivan says:

    There are more tastes of Serbia in west London if your craving big portions of BBQ meat! Cafe resentin on the goldhawk road in shepherds bush serves, cevapi, pljeskavica, pasulj and is great value. Corner terrace in Ealing common near the tube does spit roasted meat by the kilo at the weekends along with mixed grills etc during the week. Mugi also in Ealing common is more of a deli where you can buy most Serbian foods but also serves hot dishes. Enjoy!

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