Oct 16 2012

Cafe Pushkin

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The story of why and how the restaurant Café Pushkin (or just Pushkin for the locals) came about is so interesting, it could have been the beginning of one of Pushkin’s stories as well (hopefully I don’t need to explain who Pushkin is in detail, but if for some strange reason you don’t know he was one of the best writers in Russia in the 19th century). Apparently 40 years ago Gilbert Becaud, a Frenchman, gave performances in Moscow and he wrote a song “Natalie” in which he said “We are walking around Moscow, visiting the Red Square and you are saying learned words about Lenin, the revolution, but I am thinking: “I wish we sat in the “Café Pushkin”, we would be drinking hot chocolate and talking of other things… ”.The song apparently became popular in France, and Frenchmen came to Moscow and searched for “Café Pushkin” and failed to find it because it did not exist. Note also Pushkin married a woman called Natalia and he apparently met her on the same street Café Pushkin is located. “Café Pushkin” finally opened on June 4th, 1999, and it is located on Tverskoy boulevard in Moscow in a Baroque mansion and if you have not been to Tverskoy Boulevard it is one of the busiest and oldest (dating back to 1796) streets in Moscow that connects Pushkin square (I guess another reason why the place is called Café Pushkin) with Tverskaya Street, and it has a lot of trees lined by the street and back in the day it was one of the favourite places for the Moscow aristocracy to take a stroll. The Pushkin theatre is also located on this street, another reason why you would place Café Pushin exactly on this street. If you want to experience how in the times of Pushkin at the beginning of the 19th century the Russian aristocracy lived and ate, and also if you are just after typical Russian food but in a wonderful and beautiful environment this is the place to go to. Café Pushkin has 3 floors and each of them is decorated slightly differently, and the different floors are called “library hall” and “drugstore hall” and the furniture is old and beautiful and you do feel like you have entered an old house. The staff is also dressed in typical Russian clothes that people would wear many decades ago, so this place has real character. Note it is also interesting Café Pushkin is open 24h so some people even come here after clubbing and I have heard of stories of rich Russians having black caviar and champagne at 4am in the morning. Also Café Pushkin does delivery but despite this it really does not take away the charm of the place. And that is the interesting thing about Café Pushkin, from the look of it, it could be your typical tourist trap, as it could be seen a bit over the top, but it is not, as Russians are always in there celebrating birthdays or just catching up, so locals go there as well (although it is fair to say 1/3 of the restaurant is always filled with foreigners). I went to Café Pushkin with quite a few people and we decided to share some typical Russian starters as a first course. We ordered some pirogi, the typical Russian bread pies that were filled with seasoned minced meat and cabbages, which are the typical types but Pushkin also offers less traditional pies filled with mushrooms, pickles and fish (we did not have these). If you like these traditional pirogi, Pushkin does a great job of making them, and the bread bit was very thin and they give you a lot of filling (in a lot of cheaper places the proportion of bread to meat is 10:1, but here it was the other way round), it was very tasty. We also had a plate of pickles, which had soft salted cucumbers, pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut, all of this was delicious, I absolutely love pickles, so I had way too much of this plate compared to everyone else. We also had a plate of sturgeon, fish you don't often find in London, but that is typical to Eurasia, and this fish can grow very large and the famous Russian vodka Beluga is named after a type of sturgeon. And we also had a plate of salmon, and both fish were tasty. In Café Pushkin all the dishes are beautifully garnished and presented, but note done in a Russian standard way, so if you are not used to a lot of different things added to the plate to decorate it and how they try to decorate everything in a very symmetrical way, you may find this a bit over the top, but this is just the typical Russian way, and Pushkin does it very well. We also had a plate of roast beef and pork, very good quality meat (much nicer than the typical Russian families would have). And of course we also had the typical "Oliver" salad, which looked nice, but as I don't like this dish (it is very typical in Latvia as well and I always try to avoid it), I did not try it. As for the main course some of us decided to have some food, but others decided to opt out as they were already feeling very full from the starters. I had borsch, the typical Russian beetroot soup that in Pushkin was served with smoked goose fillet (usually it is served with beef) and it is nice to see them using goose as they are being creative but up to a point, as goose is quite typical on special occasions (probably not what your usual Russian can afford all the time). My friend Elena had solyanka, another typical Russian soup that has meat and salted cucumbers in it (Café Pushkin also added cappers to this soup, which are not typically used, but also shows nice/ small creativity), and even though I did not try it, you can see the picture, and it was served in a bread basket. My friend Vika had the Russian dumplings (pelmeni) with mushrooms, which were great! I love pelmeni and I usually eat them from a packet (you can just buy a packet, which is very cheap and then boil them), and these you could clearly tell were made fresh and had not been frozen, they were soft and great, and even though I usually prefer pelmeni filled with meat (Pushkin also offers pelmeni filled with non typical things like salmon and duck), I did enjoy these mushroom ones very much. One of us also had a sturgeon fillet with rice as a main course and it was wonderfully presented with the head and the tail of the sturgeon next to the edible fish, so you could see how impressive this fish is. My friend Irina did not have a main course but had a desert (as she has a super sweet tooth) and see a picture of pancakes with berries she had. I think if you go to Russia only for 1 evening, this is the place to go to, as it will give you a good sense of Russian food and a glimpse of how Russia could have been in the times of Pushkin. Café Pushkin serves Russian classics and executes them very well and sometimes adds an interesting twist and even if you are not sure you will like Russian food, this is the place to go to try it for the first time, as they do make the food more appealing to foreigners than Russian food typically is. So they really do bring out the best of Russian food.

Date: 16/ 10/ 12
Location: central Moscow

Maija rated: 

4.50

Location: 

Cafe Pushkin
Tverskoy Boulevard, 26а 125009
Moscow
Russia
RU
Cafe Pushkin Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 4.5