Imperial Dining in St. Petersburg
posh pancakes to horseradish vodka
Built literally on a swamp by its namesake, Tsar Peter the Great, St Petersburg was once imperial Russia’s capital. Laced with canals and chock-a-block with evocative Tsarist-era architecture, it’s often compared to Venice. Despite losing its title as the capital city, St Petersburg still a glittering jewel in Russia’s historical and cultural crown.
When eating out in St Petersburg, you are guaranteed a picturesque walk to your meal. From traditional Russian cuisine in the impressive historical center to cozy canal-side eateries, the shades of imperial grandeur only add to the mise-en-scène. The ruble’s recent collapse means even the city’s most luxurious restaurants are suddenly a lot more affordable. Here are five places to visit.
Founded in 1785, this sumptuously decorated restaurant on Nevsky Prospekt has seen some famous visitors over the years, including some of the greats of Russian literature like Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Nikolai Gogol.
Frequented by a mixture of business people, wealthy locals and tourists from the nearby top-end hotels, Palkin serves high-quality ,“Imperial” Russian food. Unusual fish dishes include Karelian trout poached in champagne and lemon (1,690 rubles/$25) and black cod with beetroot risotto and scallops (1,640 rubles/$24).
To really splash out, try the black caviar and wheat pancakes (6,840 rubles/$103).
Open 12:00 PM – 11:30 PM daily. 47 Nevsky Prospekt; tel +7 812 703 5371; palkin.ru
Baklazhan serves good-quality, good-value food from across Central Asia and the Caucasus region.
Located on the first floor of a busy shopping center, a short walk from Nevsky Prospekt, the specialties in this bright and friendly restaurant include aubergine-based salads (baklazhan means “aubergine” in Russian) and Georgian food.
Try the lobio (fried red beans with herbs and spices – 369 rubles/$5.50) or the adjarian khachapuri, a steaming hot cheese pastry with a raw egg in the middle (449 rubles/$6.75). The latter Georgian delicacy is a lot tastier than it sounds.
Open 10:00 AM – 11:00 PM daily. 30 Ligovsky Prospekt; tel +7 812 677 7372; en.ginza.ru/spb/restaurant/baklajan
St Petersburg is justifiably proud of its literary traditions, and the Gogol, just off Nevsky Prospekt, recreates the atmosphere of a 19th-century writer’s apartment, as well as his dining habits. Consisting of a number of tasteful rooms, Gogol serves some great traditional Russian dishes, from freshly salted fillet of wild Siberian whitefish served with a shot of horseradish vodka (420 rubles/$6) to chicken Kiev stuffed with foie gras, nuts and herbs (690 rubles/$10).
Gogol is popular with tourists seeking something off the beaten path, as well as well-off locals.
Open daily 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM (midnight Fri-Sat). 8 Malaya Morskaya Street; tel +7 812 312 6097; eng. restaurant-gogol.ru
Named after the novel by Dostoyevsky, the Idiot restaurant has remained popular since opening in 1997.
It serves tasty, good-value traditional Russian food, with plenty of meat-free options, including ukha (fish soup – 320 rubles/$5) and pelmeni (dumplings with mushrooms – 390 rubles/$6).
Overflowing book shelves and working gramophones add to the atmosphere, making this a favorite haunt for the city’s artists and intellectuals. It’s a good place to meet English speakers, as it’s situated within walking distance of St Isaac’s Cathedral and the State Hermitage Museum.
Open 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM daily. 82 Naberezhnaya Reki Moyki; tel +7 812 315 1675; idiot-spb.com
If you are seized by the need for a quality curry while in St Petersburg, don’t despair.
Tandoor, founded in the late 1990s, is a veteran of the city’s restaurant scene and offers tasty, well-priced Indian food in an elegant setting just around the corner from the Hermitage.
Bengali fish curry (600 rubles/$9) and rogan josh (700 rubles/$10.50) are among the menu’s many highlights.
One word of warning – Tandoor’s curries are made mild for Russian taste buds, which are largely unaccustomed to the delights of Indian cooking. So if you want your curry spicy, let the friendly staff know.
Open 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM (1:00 AM weekends). 10 Admiralteysky Prospect; tel +7 812 312 3886; tandoor-spb.ru
Clockwise from top left: Palkin; Gogol; Tandoor; Idiot