Dining in Mosow rocks – a veritable cornucopia of obscure fantasy restaurants. It’s buckets of fun hunting them out: you’ll find the best grub in the ethnic restaurants – the Caucasian and ‘Stan restaurants – all those fantastic smoked out dishes. You’ll find a Moldovan restaurant underneath the embassy (don’t forget your passport); a top kosher joint through the security scanners on the roof of a synagogue. I was over the moon last night to learn of a Chechen joint but it was misinformation, it was Czech. Quelle disappointment! But there’s nothing like hanging out by the kiosks in a louche fashion with a bit of Moscow style street food. Or you want babushkas feeding hares? Want to wind back in time and dine in a faked up palace like royalty? Eat at base camp Everest? They’ve got it allllll going on. But unlike London where you wouldn’t entertain the idea of eating in a club or the Rainforest Café or any other theme restaurant for that matter, you can expect food of a certain standard in Mockba. And plenty of them are 24hr opening! Which may explain the brief kipping on plates, plats du jour and fellow diner’s laps.
Sadly I have to break the sad news that vin is very expensive here. So you’ll have to get your vodka or beer head on, or just take it on the chin. You’re looking at about £25-30 just for table wine. I thought there might be some cheaper Georgian or Crimean stuff which is all drinkable but they’re all foreign and at the mercy of import duties too.
Meant to be very good food (nothing whatsoever for veggies). Lovely terrace under the trees, good central spot behind Pushkinskaya.
Palashevsky P. 7, Metro: Pushkinksya
It would be criminal not to include it; it would be equally criminal to eat here – it’s fantastically off-the-scale expensive. But if you meet an oil-igarch on a dark night and he offers to take you – bite his hand off. Or go for drinks which are pretty much on a par with London expensive-ish prices. Worth noting that the people watching is limited – the entire perimeter of the restaurant is lined with uber exclusive private dining rooms. So no ear wigging either, not that you’d understand much anyway.
Tverskoy Boulevard, д. 26/5, Metro: Pushkinskaya
Noah’s Ark – Armenian
A smart, rather lavish place in Kitai Gorod (translates as China Town but it isn’t one). Great shashliks and veggie dishes.
9, M.Ivanovsky Lane, Metro: Kitai Gorod
Shinok – Ukrainian
So to Shinok, located on an upper floor of a slicked up warehouse. I admit this won’t be for everybody, certainly not the PETA and RSPCA brigade. And despite being a rather strict veggie I appear to be able to park all that at the door and embrace this plasticised rural idyll with enormous gusto. The prevailing theme here is of a rustic Ukrainian dacha replete with a babushka doing a spot of knitting here and there and tending to real farmyard animals – cows, donkeys, chickens. The restaurant is laid out in a ring with all the tables looking onto a courtyard in the middle brimming with this grotesquely compelling fiesta of flora and fauna.
The best beasts are the hares. The sheer size of them verges on intimidating – or maybe I’ve just seen Watership Down one too many times. Let’s hope this one isn’t like the General and terrorises the cast (or props?) It’s a little like the biosphere what with the peacock, the Amhurst Cross Golden Pheasant Hybrid (yes it was identified!), all plucked out to come into this artificial environment to make the best of things. Chicken versus cow, all animals ARE equal in here.
The food is good and just about affordable. I’ve been here when it’s deathly quiet and totally rammed so despite it’s size you should book. You don’t want to be disappointed! There are plenty of other hangouts in this warehouse so you can put your navigation tools away and just rattle around in one place all evening. Bazaar Bar has just opened here and will gladly suck up the rest of your roubles if you’ve got any change left over from Shinok.
2 Ulitsa 1905, Metro: Ulitsa 1905
‘Cafe with no easily translatable name into English’
Perfect trad little bar and cafe bang slap opposite the Moscow Conservatory. The proprietor in the portrait has stuck around for a few more years and will do her best to fulfil your requirements despite the language barrier. And you can get firmly back on budget here to try and redeem yourself. Look for the sign below to properly identify it.
B Nikitskaya, Metro: Arbatskaya
Granny-chic restaurant near Patriarch’s Ponds – but def not 1940s prices. Cats pottering about. Russian classics. They now have outposts in NY, LA and London so that gives you an indication of what you’re in for in: ex-pats and tourists! But you know, Moscow tourists aren’t quite as conspicuous as those in more well trodden cities.
Spiridon’evskiy Pereulok, 10. Metro: Tverskaya
‘The still unnamed Kosher place at the top of the Bolshaya Bronnaya synagogue’
Slightly under the radar restaurant, firmly one you’d not stumble across. Mixed up menu of Israeli dishes with the odd Russian one thrown in for good measure. It used to feel rather obscure going through the security scanners to a restaurant but this less of an anomaly these days what with top security installed in many Russian theatres and Indian hotels. Sigh, needs must.
There’s a particular kind of dated-luxe interior in Moscow that crops up time and time again. And despite being on the roof it has no windows to speak of which is a bit of a waste but redeems itself by offering up some quality people watching against the backdrop of low murmuring as deals are cut over lunch. Very reasonable prices – I guess because it’s very much a community restaurant.
Look for the flash cars clustered round the corner of the road, cast your eye over to the modern synagogue, strip off for the security check and go up to the top floor in the lift. You have arrived at your destination.
Bolshaya Bronnaya, Metro: Pushkinskaya or Tverskaya
Hitrye Ludi (Clever People)
We caught Hitrye in its first month – though it already felt well and truly bedded in at Winzavod. Relaxed, no frills cooking, warm and amenable service. This is likely to become an old favourite of many in no time.
Find it in the first building on the right in the Winzavod art complex, 4th Syromyatnicheskiy Lane, Metro: Kurskaya
Casa Mare: obscure and little known restaurant No. 0046
Navigate your way through the Moldovan embassy to find this deeply discreet restaurant – yes, Moldova that breakaway Eastern European state. Go armed with your passport, they’re a bit hot and cold on security. But the food won’t be if you like rustic meaty/cheese dishes served up in a rather quaint and cosy basement. Cheap booze.
Kuznetskii Most 18, Metro: Kuznetskii Most
Strelka Bar & Restaurant
Linked to the Strelka Institute for design and architecture – a kind of think tank for urbanisation. This cafe is the lynchpin or go-between between the thinkers, the do-ers and the public. Strelka has a madly proactive programme of events especially over the summer. It’s on a great spot on the Moscow River, overlooking the new/old cathedral (dynamited by Stalin, turned into the largest open air pool in the world then rebuilt in the 90s). Everybody seems to really rate the food and the Sunday vibe at this urban island spot.
14 Bersenevskaya Embankment, Metro: Kropotkinskaya
Khinkali are Georgian dumplings, and good they are too. People go crazy for these blighters filled with meat, cabbage or mushrooms. This is a very fine Georgian restaurant with a decent sized terrace at the front near Old Arbat. You’ll find a particularly helpful map in Russian below. (I honestly don’t know how I manage to find anything in Moscow half the time. Ah but I know how I remember places – essential scrawl on each and every card, which is only marginally more legible than cyrillic!)
No secret here, this has to be the most famously convincing faux joint in town. The queen bee of the theme restaurant clan: it is but a few years old masquerading as muchos older. Dine with the sound of tinkling ivories drifting across the salon and even a harp if you luck out. There is a long bar if you’d sooner just soak up the forged atmosphere of this XIX’th Century space.
26a Tverskoy Blvd, Metro: Tverskaya