Restaurant critic and food journalist Anastasia Pavlenkova on St. Petersburgs food scene, where waiters show magic tricks, bartenders talk about the string theory and visitors can go fishing.
2, Aptekarsky Prospekt
This non-typical steak house, or beef factory (zavod means factory in Russian), was created by some of the leading players of St. Petersburgs restaurant industry, the Real Authentic Wine company, who also created Na Vina! and Big Wine Freaks bar. Before opening Beefzavod, they bought their very own heard of bull calves and got trained by the worlds best butchers. Sensitive visitors may flinch as they enter the restaurant and see animals carcasses suspended from the dining room ceiling and being cut-up before their eyes by the cooks. Of course, this is all behind glass, but it is nonetheless very real. Carcasses dry age in glass-fronted cabinets (this gives the meat a more intense flavour) and the meat shop makes various delicacies sausages, cured meats, ham and beef bacon, all of which can be bought to go. Beefzavod is just like a real beef factory, with an almost complete manufacturing cycle. Even the toilets are designed to look like cooling chambers.
10, Ulitsa Mayakovskogo
This bar and university, as the creators call it, holds regular lectures, seminars and discussions. The place really has everything an educational institution needs. There is a library, with a collection of the most interesting books St. Petersburgs independent bookshops can offer. There is also a lecture timetable. If one evening is reserved for lawyers to discuss mechanisms for protecting humans in the age of AI, the next is for linguists to work on a dictionary of text messages. The difference is you dont have to take exams, and even if the professor is delivering a lecture on the history of nodes, you can (and must!) be sipping on an Orange Mulled Wine or Honey Sour, the bar has an impressive cocktail list. Wine, craft beer, and bourbons with bitters are served here too, along with bruschettas, sandwiches and noodles. If you think this bar of enlightenment is too formal, dont be fooled: anyone here can come up to the stage and play the piano, for as long as they like.
3, Instrumentalnaya Ulitsa
Another project by the Real Authentic Wine team is a wine supermarket and bar. The shelves of Vinny Sklad (or wine store) contain over 5,000 product names and up to 50,000bottles. The choice ranges between timeless classics and avantgarde, biodynamic and natural wines from Europe, the New World and Russia, made by small producers and major companies alike, at prices ranging from 490 to 500,000 roubles. Most of these can be opened for you and served in the small bar, where you can wander in from the shop or from the street. Olives, cheese and home-made meats are served to go with the wine. But thats not all. There is also a special room for rare collectibles, where interested visitors are taken in a lift. The place also sells wine accessories, such as decanters and corkscrews. In summer, raves are held in the backyard, with excellent music, an open grill and, of course, great natural wine.
1, Mikhailovskaya Ulitsa
A truly legendary establishment and the oldest working restaurant in Russia, the pride of Grand Hotel Europe. In this hotel, one of the first five-star hotels in St. Petersburg, famous Russian critic Vissarion Belinsky met with the writer Alexander Herzen, Ivan Turgenev met with Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Sergei Prokofiev with Dmitry Shostakovich. In 1877, Pyotr Tchaikovsky stayed here during his honeymoon. Every Friday restaurant Europa turns into a classical ballet theatre to honour the great composer. While waiters flit around in starched snow-white shirts with game velouté, foie gras crème brûlée and Kamchatka crab in champagne sauce, the Sugar Plum Fairy, Odile, Prince Désiré and other characters from Tchaikovskys works dance on the stage, to the live music of the chamber orchestra. LEuropes stage has seen contemporary stars too. Sir Elton John, inspired by the warm welcome he received at a banquet in LEurope, got on the stage to perform an improvised concert on the grand piano.
452A, Primorskoe Shosse;
11, Yuzhnaya Doroga
The two fish restaurants are what they call family restaurants, respectable and with a long menu, where, apart from fish and seafood, you can find multicoloured dumplings for the children and more typical dishes like plov and shashlik for the older generation. What sets this restaurant apart from a normal fish-house is that here, you can catch your own lunch or dinner. A distinctive feature of this place is a rare opportunity to get your lunch or dinner with your own hands. Both restaurants have gardens with artificial ponds with rare fish that you can catch. Its absolutely legal, and the staff will supply you with fishing gear. The catch trout, sterlet, sturgeon or even eel is handed over to the cooks. On your request, they can smoke it, grill it, steam it in spices, salt or dough, slow cook it with vegetables or in tin foil, or make it into a soup.
