Some time ago I wanted to make a series of posts on various St Petersburg cafes which seem to be experiencing a particular boom right now. Some of them disappear, new ones spring up and I’m in no way able to keep up with this process. So in the end I combined my posts into one, offering you a selection of two national cuisine places and one spot for just hanging out.
Let’s first talk about a small cafe situated on the corner of the streets with super-Soviet names (one of them is Socialist and the other is called after the Pravda newspaper) – Khachapuri i vino (Khachapuri and Wine), immediately announcing two probably most beloved items from the Georgian cuisine (at least for vegetarians) – the cheese pie and the wine. Georgian cuisine has always been popular in Russia. It’s the ideal get-together comfort food which is supposed to be quite hearty, fatty and well, abundant! There’s also this sharing side to it which you will also find in the Greek tradition (sharing meze, the appetizers, etc). I think I know more Georgian cafes in St Petersburg than places with Russian food. And since the Georgian and Caucasian dishes have long been considered a must on the Russian table, I usually prefer to go there instead of trying to find something ultra-Russian.
It is probably one of the cheapest places to eat khachapuri as normally they cost twice as much (the least expensive was cheaper than soup). Although the size is also considerably smaller which however helps if you are not that super hungry to devour an entire pie (remember that the Georgian – and Caucasian in general – portions are big ones!). So I would say that the prices are medium, probably because this is a cafe and not a restaurant. I’ve just discovered that they have opened another cafe, also in the center.
We saw the lady who is in charge of the kitchen and I think she really knows her stuff 🙂 Also my father who grew up in the Caucasus appreciated the meat and the kharcho soup he ate there. As for me – and this is unfortunately almost a rule – as a vegetarian I have to choose between something with dough or a salad / soup. I didn’t really like it there as the salad (pictured above) was not that very fresh and the khachapuri was a bit too thin on the cheese-side than I would expect. I can’t recall if we tried the wine there but judging from the name it should be at least quite varied there. Ah, now I remember that I drank berry juice, mors.
The other cafe with a national cuisine is Bekitzer which is situated in this very building (the top of the tower is occupied by an artist), the spot is known as Pyat’ uglov or Five Corners. Four streets meet and create this well-known central place in St Petersburg. Rubinstein Street where this cafe is located is actually one of those restaurant streets of the city: almost every building houses some sort of a food place!
The cafe positions itself as a Jewish street-food bar – the idea exactly is to re-create such a place where all kinds of people can meet and eat. When we were there back in summer 2015 we did feel as if we suddenly moved to a busy street somewhere in Israel, with people talking very loudly, the open kitchen and open doors. I don’t know how it looks like in winter but if you are searching for a quiet place, this is not one for sure 🙂
We had some falafel with humus and a lentil salad which we decided to finish with this great Napoleon-style cake (and here I mean the traditional layered Napoleon cake with lots of cream inside which is so adored by Russians) which is much lighter than the original and is made with matzo flatbread instead of pastry. I would definitely recommend trying it – especially on such a plate! 🙂
The food, the plates and the design are pretty zesty and bright. As for the prices, I would call this a rather affordable place where you can sample such dishes which you will hardly ever come across in most of the places in the city. They also have take-away service as a street-food place would and you can even try and celebrate your special day there with a company – and though you will obviously strain your vocal cords, it will be a very loud celebration 🙂
They say the designers tried to recreate some of the graffiti you can find in Tel Aviv. We were sitting just next to the open kitchen and observing the process of food making. I also like the fact that they chose this rough and ostensibly minimalist style which adds to the authenticity of the place. There’s also a long bar opposite the entrance – with the limited sitting space inside I guess it’s the only chance you can find a sit there in the evenings.
And finally one of the places operating according to the time-spent-in-the-cafe principle, called Anticafe in Russia. You pay by the hour and get some tea and cookies as a bonus. There are usually some games, books and even musical instruments. I cannot say anything about the cuisine though, as I have only tried tea there. The menu usually includes things like cookies, sandwiches etc but it can be more varied and substantial than that too – normally without any particular ‘specialization’. By the way, I have the same electric (!) samovar from the late 1980s:
We have a number of such places all over the central St Petersburg where people apparently need some space to meet, read or eat without being constrained to cede place for new customers. You can come and celebrate your birthday in such a cafe or use it for a presentation, a meeting of a club etc. These cafes also tend to turn into some kind of artsy places with concerts, lectures and stuff. This one is rather close to the Hermitage and it is called Miracle Anticafe. Inside it’s such a mixture of odd and just old objects that it’s somehow feels like you’re in a very cozy kommunalka with a view to a typical St Pete courtyard 🙂
and a typical St Pete wall (photo taken in late March 2015)
I hope I have given you an idea of what St Petersburg cafes look – and taste – like!
Adding this post to my vast St Petersburg series.