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.
Katie Warren/Business Insider
- Café Pushkin is the one of the most iconic restaurants in Moscow.
- Named after Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin, the restaurant opened in 1999 in a renovated 18th-century Baroque mansion in central Moscow.
- On TripAdvisor, it has more than 8,100 reviews with many describing it as "legendary," "iconic," and "like visiting a museum."
- On the advice of a local, I went to Café Pushkin for lunch one day.
- The food was delicious - albeit expensive - and I did feel like I was eating in a museum.
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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.
Café Pushkin is an iconic Russian-French restaurant in central Moscow, named after Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.
During the holidays, Café Pushkin is lit up in festive, dazzling lights.
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."
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
But first, wine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The pelmeni did not last long.
To wrap things up, I got the restaurant's special Café Pushkin dessert.
The total came out to 3,925 rubles, or about $61.
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