Dining in Russia remains a challenge for many, and taste buds that aren’t yet accustomed to authentic Russian cuisine (veal eggs included) suffer the most. While one could go the fast food route, surviving on Burger King and McDonalds for days on end is neither appetising nor nutritious. Given that it’s a corporate hub, Moscow is sufficiently supplied with its share of different cuisines. They’ve got Nobu, Jamie’s and a bunch of other cafes serving different kinds of cuisines around the main Kremlin square.
St. Petersburg still has a long way to go, and options to suit the Indian palette are few and far between. Walking around the city for 4 days, I entered any cafe that was pretty enough to lure me in. If you find yourself in the neighbourhood, take a moment to soothe your hunger pangs at some of the cutest cafes around town:
1. Cafe Singer:
A cafe hidden behind the second floor of a bookstore, overlooking the magnificent Kazan Cathedral. It’s a short walk from Church of the Saviour on Blood and right in the middle of Nevsky Prospekt. But it’s view and location having nothing on it’s food and desserts! Some of the best food I’ve had in Petersburg has been at Cafe Singer. You might encounter a waiting time during meal hours, but you can always spend that time exploring books around the store (they’re all in Russian, so you might only end up picking fridge magnets and post cards). This place exudes the charm of days bygone, ideal for a lazy afternoon or early-evening coffee. The food at Cafe Singer is heavenly! Not a single dish from the three I ordered was a disappointment, but it was the desserts that stole the show.
Recommended dishes: Chicken Bellini Pancakes with Sour Cream, Chicken Caesar Salad, Tuna Salad, Rose Sangria, Macaroons, Chocolate Cheese Cake and Napoleon Cake; and my taste buds were in for a treat.
2. Pickles and Jam:
This one isn’t located inside St. Petersburg, it’s 40 kms off the city next to Catherine Palace. There’s a good chance you will drive down to the palace anyway, and since it’s a half-day trip you’re likely to be famished from all the walking inside the palace and around the grounds. Head over to Pickles and Jam for the most amazing roasted chicken of all time! The options are limited and you might have to look hard for something even vaguely familiar. After a couple minutes spent scrutinising the menu, I settled for french fries infused with fresh herbs along with an entire roasted chicken and a bread basket. The cafe is cute and cosy with a white and grey decor that reminded me so much of Madame Mallory’s kitchen in 100 Foot Journey. They also sell jams and pickles (as the name points out) in tiny bottles you can take home to enjoy later.
3. Park Dzhuzeppe:
A glasshouse by the river, chandeliers and wine with candle lights and Italian food. The food was perfect and the menu was a breath of fresh air from my Russian food experiments. They have a cozy indoor seating as well, though the outdoor seating (it’s not really outdoors, just covered in glass) is far more beautiful.
4. Move N Pick:
In the midst of a park next to Church of the Saviour on blood, is a little clearing that faces the river. This clearing houses a tiny structure with a few chairs overlooking the river and the bridge. Walk in to find yourself in a tiny room with a strong scent of coffee and dessert, stocked with marshmallows, pastries, ice creams and sorbets, and a few chairs in front of a mantle covered in candle sticks, clocks, flowers and lamps. The cafe overlooks the river and the city and is one of my favourite spots to get a peaceful cup of coffee (topped with marshmallows, of course).
5. Chinese restaurant at Park Inn Pribalitiskaya:
It might be a significant ride away from the city and one you should only make if you’re truly starved for Chinese food (or if you’re staying at or close to the hotel). The decor is nothing to boast about but the food is delicious! The portions are small and the flavour subtle, but the menu has a lot of options to pick from and you’re sure to find something that appeals to you.