Russians like to feel fully immersed in their dining experiences.
On the whole this leads to tasteful décor alongside delicious food and everyone is happy, but occasionally the system breaks down. This is usually when a proprietor either misunderstands a concept or theme or just loses their self-control. Either way, it can make for a truly surreal dining experience.
Dvorianskoye Gnezdo St Petersburg
The Dvorianskoye Gnezdo is quite close to the Mariinsky Theater and so is often used by theater goers for either a pre- or post show meal and drinks. The interior of the restaurant brings to mind the one of St Petersburg´s more sumptuous theaters or, perhaps, even the Hermitage itself. Chandeliers scatter graceful light about the room where mirrors and paintings in gold leaf frames reflect it back dazzlingly. The plush carpet seems so deep you could lose yourself in it for days and the furniture is richly heavy. What tips this restaurant from posh to surreal is that the waiting staff are decked out in pre-revolutionary sailor suits. This final touch ensures that the overall effect is not lavish luxury but rather Alice in Wonderland does dinner. Things only get more surreal when the bill arrives.
Montana St Petersburg
The theme of the Montana steak restaurant is clearly ‘America´. The thought process of the designer is less clear but I believe that it went along these lines. ‘Steak is a quintessentially American food. Cowboys are a quintessentially American icon. Let´s give our customers covered wagons to sit in instead of normal tables and then they can feel like cowboys.´ To a certain extent this works, there is a slight sense between ordering and the food arriving that a herd of cattle are going to stampede past and each diner will have to bag their own. The covering part of the wagon makes it difficult to see other diners and the waiting staff just appear as if from nowhere, which makes this an oddly solitary dining experience unless you are in a large group. Many restaurants use gimmicks such as covered wagons to distract from the poor quality of the food but this is not the case at the Montana, I was particularly pleased that the restaurant has a policy whereby it advises anyone ordering a steak ‘well-done´ to reconsider as this will effect the flavour.
Morkovka St Petersburg
I find most vegetarian restaurants surreal but Morkovka takes it to new levels. The name means ‘carrot´ in Russian and this is the theme they have decided to use throughout the décor and the menu. The chairs are orange and the walls are green. Upon arrival you are presented with a glass of carrot juice to enjoy as you relax and survey the restaurant from your orange, bucket shaped throne. The menu is imaginative and healthy, as you would expect, although I found it strange that a vegetarian restaurant would serve fish. Perhaps best of all, while the décor and menu may be considered above par, the same could not be said of the bill, so I left completely satisfied.
Photo of Morkovka restaurant, St Petersburg originally posted by naumov pavel