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Ten Places to Eat and Drink in Moscow

The food thing in Moscow is rather odd – with exceptions, it’s usually simpler and better quality in economical eateries than in pretentious upmarket restaurants. Why should that be? We could go off on a historical, aesthetic, cultural, existential rant that would lead us back to Lenin’s czars, via the Cold War, and end up reflecting on certain post-Perestroika aesthetic criteria affecting much of Russia’s ruling classes, Yeltsin’s new rich now happily ensconced in capitalism. That aversion to minimalism; that Russianhorror vacuiexuded largely by the prevailing fashion, architecture and – of course – gastronomy.

Hence, by adopting the mantra that less is more – an idea many Russians eschew – you will win the gastronomic battle in a city as fascinating as it is hostile, but overwhelmingly beautiful, so different from what we pictured in our mind’s-eye. A city in which you need to have all your wits about you, the impelling need to come to grips with everything which is the driving force behind any journey. And, remain impervious to the odd diatribe hurled at you by Russians of any age and condition, who vent all their pent-up energy just to make it quite clear from the word go that they detest you and everything you stand for.

And, once you have experienced the cold and have been shouted at in Russian; once you have strolled along those huge avenues designed for tanks rather than people, and discovered, to your dismay, that in many respects Moscow is more like London than Moscow, then you will realise you have gained greater insight into the 20th century. And, that nobody who has not borne the brunt of being yelled at forcefully in Russian at least once in their life is in a position to voice an opinion about last century, or about its legacy, its influence on us and, in short, about who we are.

However, as we dedicated long, endless hours of strolling about to existential reflection, we also ate. At times, amazingly poor food, in mainly pseudo-modern restaurants. At others, very tasty food, in those places we are interested in here – notably more modest restaurants. Here, then, is the selection of our ten favourite restaurants in Moscow:

1. Caffe del Parco (Via di Camaldoli, 7)

Take note, hipsters. This will be your favourite restaurant in Moscow, located in what is surely about to become your landmark district in the city – Red October – alongside the river, by way of a Russian version of Williamsburg-Malasaña-Shoreditch still in the making, and that is the best part about it. There aren’t many establishments there yet, although there is the odd interesting store, a bookshop and a good number of restaurants with recycled furniture, bars, DJs and nightlife. Caffe del Parco, recently opened by a Sicilian who settled in Moscow some years ago, is a charming, minimalist café-restaurant where they have recovered the nonna’s recipes and where we were lucky enough to taste one of the best risottos ever. Just another of the thousands of paradoxes Moscow metes out to the visitor.

2. Cafe Mart

Pressing on with our modern streak, this cafe, one of two branches of the Moscow Modern Art Museum, is located in a delightful garden adorned with statues by the Georgian artist, Tsereteli, and packed with families dedicated to the noble art of brunch, with a host of children scuttling about the dining-room or participating in one of the workshops held inside. Delicious coffee, pastries, sandwiches and the odd dish on the simple, unpretentious menu featuring a combination of French cuisine with Georgian specialities in a setting that could well be somewhere in Berlin or Amsterdam.

3. Harat’s Pub

This small, cosy Irish pub on Arbat street, a broad pedestrian avenue that acts as the nerve centre of the city’s shopping and leisure milieu, happens to be one of the few options for having a drink. It is an unusual spot, run by a friendly Muscovite and former resident of Andalusia who loves Latin culture to the extent that he cares less about heading an Irish pub and is unfazed by its siting in one of Moscow’s mainstream precincts where one would expect to find some Russification, rather than forays into the cosmopolitan. He and his rock clientele seem to be enthusiasts of the Spanish beat, so that when you step inside you are hit by a full-blown “Lega-lega-li-za-ción” seemingly blaring out from some boomboxes. Indeed, the crowd here are fans of Spain, Ska-P, imported birras and Ireland in all their magnitude, and this strange yet endearing mix makes for one of Moscow’s most entertaining bars.

4.  Varenichnaya N.1 (Arbat, 29)

This is our favourite restaurant in the city, an unpretentious, pleasant, centrally located and economical eatery also on Arbat street which offers traditional Russian cuisine in the form of such dishes as vareniki (a pasta pie with various fillings, topped with a delicious sauce), pelmini (a similar dish of Ukrainian origin) and chebureki (traditional meat-filled pasties). They also have a selection of traditional pancakes, cocktails with or without alcohol, coffee and homemade pastries. All set in large, crowded but very cosy premises with motley adornments revealing extraordinary good taste juxtaposed with others striking one as just the opposite. This matters not the least when you sink your teeth into one of the economically priced delicacies served by charming staff who, surprisingly, are able to communicate in English.

