the trough

MTAttentive staff and a hot all-you-can-eat buffet of meat and potatoes that will stick to your ribs make Old Muller a fine destination for those seeking comfort food on chilly autumn days.
By far the best thing about Old M?ller is its location — a brisk six-minute stroll from the cozy confines of my apartment.

It was karmically convenient that I got the call to write a review of this place, as I had noticed it quite often when driving down Malaya Dmitrovka, and it had always been put on the "to-do" list of culinary venues to sample in the future.

My experience with Old M?ller took place on an autumn Sunday afternoon, the kind that makes you long for an open wood fire, a bearskin rug (synthetic, of course) and shots of whisky.

Although there were no open fires, the atmosphere was just what I needed. Right from the moment of entry I was faced with service with smiles. My coat was taken and I was shown to a table by a pleasantly swarming herd-like formation of helpful staff who always seemed to appear just when I needed them.

Although there is a good range of conventional meals on the menu, the pull for this hungry camper was the 300-ruble all-you-can-eat buffet. Just what the doctor ordered when you are seeking the fuel to fight back a hangover.

The selection of food on the buffet spread stuck to the basics with a healthy mix of vegetables, meat, chicken and fish on offer, including carve-your-own ham and a variety of salads. With other "shvedsky stol" venues around Moscow, it is always a bit of a lottery as to how recently the food that you scoop out actually saw the inside of a heated cooking utensil. No complaints here, though: the rice wasn't starchy, the meat wasn't cold in the middle and I even managed to scald my lip on a hot potato.

While enjoying any one of the multiple portions I ate — it's rude not to make a return trip when you're at a buffet, after all — I was frequently asked by the staff if I required anything else.

Because I was behind the wheel of my trusty purple batmobile, I steered clear of spirits, opting instead for one of Old M?ller's many nonalcoholic refreshments. After a coffee with my meal, I treated myself to a White Advance milkshake (49 rubles), which was a great way of convincing my organism to start processing all of its recently acquired fuel into a healthy layer of lard for the winter months.

I was thoroughly happy with my Old M?ller experience, and I'm sure that if I decide to get married and have a couple of children over the next few months, I'll be rocking along with the tribe to get in amongst the goodness.

Starina M?ller. 18 Malaya Dmitrovka. Metro Pushkinskaya. Tel. 299-8434. 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Credit cards: Visa.