A capital full of contrasts and with a reputation intrinsically linked to its decades of communist rule, Moscow is no doubt one of the most interesting culinary destinations in Russia, if not all Europe. From opulent and decadent venues to Soviet-style inspired restaurants, Moscow has all it takes to surprise and enchant curious foodies. Here is our updated guide to 10 of the best cultural restaurants in Russia’s capital.
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Located in the former factory of the locally beloved and famous Red October chocolate, Bar Strelka is in the centre of a network of studios, clubs, galleries and artisan cafés that took over the empty space left after the factory’s relocation. A great alternative for the carbohydrate-rich dishes so common in Moscow, this is the place to go for healthy salads, noodle dishes, grilled meat and seafood. The venue gets extra points for its stunning view over the Moskva River, the Kremlin, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and its live jazz weekends.
Opened in 1999, the luxurious Café Pushkin is one of the reference points on Moscow’s dining scene. Re-enacting the nostalgia of the opulent imperial Russia across three themed floors in a splendid renovated 19th century mansion, Café Pushkin excels in terms of elegance and refinement with fully liveried waiters, vintage furniture and antiques. Each of the three rooms –the Pharmacy, the Library and the Fireplace Room – has its own menu featuring caviar, dumplings and stews exquisitely prepared. Café Pushkin is the perfect upscale restaurant for even the most particular of guests.
A must-try while exploring Moscow, CDL is the sort of high-class venue that boasts American presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush as former patrons. Housed in a 19th century old building, CDL has outstanding interiors inspired by the Silver Age of Russian Culture. Its Oak Hall particularly conserves a unique design piece of great value: a breath-taking staircase built without a nail or screw that goes hand in hand with the other sumptuous decorations. The menu matches the location, with full-flavoured organic dishes such as roasted pigeon with pear and pickled apples, created by Chef Alexander Popov.
With an atmosphere inspired by the early 20th century, and a lively atmosphere created by old music, Chermodan is no doubt one of Moscow’s most appealing restaurants. Serving recipes based on rare ingredients from the far-away regions of Russia, including Siberia, this small culinary venue is a memorable try for those visitors looking for something different. A winner of TripAdvisor’s ‘Certificate of Excellence’ in 2014, Chemodan’s special menu includes dishes based on salmon, caviar, boar, deer, squid, goose or reindeer, well matched by a great selection of old wines and champagne.
Famed and very much loved in Russia’s capital, the Gallery Café is a select venue where art, music and parties go hand in hand. Located in a beautiful 19th century mansion, this must-see restaurant displays numerous works of contemporary art, constantly featuring new exhibitions and vernissages. A very popular restaurant among the locals, Gallery Café tempts with a menu fit for its high-class customers with dishes such as ravioli with ricotta and saffron sauce with chanterelles, stroganoff, veal with roasted potatoes or pistachio cake with strawberry-banana sorbet.
The place to go in order to try the highlights of Georgian cuisine, Hachapuri is not to be missed especially if you are looking to sample as many gastronomical traditions as possible in a short time. With a large mural chalkboard and a vintage style piano, this small location offers the perfect mix of genuine warm atmosphere and great delicious recipes from exotic Georgia. The menu includes an inviting selection of well-known Georgian wines, recipes such as khinkali dumplings, fried trout with sweet pomegranate sauce, batumi-style beef with Georgian condari spice and mouth-watering desserts like Georgian nuts dipped in thickened grape sauce.
A culinary destination that is sure to have you coming back for more, Mari Vanna is Soviet-style decorated restaurant that recreates life as it was in the former USSR 50 years ago. Its interiors are decorated with old bookcases, vases, vintage photo frames and a TV set broadcasting old Soviet channels, all the objects reflecting a lifestyle lost forever. Mari Vanna complements its themed décor with traditionally large portions of Russian fare, including warming stews, pies and dumplings. Reservations are strongly recommended given its small size and popularity.
Enjoying a central location in Red Square, Stolovaya is one of the most popular Soviet-inspired restaurants in the city, the long queues during lunch time being a good indicator of this status. With a name translated as the workers’ cafeteria, Stolovaya offers simple classics prepared according to a famous cookbook, The Book of Healthy and Tasty Food. The menu includes the unmissable borsch varieties, stews, dumplings, herring-based dishes, or pigeon’s milk cake, a nostalgic and delicious dessert named ironically because its ingredients were ‘rarer than pigeon’s milk’ in the days of the Soviet regime.
A winner of TripAdvisor’s ‘Certificate of Excellence’ in 2014, The Sad is truly a one of a kind presence on Moscow’s culinary scene. With a large interior greenhouse abundant in tropical plants, including palm and orchids, with even a few peacocks flying around, The Sad is one of the must-try restaurants in the Russian capital. Add to this recipe the presence of Michelin Chef Adrian Quetglas, and The Sad becomes a true Moscow must-visit. The menu offers Indian, Spanish and Italian dishes, alongside a skilfully chosen wine selection to accompany the numerous musical events taking place at The Sad.
One of the most expensive restaurants in Russia’s capital, the opera-themed Turandot is an glimpse into the lifestyles of Moscow’s contemporary rich. With construction costs estimated between $40-50 million, this opulent Baroque style restaurant occupies 14 rooms in a luxurious 17th century building. Matching its architectural grandeur, the menu is of the finest quality mixing the best caviar, wine, oysters, steaks and champagne with the delicacies of European and Asian cuisine. Delivering an almost surreal experience, Turandot is a place not to be missed by those willing to pay the costs of having one of the most exclusive gastronomic experiences in Moscow.