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A top Ukrainian chef is launching a “cultural embassy” for his home country in Britain to showcase its food, design, art and drink in the form of a new restaurant staffed entirely by refugees.

Yurii Kovryzhenko, a “culinary ambassador” for Ukraine, and his partner, Olga Tsybytovska, have been in London since February, when they were stranded during a 10-day trip from Kyiv for an event at the Ukrainian embassy after Russia’s invasion. They ended up staying in a flat in the embassy in Holland Park for two months.

Since then, they have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for Ukraine through events with chefs including Jamie Oliver, Jason Atherton and Tom Kitchin.

Now they plan to open their own restaurant, Mriya (which means dream), in London, where, as well as serving contemporary Ukrainian cuisine, they hope to act as an exhibition space for Ukrainian art and culture.

Kovryzhenko, 39, who before the war had several television and radio shows in Ukraine, where he is a celebrity chef and a leading figure in the slow food movement, said their role is one of “culinary diplomacy”. “Food is the biggest power in the world. It can be the arms and it can be the weapon,” he added.

The name of the restaurant, near Earl’s Court, was inspired by collective dreams of ending the war and the personal dreams of Ukrainians. It’s also the name of the world’s biggest aircraft, made in Ukraine, which was destroyed at Antonov airport near Kyiv in the early weeks of the war.

As well as classic dishes such as borscht, they will serve golubtsi (cabbage rolls) made from courgette flowers, kabachkovi oladky (courgette pancakes) served with stracciatella or creamy cheese instead of the traditional sour cream. They are also considering creating a Ukrainian take on a Sunday roast using barbecued meat.

The bar will serve Ukrainian wine and infused vodkas, and they will offer food and vodka pairings. The building also features a dedicated fermentation room. Ukrainian designers are coming in this week to install clay walls and natural materials, and they plan to use Ukrainian furniture.

“We want this space to be like a cultural embassy of Ukraine in UK,” said Tsybytovska, 33, who previously worked in culinary tourism. “To be like a representative of our country here. We want to fill it with Ukrainian energy, including people and pieces of art and food, taste, everything.”

They had heard from others in the hospitality industry that they might struggle to find staff after Brexit. But since advertising for chefs, waiters, bartenders and porters on social media, they have had hundreds of applications from Ukrainian refugees.

Many applicants used to do highly skilled jobs that they are unable to do in the UK because their qualifications are not transferrable.

“Some stories I read were horrible,” said Kovryzhenko. “People who were teachers, doctors, have a doctor’s degree from university, now they are looking for work as a porter in a kitchen.”

For many, knowledge of English is a problem, he added, and the length of time it takes for refugees to get their official documents from the UK government. He called for more restaurants and hotels to hire Ukrainian refugees.

Kovryzhenko has previously worked in Georgia, France, Korea and Lviv, where he ran high-end restaurant Vintage Noveau. “I’ll try to mix the best from different cultures and use the Ukrainian heritage like a base,” he said.

At first, when war broke out, they felt guilty for being safely in London while their friends hid in shelters and were stuck in long traffic jams out of Ukraine, they said. But soon they realised they could be more effective helping from the UK.

“We realised that we can be very helpful doing fundraising events, in promoting our culture, in fundraising,” said Tsybytovska. “I know it would be a great tragedy for my family [in Ukraine] if I decided to come back. The only thing that gives them hope and strength is to know that I’m in a safe place.”

If the project is a success, they plan to open more restaurants and social spaces in the UK involving Ukrainians, they said.

Against the landscape of war, food is a way to talk about and celebrate their culture, said Tsybytovska, as well as introducing it to people in Britain. “Ukraine is in the centre of Europe. It has a very rich, long history, but no one here knows what Ukrainian cuisine is about,” she said.

“Food for us is an instrument to attract attention on Ukraine and talk about our culture. It’s also an instrument to connect us to home.”