“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”, with snow falling outside the windows, we would be drinking hot chocolate and talking of another things… ”
1999 was the year when Cafe Pushkin stepped out of the the song “Nathalie” by Gilbert Becaud to become reality. It now is one of the more well known restaurants in Moscow abroad and is most likely mentioned in any travel guide about Russia. This is also why the dining room didn’t lack foreigners looking for the very same thing I was after, a true (?) Russian dining experience. The interior sure is impressive, taking you back to a bygone era that not many living souls can tell us about. If the food doesn’t satisfy you can always let your eyes wander around from the paintings in the ceilings to the well dressed waiters making the logistics look like a dance.
We were directed down to the cloakroom as soon as we entered the restaurant where our jackets were well taken care of.
What would a trip to Russia be without trying caviar with blini? Blini is a type of pancake that is connected with the religious event Maslenitsa to celebrate the end of winter. They can be quite different from restaurant to restaurant. These were made of buckwheat. They had some thickness, were more spongy and buttery. There were two options for the caviar: salmon and sturgeon. Sturgeon would be my first choice if it wasn’t priced at RUB 4725 (~£100), almost ten times the price of a portion of salmon caviar. The reason behind this shocking price for a starter is scarcity caused by the ban of wild sturgeon caviar production between 2008 and 2011. Nevertheless the blini with smetana (sour cream) and salmon caviar was very good.
Next dish we tried was Borscht. This was one of the best dishes I had during the trip. It left a deep impression and was well above my expectations. I liked the mingling of many different flavours. There was so much going on in the bowl with pieces of apples, beets and beef in the well spiced tomato based soup. Again sour cream is provided with the dish for added richness. I don’t now if the tomatoes were from Azerbaijan (read here) but the soup was good enough.
Another classic, Beef Stroganoff came after the Borscht. The partitioned plate made me think of the diet pyramid but with the big partition filled with meat instead of vegetables. The beef in creamy mushroom sauce was complemented with fried potatoes and pickled cucumber. Although not as eye opening as the Borscht the Beef Stroganoff still had its qualities. The lower half of the plate more than made up for the uninspiring potatoes and pickles.
I finished the meal with a pot of Pu’er tea which was surprisingly good. Both of us were so full that we never made it to dessert which was a pity since they are supposed to be good. There is a good confectionary next door also called Cafe Pushkin and is headed by Emmanuel Ryon, winner of Pastry World Championship 1999 and Meilleurs Ouvriers de France of ice cream.
Every aspect of the meal was well done except for a small dent on the main. The service was discreet and seamless. There was no single waiter asking whether things were good, because they didn’t really have to. It’s a very good place to people watch, be it wealthy Russians or curious tourists. I think Cafe Pushkin is well worth a visit, if not for the food then for the ambiance.
For more photos from Cafe Pushkin, please visit my Flickr set.
Tverskoy Blvd, 26A
Moscow, Russia 125009
Tel. +7 (495) 739-00-33