I splurged on a $60 lunch at an iconic Moscow restaurant that's inside an 18th-century Russian aristocrat's mansion. Here's what it was like.

cafe pushkinKatie Warren/Business Insider

Moscow may not have any Michelin-starred restaurants, but it's home to its fair share of fine dining establishments.

Two Moscow restaurants - White Rabbit and Twins Garden - made the 2019 World's 50 Best Restaurants list, a ranking based on the opinions of international chefs, food writers, and "travelling gourmets."

But one of the most iconic restaurants in the city is Café Pushkin, named after Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin. On TripAdvisor, it has more than 8,100 reviews - and a higher rating than White Rabbit. Reviewers describe it as "legendary," "iconic," and "like visiting a museum."

Café Pushkin opened in 1999 in a renovated 18th-century Baroque mansion on Tverskoy Boulevard in central Moscow. The boulevard was a famous hang-out spot for Moscow high society after it opened in 1796, and Pushkin himself was often seen strolling there, according to the restaurant's website.

While on a 12-day trip to Russia earlier this year, I had to go see what the hype was all about. On top of the solid reviews, a local had highly recommended that I eat there.

So one day, I went to Café Pushkin for a solo lunch - here's what it was like.

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Café Pushkin is an iconic Russian-French restaurant in central Moscow, named after Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

Café Pushkin is an iconic Russian-French restaurant in central Moscow, named after Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

The restaurant opened in 1999 in a renovated 19th-century Baroque mansion on Tverskoy Boulevard, a famous hang-out spot for Moscow high society where Pushkin himself was often seen strolling.

According to Café Pushkin's website, the mansion was built by a Saint Petersburg nobleman in the 1780s and later passed to a German aristocrat before becoming a pharmacy and finally, a café.

During the holidays, Café Pushkin is lit up in festive, dazzling lights.

During the holidays, Café Pushkin is lit up in festive, dazzling lights.

I didn't get to see this display, unfortunately, as I visited in the summertime.

Earlier this year, I spent 12 days traveling through Russia, and I couldn't leave Moscow without trying out the restaurant that TripAdvisor reviewers describe as "legendary," "iconic," and "like visiting a museum."

Earlier this year, I spent 12 days traveling through Russia, and I couldn't leave Moscow without trying out the restaurant that TripAdvisor reviewers describe as "legendary," "iconic," and "like visiting a museum."

Source: TripAdvisor

A man in a white polo shirt and jeans opened the heavy wooden doors for me as I walked into the restaurant.

A man in a white polo shirt and jeans opened the heavy wooden doors for me as I walked into the restaurant.

The hostess stood at a wooden podium by the door.

The hostess stood at a wooden podium by the door.

I didn't have a reservation, but for a weekday lunch, I apparently didn't need one. The hostess, who spoke perfect English, immediately led me past a wooden bar decorated with antiques to be seated.

I didn't have a reservation, but for a weekday lunch, I apparently didn't need one. The hostess, who spoke perfect English, immediately led me past a wooden bar decorated with antiques to be seated.

She seated me at a small corner table near a window.

She seated me at a small corner table near a window.

The restaurant wasn't too busy. Underneath the soft hum of conversation, I could hear classical piano music playing.

The restaurant wasn't too busy. Underneath the soft hum of conversation, I could hear classical piano music playing.

The male servers at Café Pushkin wore black pants with crisp white shirts, red vests, and long white aprons.

The male servers at Café Pushkin wore black pants with crisp white shirts, red vests, and long white aprons.

The women wore long red skirts, white shirts and aprons, and red ribbons tying their hair back.

The women wore long red skirts, white shirts and aprons, and red ribbons tying their hair back.

Even though Café Pushkin opened in 1999, I felt like I was in a museum rather than a restaurant — especially when I looked up at the ornate ceiling.

Even though Café Pushkin opened in 1999, I felt like I was in a museum rather than a restaurant — especially when I looked up at the ornate ceiling.

To my right, I had a view right into a greenhouse-type room with skylights and greenery hanging from beams on the ceiling.

To my right, I had a view right into a greenhouse-type room with skylights and greenery hanging from beams on the ceiling.

After taking a few minutes to observe the décor and take some photos, I checked out the menu.

After taking a few minutes to observe the décor and take some photos, I checked out the menu.

