In Moscow we are quite spoiled for choice, with the wide range of restaurants and specialities at our disposal. So it was refreshing to receive an invitation for the Moscow Good Food Club to visit a restaurant that spoke of itâs family background, and with most produce coming from their own farm.
Before we introduce the restaurant let us introduce the farm. Located 130 kilometres from Moscow the family farm now produces most of the supplies for the restaurant including meat, vegetables and fruit. The family prefer to take the pick of their crops to their own restaurant in the centre of Moscow, instead of selling it at market.
With this background information, the intrepid members of the Moscow Good Food Club made their way to Nikolasâ restaurant located on Bolshaya Polyanka conveniently located directly opposite the metro.
Nikolasâ restaurant is named after the family patriarch, the Grandfather and many of the recipes are said to be of his origin. On the ground floor there is a cosy cafÃ©/bar that stocks some amazing German beers but our destination was the first floor. It is not a large restaurant; it seats a maximum of 40 people in a lovely Russian country style. Aperitif and canapÃ©s of Roast Beef, caviar of eggplant with walnut and salmon tartar were served to welcome us. As the guests arrived, friends greeted each other and new members were immediately welcomed to the fold.
On being called to our tables, we were served a generous helping of Beef Carpaccio with an ingenious carrot tartar. The Carpaccio was served a little too cold (almost frozen) but as it warmed to room temperature we were able to experience the deep taste of fresh beef directly from the family farm. Whilst the serving was most generous (almost large), our members know how to please a Chef and all the plates were clean when returned. The Carpaccio was served with an excellent Takun Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva from Chile.
Continuing with the theme of local specialities, we were next served a generous helping of Salad Olivier with crayfish and chicken. The Olivier was superb with crispy vegetables and a light dressing. The only comment from some members that whilst the crayfish was delicious, there was not so much of it! The Olivier Salad was paired with a Centine Rose from Italy, a very pleasant light rose that surprisingly complemented the lightness of the salad.
The veal kidneys in Madeira meat sauce caused some lively discussions with some loving the unique flavour of veal kidneys, whilst others could not overcome their aversion to offal. Nevertheless, those that enjoyed the kidneys also commented on the suitability of the deep Finca Nueva Crianza from Spain.
Sometimes Chefs and sommeliers are challenged when pairing to traditional foods. The main course was Pozharksky cutlets with potatoes Pushkin and mushroom sauce. Two massive, crispy cutlets were served on each plate but this failed to defeat some of our more tenacious members who proceed to polish off their plates in great style. This course suffered slightly from a kitchen challenge, resulting in many of the plates not being served as warm as they should have been and a rather weak wine; Gran Bateau Blanc from France which failed to breakdown the strong flavours of the cutlets. Despite the criticism it was an enjoyable dish of humungous proportions.
Veterans of the Moscow Good Food Club know to keep some space for dessert and this was a good policy as Honey Cake was served next. Layers upon layers of light honey pastry made the cake look even commercial, but the taste was original with the flavours of country honey permeating through the pastry. Paired with a Merlo Louis Galud, a semi-sweet from France it was an amazing combination!
To finish an interesting and traditional meal we were served with a home-made Cranberry liqueur that summed up the original flavours of a most enjoyable meal.
As always our erudite members are asked for their critiques of the meal. Whilst maybe not up to the haute cuisine of some previous meals, the Nikolasâ restaurant provided us with a memorable meal that was enjoyed by most. The service, whilst very friendly, struggled slightly with the numbers resulting in some meals being served cold, a small criticism that can easily be rectified by the young and talented team.
âMany changes have taken place in Moscow over the last years (most for the better!) List 5 things that have gone and that you now miss in this great cityâ â was the question now asked of our slightly inebriated members and their comments included: Kiosks, stray dogs, ladies in high heels, ambulance taxis, telephone booths (who needs these!), street musicians on Arbat, free parking and shawarma by every metro!
Our grateful thanks to the Aleksandrov family, to the staff of the Nikolasâ restaurant and to Juliana Titaeva their charming PR lady who arranged the evening.