- Jun. 09 2015 00:00
In St. Petersburg
In the summer, St. Petersburg doesn't sprout quite as many outdoor cafes as Moscow does; the weather is, after all, less predictable and the terrace season is shorter. But all the same, the city has some fine venues for outdoor dining, in courtyards or on rooftops, and some excellent summer menus to be enjoyed inside on a rainy day.
The Stray Dog Café
Right off Arts Square is a modest sign for a basement café. This is the Stray Dog Café, which for a few short months in 1911-1915 was the center of Russian poetry, prose, music, and theater. After being closed down and nearly forgotten for decades, the space was rediscovered, cleaned, and turned back into a café, with art exhibitions, poetry readings, and concerts. The menu includes dishes once served a century ago to the nation's best poets and artists. On the street is a pleasant little terrace, where you can watch people and enjoy the beauty of the square.
Gymnasia was created to be the dining room of a very elegant aristocratic St. Petersburg family — only now updated for the 21st century. Now it has a large summer terrace, which is really like a separate restaurant: an open wooden structure with a canvas roof and gauzy curtains, buff-colored couches and armchairs, quiet music and candlelight. The menu is European and Russian, with an emphasis of perfect presentation and elegance. The space is patrolled nightly by Gymnasia, a sweet-natured red cat.
CoCoCo is the St. Petersburg branch of LavkaLavka, a restaurant that serves produce from local independent farmers. The décor is simple and warm, with wooden tables and chairs. The menu changes by season, but everything is always fresh-from-the-farmer good, prepared to surprise diners expecting the same old hand-made pelmeni. Instead, try feasting on grilled cabbage with Karelian salted trout garnished with pickled smoked beets. Tempted? Stick around for dessert of halva ice cream. They also serve homemade liquors and infusions, a hearty ale, and a selection of Russian and European wines.
For a change of pace from the usual, try one of St. Petersburg's newest hang-outs — the Buddha-Bar. If the weather is cool or rainy, you can find a spot inside on one of two floors of rich, red, Eastern luxury. But if the weather is fine, head up to the summer terrace with seating for about 50 lucky souls. Enjoy views of the Neva from comfortable armchairs and couches as you sample the summer menu: light sushi rolls and salads, or refreshing summer drinks made of fruit, herbs and spices.
The Terassa restaurant is a Ginza project eatery, which means it is super stylish, with cutting-edge fusion cuisine that includes dishes and techniques from America to Japan via Europe and the East. It is also renowned for its scrumptious French desserts. The terrace is enormous, airy, and light, offering breath-taking views of the city center and Kazan Cathedral. Particularly fine for summer eating are the array of salads and Mediterranean inspired seafood. But if you are in a down-home Russian mood, the chef whips up delicious chicken cutlets and buckwheat groats with mushrooms.
The rooftop restaurant of the St. Petersburg Kempinski Hotel Moika 22 quickly became one of the city's legendary dining venues. The 360 degree views take in the Hermitage and Palace Square, the Neva, and St. Isaac's Cathedral. The cuisine is largely French and the best of Russian dishes, with an emphasis on fresh seafood and signature dishes — like a Kamchatka crab salad or a dessert called l'Hermitage, a sphere of white-colored chocolate filled with panna cotta, raspberry jelly, biscuit and honey mouse. The wine and spirits list is one of the best in the city.
During the summer, Muscovites eat outdoors. They sit on park benches and eat ice cream. At markets, they eat grilled shashlik off paper plates. They take over entire streets, like Kamergersky pereulok, and turn them into one long outdoor restaurant that sells pizza at one end and Chinese food at the other. And they fill rooftops of old and new buildings to take in the views while dining. Here are some of our favorites.
When you venture over the Moscow River for museum hopping, sight-seeing, or shopping, be sure to stop in the Hotel Baltschug Kempinski's outdoor café. It's very small — less than 50 seats –very cozy, and very flowery. It offers a spectacular view of St. Basil's Cathedral, the Kremlin and Red Square. The menu is light Russian and European fare, with especially delectable sweets and summery drinks.†
Bolotny Island in the middle of the Moscow River is quickly turning into the capital's hottest spot for hotels, nightclubs, and restaurants. The newest addition is Shakhti Terrace, a very chic but extremely friendly eatery. The cuisine is pan-Asian. The décor on the expansive terrace is tropics-bright with clean, comfortable chairs and couches. Stop in for their affordable business lunch (under 500 rubles), or come on Thursday nights for live music.
Chef Alexei Simyonov has put together the best kind of fusion cuisine at Moscafe: taking the best of traditional Russian dishes, lightening them with a bit of Italy, and mixing in a bit of the Orient to keep everything piquant, with just the right balance of sweet, salty and savory. The décor is comfortable and warm, perfect for a lingering dinner with friends. But it's a place that's big on parties and celebrations: if there's an event, they'll host a celebration, from the annual Oscar awards to a local book fair.
The cheerful, super family-friendly Anderson Cafes have opened four summer terraces for the season: at 39 ulitsa Gilyarovskogo, near the Sokol metro station at 74/8 Leningradsky prospekt, near the zoo at 1 Kudrinskaya ploshchad, and outside the city in Zelenograd. They are all bright, comfortable, and perfect for lounging with hammocks, bean bag chairs, and comfortable chairs. The menu is international, with emphasis on freshly made pastas, salads, bruschetta — just the kind of light and healthy fare for summer. Be beware: their homemade pastries are impossible to resist.
Support your local farmer! And do it deliciously at Moscow's first farmer-driven, all-organic, restaurant with a nice outdoor terrace. The menu is mostly Russian, but with authentic dishes or creatively updated versions, like a fillet of Murmansk cod with a scallop and cowberry tartar sauce. Even the alcohol is domestic, from Crimean and other southern wines to polugar — vodka's precursor — that will knock your socks off.