5. Varvary

A rundown of gastronomy in Moscow is not complete without mention of Anatoly Komm, the country’s first chef to earn a Michelin star, who has an avant-garde restaurant offering haute cuisine known as Varvary. If you can afford it, it is worth booking a table in the dining-room run by this eccentric and unclassifiable chef who applies the latest cutting-edge techniques to a base of traditional Russian cooking (soups, smoked food). Komm regrets the terrible autarky Russia is going through and the indigenous people’s reluctance to open up to influences from neighbouring Europe, and he must know what he’s talking about. This is not the case with his luxury Muscovite restaurant, which offers molecular cuisine for customers with informed tastes, worlds apart from those “new rich”, as Kromm puts it, practically uneducated and with rather pompous tastes. The dishes crafted by this sensitive, art-loving man are noteworthy for their spectacular aesthetic, among other things.

6. Monsieur Croissant (Baumanskaya, 42)

You need to move away from the centre and approach the area of Baumanskaya, which we strongly urge you to do if you want to discover the real Moscow, which is much warmer and welcoming, far from the inclemencies of a centre as hostile as it is spectacular. And, if you decide to confront the beautiful although complicated Moscow metro system, this small restaurant is a great choice, whether you want to breakfast on one of its buns or pastries or have a simple but well prepared lunch, such as pasta with vegetables or the soup of the day. Nearby is a Hotel Mercure, where we happen to be staying, at a laughable price compared to downtown rates and just two metro stops from Red Square.

7. Tamerlan

This mega-restaurant with its mock luxury comes with a clientele dressed as if they’re were all attending a wedding downing vodkas like they were water. This Asian restaurant is a good option if you’re feeling like some glamour, as the Eurasian cuisine is outstanding, the price, reasonable and the decor, striking and attractive.

8. Chemodan (Gogolevskiy Blvd., 25/1)

It would be unforgivable to leave Moscow without having dined at least once in Chemodan, a delightful, absolutely unclassifiable restaurant that breaks the mould of what one would imagine contemporary Moscow to be like. Chemodan is located in the vicinity of Arbat and has an ambience (with its grand lamps, wallpaper, carpets and paintings hung on the walls) more reminiscent of a bar of intellectuals in the Paris of the twenties than what you would expect in Putin’s Russia. As you open the door and are met by a charming little old man, with the sound of Bésame mucho in the background, you know you’ve come to the right place. There, you give yourself over to cuisine with Russian roots, selecting from a well-worked menu featuring pampered, sensitively crafted dishes from all over the country.

9. Café Pushkin

Only if you have around €300 in your pocket should you venture into Café Pushkin, a legendary locale which is worth mentioning for figuring in all possible world rankings for both the best restaurants and the most beautiful ones. Don, therefore, your best attire and take your place like some Cinderella in this majestic environment lined with fine woods and where even the most secluded corner is lavished with tasteful luxury. Prepare to savour Russian cuisine with French touches – or, might that be the other way around? Despite the charm of the establishment, however, the dishes may not satisfy those diners seeking haute cuisine in its pure state.

10. Beverly Hills Diner

Lastly, a big lark, which we’re eager to not leave unmentioned as it is surely the most telling joke we have seen in Moscow. This is the most American of eateries, where you would expect Olivia Newton-John to make her entry at any time. It stands in downtown Moscow, with neon lights that appear to be proudly blaring out to the world that – yes – they won the Cold War. You bite your tongue and see for yourself, with some resentment, that you’re not quite sure what victory is being celebrated. You realise that, after so much salmon and Russian sauces, what you really fancy is the pleasure of the familiar, being able to finally sink your teeth into a hamburger.

Come and experience it for yourself! Check out our flights here

Text and photos by Laura Conde (Gastronomistas)

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Kalinka, Kalinka, Kalinka moyá

¡Kalinka, Kalinka, Kalinka moyá! Can't get Tetri´s song out of your head? Easy..., the same thing happens to us as well. We have just landed in Moscow and we are going to eat a lot! Going out in Moscow and try some restaurants can be an amazing and enriching experience where you will discover both the delicious flavors of Russian cuisine and customs of the Russians, which may seem a little peculiar.

