Definitive Moscow 'Terrace Crawl'
- By Kevin O'Flynn
- Jun. 08 2011 00:00
Circle Еverskaya and the Kremlin for Moscow's best outdoor seating.
There are moments that mark the different times of year: the first snow, the first painful fall on the winter ice and, the best of them all, the emergence of the first summer cafe.
By one count, Moscow has 2,000 summer cafes and terraces. But how to find that perfect place in the sun or, at the very least, a spot out of sight of an exhaust-filled traffic jam, is another question entirely.
Herewith summer 2011's definitive "terrace crawl."
Start on Pushkin Square, with the obvious choice of Piramida and its glorious view of Moscow's surly taxi drivers. You will get to know their trade well since you will be waiting hours to get served.
Best head up Tverskaya for its eclectic choice of summer terraces. There is Mi Piace, its secluded wooden terrace hidden inside a dvor, or Scandinavia across the way, the expat's traditional favorite summer haunt (along with Starlite Diner on Mayakovskaya). A newer option is Khachapuri, a Georgian restaurant on Bolshoi Gnezdnikovsky Pereulok.
Next, head down Tverskoi Bulvar, where Tverbul, a new steakhouse, has just put up a large outdoor patio. Next door, Kseniya Sobchak's cafe Bublik has outdoor seating. Neither is the best outdoor area, since the covered roofs keep out any signs of sun and fresh air, but on the plus side both are fairly large and roomy.
Heading down Nikitsky Bulvar, there is a triple run of outdoor seating which seems to melt into one: coffee shop Capuccino, followed by the John Donne pub and then Jean Jaques, where by some arcane local regulation a young man with a shaven head and black rimmed glasses must permanently be seated outside. They are all decent enough places to sit, but if you look next to Capuccino, you will likely see a deserted cafe that is all too often overlooked.
Konfael Kafe seems far less popular than its neighbors and that is a shame: it might be the only place in Moscow with a picture of Britain's newly married couple, Prince William and Kate Middleton ... made out of chocolate. After all, chocolate gifts are Konfael's speciality. Even first lady Svetlana Medvedeva has presented the cafe's chocolate to school children on a number of occassions.
From there, head down towards the Kremlin, where you'll find the terraces with the best views in town. Grab a seat at Bosco Cafe or Bosco Bar — sitting outside for a meal or drink while staring at Lenin's Mausoleum cannot be beat.
After a quick toast on Red Square, a good option is to head for Petrovka, where the Marriot Aurora has a decent terrace adjacent to the hotel. From there, it's a simple stroll to Stoleshnikov Pereulok, where Gogol offers a sprawling terrace and some of the cheapest drinks in town, especially for its prime location. The cafe at Denis Simachev is better suited for those unafraid of 350 ruble beers.
Nothing beats a drink in full view of the mausoleum.
From Stoleshnikov, it's a quick jaunt to the citadel of summer sitting: Kamergersky Pereulok. Each year, the amount of space for pedestrians gets smaller and smaller as the lane's many cafes add ever more outdoor seating. There is no better street in Moscow for people watching. It's starting to get some competition from Belorusskaya's "White Square," which now boasts a Starbucks, Coffee Mania and Le Pain Quotidien with outdoor seating.
Since last year, the mecca of summer terraces has belonged to Strelka, whose view of the Moskva River and Christ the Savior Cathedral is impossible to tire of. The new menu has a 710 ruble hamburger, a price chosen so that you can be reasssured that you are still in Moscow.
It's official: Moscow now hosts one of the best restaurants in the world, at least according to Restaurant Magazine's World's Best 50 List. Varvary, the brainchild of self-trained chef Anatoly Komm, was ranked at No. 48 this year, the first time a Russian restaurant has appeared on the list.
Varvary is a Russian look into the world of molecular gastronomy. If you are a bit hazy on what that is, it's best to consult Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and the chewing gum invented by clever Willy Wonka. The gum tastes like a three-course dinner: tomato soup followed by roast beef with baked potato and finished off with blueberry pie and ice cream. In short: lots of flavor concentrated into little punches. At Varvary, eating a spoonful of liquid that tastes like Borodinsky bread is a very expensive experience, but one you are unlikely to forget.
Varvary declared russia's best fare by Restaurant Magazine.
Beyond the food, the restaurant has two other attractions: the chef himself and a nice view. Komm, to put it gently, thinks highly of himself, once comparing himself to Shostakovich and easily disparaging Moscow's other restauranteurs. He once told an interviewer about how he threw out a high-ranking government official in disgust after the man dared to ask for kotlety, instead of accepting the set menu offered to all guests, regardless of rank. The view, meanwhile, is provided by a seventh floor balcony that gives a decent panorama of Moscow (while conveniently hiding the carbuncular monstrosity of a building that houses the restaurant itself).
Address: 8A Strastnoi Bulvar. Chekhovskaya. Tel. 229-2800.