EAT in Moscow:
Opulent is not enough to describe the Baccarat: There, you experience the successful fusion of crystal and design, of French cuisine and Russian influences, of ancient nobility and state-of-the-art interior. Baccara is well-known: It once was the manufactory of crystal chandeliers for the old Tsars. Today, there is lustre still, but money is made on crystal costume jewellery as well, a Russian Swarovski so to speak. And when Baccarat meets Philippe Starck, the result is a perfect combination of chic and elegant, of sparkling chandeliers and white designer furniture. The best of glamour is accompanied by the best of season meal from the kitchen. In between sparkling crystal and under luxurious stucco you enjoy Foie-Gras tarte flambée or sea snails, and when you are through with dinner in this glittering dreamland, a crystal aquarium awaits you on your way out. Only a fairy is missing to make the fairytale complete with the tip of her wand.
Moscow picks up pace - from a culinary point of view. One by one new venues open in the Russian capital that please lifestyle hipsters with a combination of hip architecture and tasty and affordable food, similar to those in other metropolises in the world. The café Domozhilov on the Novinskiy passage in the popular shopping area Arbat is one of them. That's the spot where restaurateur Gennadiy Kostrov and chef Ivan Domozhilov, two veterans of the gastronomy scene, came up with an idea: an urban café, with a straight-line interior and an extensive menu with dishes at affordable prices. Architect Mernaskoni was responsible for the furnishing. He put a prolonged bar and a black metal wall into the sterile venue with open kitchen. In order to avoid an industrial feel he used wooden flooring, tables and chairs. The food is taken care of by the chefs: a selection of hamburgers, sandwiches and soups, light salads, wok dishes and desserts. Also on the programme: regular film screenings. A take-away is currently worked on.
What sounds like a second-class porn is actually Russia's most popular classic: The movie White Desert Sun was THE culture hit in 1969. Here's the summary: A Red Army soldier on the way home to his fiancée is forced to take care of six women freed from a harem. You can anticipate what comes next - or visit the theme restaurant of the same name. The film look of the restaurant makes you feel right in the middle of the movie. The ingredients of the film - action, drama, comedy and music - are part of the restaurant as well. At the entrance Petrucha, a character from the movie carrying a rifle, welcomes the guests and shows them to their tables. And the latter alone are worth a visit: Handmade carpets from Syria and Uzbekistan, ancient weapons and musical instruments make up the set which is highly devoted to depicting the characters as precisely as possible. One table resembles the hulk of a ship, in another room guests find themselves in a dream of 1001 Nights. The look of the restaurant is as wild as the film itself. And meals are a colourful mix of Uzbek, Chinese and Arabian influences, perfectly matching the interior, the stunning atmosphere and the evening's program: There is belly dance for dessert.
STAY in Moscow:
Quite astonishing what hides behind the 19-century facade. Instead of redundant opulence the hotel impresses with apple trees. Inside, the hotel features avant-garde elements. While the colours of the rooms are rather masculine, stylish stools and designer lamps set colourful contrasts. The bathrooms are laid out in marble, there are accessories by Philippe Starck and the Loft Suite even features its own kitchenette. You don't need the latter though, not being able to compete with the international restaurant anyway. Here's our suggestion: Come for dinner in the evening as the restaurant will have a special surprise for you then alongside with Russian cuisine. In the evening, the blinds will go down and the apple trees will be projected onto the blinds. Our conclusion: With his minimalist style, the Canadian designer Raphael Shafir has created a boutique hotel of chrome and much colour, attracting a clientele with a preference for trendy styles. Double room from approx. 200 euros.
Ararat Park Hyatt
Let's talk business: The Ararat Park Hyatt is the dream hotel for all those big on business. The location alone makes top managers' hearts leap. The hotel is located in the centre of the business district, close to the Kremlin and the Parliament. The clientele is thus defined, the rooms accordingly furnished with large desks. Apart from them, there's nothing that will distract you from your job. The rooms are large but dominated in office colours: brown and beige. Only the bathrooms are slightly more impressive. Some boast Italian marble, all of them Blaise-Mautin toiletries. There's underfloor heating and there are walk-in showers. Who wants to work at a desk then? Three telephones get you back to reality - time to turn on the W-Lan and to take a look at the morning paper. If that's a shock for you, you can hold a meeting with colleagues at your own living room, or stage an emergency meeting at the conference room. And if all of you are once again working round the clock, I recommend the Presidential Suite. 227 square metres offer ample space for you and your staff. Whoever still has energy left works out at the hotel-owned fitness centre or relaxes over Armenian specialties at the hotel's restaurant. Have fun with your job! Double room from approx. 615 euros per night.
While Kempinski is a German company, the hotel has a typical British demeanour. It is reserved, always obliging but surrounded by royal luxury. The location is alone is terrific: The Kempinski is within an Earl Grey's reach from the Red Square. You can almost touch the onion towers when opening your windows. Numerous artists used to have their studios in the rooms of the hotel, the view from it immortalised on canvas. Today, guests enjoy the fantastic vista without an easel. The interior of the luxury hotel boasts exquisite fabrics, marble baths and warm shades. W-Lan, flat-screens and English dailies are useful add-ons for manager. But do relax and recreate at the spa as well: In the indoor pool you can leave the daily grind behind. Your personal trainer will help you reduce your stress level at the fitness centre and a massage will make you forget all worries. And do eat! After having killed so many calories you may well treat yourself a hearty Japanese, French or Russian dinner. Have a tea and two scones thereafter and you will feel like a Briton again. Double room from 510 euros per night.