The dishes of Russian cuisine are usually quite caloric, due to the harsh winters where greater caloric intake is needed. The Russians give much importance to the ritual of food and like to make life around the stove.

A typical meal starts with a Russian zakuski (appetizers) that can be salads, and small plates of pickled fish like pod Seliódka shuboi (herring coat) or a pirogi (dumplings) meat with vegetables, and always accompanied by a good shots of vodka.

As is typical starter soups, both hot and cold in winter and summer. Russian soups are very strong and more than a starter for us are almost a full meal, since all carry vegetables, meat, chicken, fish ... The most popular are the borsch, made of beets, cabbage, potato and meat; and solianka, made of meat or fish, with an acidic due to the lemmon they put on it. Another soup is shi made ​​of cabbage and Uja, made of fish.

Main courses can be stroganoff meat, shasliki (a typical meat kebabs from Caucasus), golubtsi (cabbage leaves stuffed with meat) or the dish we liked the most: pelmeni (a kind of Russian ravioli filled with meat, potato or vegetable)

Many dishes can be served with smetana, a sour cream sauce flavored particular that we loved. The most popular drink in Russia, in spite of the general though, it's not the vodka but the tea. For dessert, along with tea, you can taste some delicious blini (pancakes) or marlenka cake, something like a strudel.

My-My

At Mu-Mu restaurants they serve typical Russian food. It is a self-service restaurant with tiny portions, so it is ideal to try different dishes. They are very popular among Muscovites and it is well priced.

Jachapuri,10 Bolshoi Gnezdnikovsky per.

It is a nice and central Georgian food restaurant. The food is very good and it is not too expensive. Totally recommended.

Pushkin Cafe, Tverskoy bulvar, 26A

It is considered the best restaurant in Moscow. It is a nice vintage place, very well preserved where can you can taste high level dishes of the Russian cuisine. Good service and medium-high but reasonable price.

A couple of features to consider when venturing out for lunch or dinner in Moscow: dinner can be served until the minute they close the place, but they will not wait until you finish the meal, so if you do not want to have to swallow all in five minutes, we recommend not arrive too late. Russians do not like you to pay them with coins, so if you're planning to spend those last loose rubles at a dinner, do better buying souvenirs in Red Square, or you will receive disapproving look from the waiter.

Приятного аппетита!!

By Nadia Polo

solianka by Шнапс | stroganoff by Pittaya Sroilong | zakuski by Timothy Post | pelmeni by Bernd Hutschenreuther

Makes you want to go, right? Do it! Check out our prices here!

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Four Bridges With Views of the Seine

Old, new, designer, romantic, cold, practical, beautiful, iron, ornamented… these are some ways of describing the thirty-seven bridges that span the river Seine on its passage through Paris. Any visit to the French capital that excludes this beautiful river and these priceless engineering works would be tantamount to missing part of its soul. This is no overstatement. For starters, the banks of the Seine and the monuments sited there were included in UNESCO’s 1991 World Heritage listing. A stroll along those shores is a walk through centuries of history – and art – which we constantly encounter along the way: Notre Dame, the Sainte-Chapelle, the Orsay Museum, the Tuileries Garden, Place de la Concordia, the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais, the Eiffel Tower, to name but a few.

Another highlight you are likely to come across on your walk are the magnificent bridges. Apart from conveying you from one side of the river to the other, they afford the best views of the city. Following is our selection of four of the most popular bridges, which are bound to end up in your photos during your tour of Paris, help you cross the Seine in search of some landmark or provide the backdrop to you stealing a kiss from your beloved.

Pont Neuf

Despite its name (meaning New Bridge), it happens to have the honour of being the oldest and longest bridge in the city. In 1578, work commenced on what was to become the first stone bridge built across the river Seine, as until then the bridges had all been wooden – hence the name. Located at one end of the Ile de la Cité, it has two spans – one connecting the left bank to the Ile de la Cité and the other linking up with the right bank. It is the classical bridge one takes when going on the essential visits to Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sainte-Chapelle.

Pont des Arts

The Pont des Arts, also known as the Passerelle des Arts, located in the 6th Arrondissement, was built between 1801 and 1804 and was the first iron bridge in Paris. What visitors will see today, however, is a replica of the original construction, built from 1981 to 1984, as the original was severely damaged during the two World Wars. The views it affords of the Ile de la Cité make it one of the most frequently visited spots by sightseers and also artists, who tend to come here in search of the best picture-postcard view of the city. In recent years it has also become a place of pilgrimage for young couples seeking to seal their love by placing a padlock on the railing.