For starters, Café Pushkin offers several different types of salad, including a grilled duck breast salad for 970 rubles (about $15) and a crab meat salad with fresh cucumber and papaya for 1790 rubles (about $28).

There were also home-made mini pies, which sounded more appealing to me and cost between 170 and 250 rubles ($2.65 to $3.90) per order. I decided to get one with potatoes and mushrooms to start.

But first, wine.

But first, wine.

I took a chance and ordered a glass of Russian wine, even though I'd never tasted Russian wine in my life.

It was fine, but not my favorite.

As I waited for my appetizer and sipped my wine, I noticed a small yet genius touch that I'd seen at another restaurant in Moscow but don't recall seeing anywhere else: a little stool to put your purse on.

As I waited for my appetizer and sipped my wine, I noticed a small yet genius touch that I'd seen at another restaurant in Moscow but don't recall seeing anywhere else: a little stool to put your purse on.

This is apparently a thing at fancy restaurants, which I obviously do not frequent.

About 10 minutes after I got my wine, my potato and mushroom mini-pie arrived. It was soft and flaky like a pastry, with the slightest crunch on the outer edge.

About 10 minutes after I got my wine, my potato and mushroom mini-pie arrived. It was soft and flaky like a pastry, with the slightest crunch on the outer edge.

The inside was piping hot. I ate the whole thing in about four bites, and it was delicious.

Mere seconds after I'd finished my mini-pie, my second dish arrived: a sea scallop and trout carpaccio that was almost too beautiful to eat.

Mere seconds after I'd finished my mini-pie, my second dish arrived: a sea scallop and trout carpaccio that was almost too beautiful to eat.

But eat it I did. The scallops and trout were sprinkled with chives and micro greens and drizzled with a mustard vinaigrette. Tiny adorable flowers made out of radishes and cucumbers were nestled on the side.

The dish was light and the fish tasted very fresh. I ate it with a roll of soft and fluffy bread that the server offered me from a basket.

The carpaccio was 940 rubles, or about $14.70.

When it came to ordering the main dish, I'd briefly thought about being more adventurous, but then I decided to stick to what had quickly became one of my favorite Russian dishes: pelmeni, or traditional Russian dumplings, usually served with sour cream.

When it came to ordering the main dish, I'd briefly thought about being more adventurous, but then I decided to stick to what had quickly became one of my favorite Russian dishes: pelmeni, or traditional Russian dumplings, usually served with sour cream.

I got the pork-lamb-and-beef pelmeni. The dumplings were dusted with a generous amount of dill, which is apparently Russia's most beloved herb that they love to sprinkle on anything and everything.

I'm not usually a big fan of sour cream, but at Café Pushkin it tasted fresh and homemade, and the tanginess seemed essential to go along with the dumplings.

Café Pushkin is also famous for its caviar, which ranges from 850 rubles (about $13) for salmon caviar with buckwheat crepes to 14,200 rubles (about $222) for an assortment of sterlet, sturgeon, beluga, and golden caviar with crepes.

The pelmeni did not last long.

The pelmeni did not last long.

By that time, I was so full I could barely finish the last couple of dumplings.

But the meal wasn't over yet.

To wrap things up, I got the restaurant's special Café Pushkin dessert.

To wrap things up, I got the restaurant's special Café Pushkin dessert.

Café Pushkin is known for its extensive dessert menu, which includes lemon pie, honey cake, an apple-and-caramel chocolate mousse, millefeuille, and many more.

Ultimately, I was glad I went with the classic namesake option, which cost 960 rubles, or about $15.

Layers of pistachio and raspberry sorbet were covered with a chocolate shell and shaved almonds, with a soft crust on the bottom. It was surrounded by some kind of unidentified yet delectable creamy sauce.

The total came out to 3,925 rubles, or about $61.

The total came out to 3,925 rubles, or about $61.

It's not a price I would typically pay for a weekday lunch, but this was no ordinary lunch.

The décor made me feel like I had traveled back in time, and the food and service were both top-notch. Each of my dishes seemed to arrive at exactly the right time — not too quickly nor too slowly.

I was surprised to realize that I'd spent two hours at Café Pushkin. It doesn't seem like the place to stop in for a quick bite, but rather to enjoy a leisurely meal in a setting that feels like an opulent museum.

While the restaurant is undeniably touristy, that does nothing to detract from its appeal.

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