3, Ulitsa Kazanskaya
For anyone who loves meat and enjoys a good steak, this is a dream come true. Ginza Project restaurant group has gone further and decided that every visit to their steak house is a cause for celebration. In the evening, the folder with the bill can catch fire in the hands of the waiter, and the staff show card tricks, sing Dalida and dance with their trays like Fred Astaire. This is called the Staff Talent Show. The waiters, bartenders, hosts and even the cloakroom staff can sing, dance and do magic tricks. In 2018, Ribeye customers filmed one of the waiters sing Whitney Houstons I have Nothing, from The Bodyguard. The video got over 2 million views. Internet users were amazed, and the waiter, Suzanna Manukyan, became famous. She has worked in the restaurant since she was 16, is a professional singer and has even participa ed in the Russian Voice on federal TV.
11, Naberezhnaya Fontanki
In this alco-trash bar from the noughties, every night is a New Year party.Really? Really! The presidents speech, the Kremlin clock, dances around the New Year tree, sparklers and streamers, and best wishes for the year to come, all happen here on a daily basis. And everyone wears bunny costumes. But what is truly impressive, is how long Purga has managed to survive. In the early 2000s, the place was all the rage, but ten years later it was reduced to a second-class establishment. While 67 years ago, a local could come here for a shot in a post-ironic gesture, today, most have forgotten that this place exists. Only the rabbits serve as a sign of spring every year. Purga has its own little boat, which sets off as soon as navigation season begins. This is an extension of Purga bar, where drunk passengers wearing rabbit ears dance to cheesy pop music while cruising St. Petersburgs rivers and canals. When in early May you hear cheesy Russian pop music blaring through the city centre, look for the old Purga boat, swaying on the still-icy water in a haze of alcohol and smoke. Thats how you know that winter is over. Summer is on its way.
STIRKA 40° С
26, Kazanskaya Ulitsa
This laundry-cafe, over 10 years old, is the stuff of St. Petersburgs food and beverage history. The place is quite literally a laundry, the back room of the establishment has several washing machines available for customers. Those who come here to do their washing get complimentary tea or coffee. This is not the only thing that makes Stirka special. The place is a real oasis for the artistic bohème of St. Petersburg. Among the laundrys regulars are musicians, poets and illustrators; parties, gigs, poetry nights and exhibitions are held regularly. In the evening, the café turns into a bar and is filled with the citys creative underground culture. Stirka legend has it that the washing machines here were used by Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin and the Franz Ferdinand during their tour. But you dont need to be an artist, acclaimed or otherwise, to try their carrot cake, have a pint of cider or play a game of bac gammon. Everyone is welcome here.
27, Zagorodny Prospekt
The famous Russian restaurant Troika, opened in 1978, is known for its own Troika studio theatre, that specializes in shows that are an interesting combination of traditional Russian dance and cabaret. The place likes to position itself as a restaurant with a show programme. The show is on every day except Monday and Tuesday, starting at 20:30, and lasts over an hour, with one intermission. The show is impressive, but bordering on kitsch: swans in leotards and kokoshniks dance alongside mambo and rhumba, and contemporary choreography shares the stage with folk dance pastiche. In the 1990s and 2000s, this place received members of the Romanov Imperial family and Consuls General of many countries. Today, however, Troika has become more of an urban legend, a myth that everyone knows about, but no one has seen. The restaurants café, however, is very popular and makes exquisite cakes and pastries; many locals come here just for that.
4, Ulitsa Rubinshsteina;
53, Liteiny Prospekt
Ugryumochnaya, or the sad vodka bar and the first bar for sad people in the world, opened in 2018. The creators of this depressing bar certainly have a good imagination. The Mayakovski cocktail is served in a gun and the Joplin in a syringe. If a guest cries, they get a cocktail on the house, and printing the face or your enemy on toilet paper is available for a fee. Visitors are encouraged to be sad from the very doorstep, where they are handed a traditional funeral reception shot with a piece or rye bread and salt. There is a crying jacket on the wall and a support telephone with a voice menu where you can pick your problem, for instance conflict with boss and get advice on how to solve it. The owners assure that the bartenders all had a consultation from a psychologist on how to talk to customers in varying stages of depression and how to behave with drunk people. All in all, we can only applaud, or rather a shed a tear, for this concept, so elegant in essence and so different in practice. The idea seemed more appealing to the wider public rather than sophisticated troubled souls. Ugryumochnaya became a chain and four bars were opened in one year. Now, with karaoke and shisha, no one has time to contemplate existential sadness..