Pont d’Alma

Located alongside Alma Square, which features a replica of the Flame in Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty, it was commissioned by Napoleon III in 1854 to commemorate the Battle of Alma during the Crimean War. In previous times, the Zouave statue – one of the four statues adorning it – was used to measure water levels in times of flooding. Nowadays it has become a place of pilgrimage to pay tribute to Princess Diana, as the tunnel situated behind this bridge is where she died in a car accident in August 1997.

Pont Alexandre III

This elegant bridge, classified as a French “historic monument”, was built for the Exposition Universelle in 1900 and dedicated to Tsar Alexander III of Russia. Construction on the bridge got under way in 1896 in the Beaux Arts style of the Third Republic. Sited between the 7th and 8th Arrondissement, it links the Invalides to the Grand Palais des Beaux-Arts and the Petit Palais. A stroll across the bridge provides a magnificent panoramic view of the area, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Book your Vueling to Paris and roam the banks of the Seine in search of some of its magnificent bridges and beautiful views.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by stanze, Bruno Pereira, Yann Caradec, Barry

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Tallinn the Perfect PreChristmas Getaway

Northern Europe with its markets and ad hoc decoration is the perfect destination for anyone seeking to get into the Christmas spirit before actually celebrating the festivity with their family. One city with a must-visit flea market is Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, which boasts one of the best preserved medieval towns on the Baltic. The historic precinct, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997, is ringed by walled fortifications which have withstood all wars. Any further reason for visiting Tallinn? Well, it has one of the most beautiful seafronts in the world and, according to Condé Nast Traveler, it is due to become one of the most prosperous cities of 2017. What else?

Tallinn was a major commercial hub during the period when the Hanseatic League dominated the Baltic and North Sea trade routes. At that time it was known by the Germanic name Reval and such was its prosperity that it could afford to have two mayors and twenty-four municipal councillors who only worked alternate years. The Old Town dates from medieval times and is arranged around the City Hall, which bears the city’s symbol, “Vana Toomas” (Old Thomas), a weathervane in the shape of a mercenary holding a sword in one hand and a flag in the other. Noteworthy, too, is the Lutheran St Mary’s Cathedral, also known as the Dome Church, in bare Gothic style, and the Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, dating from 1900, located on Toompea hill. Danes, Germans, Swedes, Russians and, lastly, Soviets have left their mark on Estonia’s history. Prominent from the latter period is the cinema, now one of the major leisure centres in Tallinn, and the network of inner patios scattered across this Baltic city.

You can’t say you’ve been to Tallinn unless you walk down Pikk jalg (Long Leg) Street and Lühike jalg (Short Leg) Street and stop to take in amazing iconic views of the city from the Patkuli viewing platform overlooking the sea, the harbour and the Church of Oleviste (St Olaf). Neither will you be seasoned experts on the capital of Estonia unless you take a stroll through the modern Rotermanni district, or if you fail to laugh on hearing the names of two of the best known towers on the city wall – “Look in the Kitchen” and “Fat Margaret”.

The inhabitants of Tallinn enjoy going to the beach and one of the most crowded in summer is Pirita (Brigid). With its fine white sand, locals have no qualms about bathing in the wild, frigid waters of the Baltic, where freshwater fish like the pike can also be caught. This coastal district has a marina where athletes who took part in the 1980 Moscow Olympic sailing events were housed.

The Museums of Tallinn

Tallinn boasts a plethora of green areas and museums. Kadriorg Park is home to the palace of the same name, commissioned by the wife of Czar Peter I of Russia. The palace houses the Art Museum of Estonia which exhibits works by Italian, Dutch, German and Russian artists, among others, ranging from the 16th to the 19th century. Nearby is the Kumu Art Museum, one of Tallinn’s most modern and unique buildings, structured in limestone and copper, which hosts all kinds of exhibitions throughout the year, both permanent and temporary.

Other cultural venues well worth seeing, particularly for families travelling with children, include the Rocca al Mare Museum, located in a large wooded park with thatched roof farm cottages dating from the 18th to the 20th century, a timber church and a school. Another highlight is the Estonian Maritime Museum, which features such emblematic nautical exhibits as the Suur Tõll icebreaker – the largest surviving icebreaker in Europe – the Kalev mine-layer and the submarine Lembit.

Make a point of visiting the capital of Estonia – book your Vueling to Tallinn here.

Text by Tus Destinos

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