SIGHTS in Moscow:
Fashion Week in Moscow is like a movie in the movie. Besides, Moscow is a catwalk in itself anyway. Even when squeezing yourself into your most elegant LBD you will realize on the Tweskaja Uliza the latest that you can't stand the test: The people from Moscow have for sure more style and more money and the gift to combine both. Two times a year the capital's fashion hype reaches a fashion crescendo when new and old designers present their art during Fashion Week. In October more than 50 shows are launched and designers come from the Ukraine, from Lithuania, Italy and even Peru to be present where fashion is alive. Milano? How boring! When Vivienne Westwood presents her latest collection there, it has long since been worn in Moscow. 45,000 fashion gurus and more than 1,000 journalists flock to the World Trade Center two times a year to see the event of the season. But also the young wild ones get their share. Fashion Week gives fledgling designers a chance, so that Moscow remains the fashion Mecca of the East also in the future.
You might need to get used to the name but it fits the concept. Since 2007 the Gallery.Photographer.ru in the art temple Winzavod offers space for contemporary photographers of the local art scene. A gallery as an agent - so to speak. On sturdy brick walls the individual perspective onto the word is presented. The reduced interior strengthens the personal impressions of the artists. The fact that the director is a women rounds off the overall image. The 15 minute car ride from the Kremlin is definitely worth it and the way through the city will pay off. Not only in order to discover aspiring local newcomers but also because of the already nationally and internationally known photography artists. If you want to track down trends, than this is the right place. But not only viewing is allowed, you may also purchase vintage prints and collector's pieces from limited editions.
Can you take a joke? If so, Nikulin Circus is the right place for you. There, not the lions but the clowns are the stars. Yuri Nikulin was one of the most famous Russian clowns and for a long time the number-one joke producer of the circus of the same name. If you want to train your risible muscles you've found the right spot. Never before have you seen so many gimmicks, so much white make-up and so many huge shoes. But not only the clowns make a good show, also the tightrope walks set your pulse racing. What acrobats show us here has to be trained many years - and only from watching them one gets dizzy. And once the lions are out in the ring one wonders whether the big cats are as tame as they look. But let's get back to the clowns: Those who make it to this circus are really good and really funny. So come by and have fun. You won't regret it.
SHOPPING in Moscow:
Here's another bloodsucker: While the Transilwanija sells its CDs at top prices, you are confronted with pure nostalgia here. But first you have to find the store as it is well-hidden in the backyard of the Crab House restaurant. The search pays off as you will spend at least as much time there (you can't get through 50,000 CDs that easily). But don't worry: the stuff is well-assorted and you won't search long if you know what you want. The system is based on countries, so look for New German Music, Old German Music or Very old French Music. Above all fans of old CDs will get their share. Scandinavian World Music and Old US Rock complete the musical roundtrip and get us to the titles. The Transilwanija's offer includes hits from the GDR as well as Japanese pop, rare electronic music as well as very rare electronic music - and if you get lost, you can still ask the profound shop assistant for help.
We all know that people from Moscow are show-offs at times. But this deli tops it all, impressing above all with its stunning architecture. There is no time left for shopping. If you step into the store, you're almost crushed by Baroque: Imposing sculptures, powerful pillars and giant chandeliers dominate the main hall. Additionally, there are magnificent Art Nouveau elements and as much gold to make Scrooge McDuck green with envy. If you manage to tear your eyes away from the richly decorated ceiling, you will be overwhelmed by all the delicacies on offer at sales counters made of polished wood. How will you ever be able to get all that in your luggage? You won't, but even with prices above your annual salary it will be hard to resist the temptation. Here an aquarium with delicious fish, there a Russian-style gourmet sausage and exclusive vodka over there - the question is where to begin? The Jelissejew, after all, is not the usual supermarket but a first-class gourmet Mecca. Here's my tip: Bring many shopping bags along!
Arbat & Tverskaja
If you come to Moscow for shopping you have to keep two names in mind: Arbat and Tverskaja. They're like a spell once spoken they you will be on the brink of bankruptcy. In the 19th century the Arbat was the district of the nobility. After the great fire in 1812 they built their villas and city houses here. It is Khrushchev's fault that this beautiful old district is not as magnificent any longer as it used to be. The latter had parts of it destroyed. Where in the past the villas were located, there is today the 70 metre-wide Nowyj Arabtk, a popular shopping street. Parallel to it you'll find the Arbat street, Moscow's first pedestrian zone with neat cafés and shops. During the summer you can sit outside and watch the souvenir sellers, musicians and street artists. Along the pedestrian zone beautiful old buildings line up - the residences of the newly rich in town. No wonder - not everybody can afford this expensive district. Here comes my suggestion: Stick to the street artists and keep away from the enticing shopwindows. Or don't give a damn and walk to the Red Square. There, the Tverskaja Uliza starts, where the concentration of sparkling facades will finally take away what's left of your willpower. And you will start a high-heel race with the Russian elite.