Café Russe in the Ritz Carlton

Kim Waddoup

An invitation to the Moscow Good Food Club in the Café Russe in the Ritz Carlton is hard to refuse and 38 venerable members made their way into these hallowed halls with the expectations of yet another great culinary experience. And they were not disappointed as it was set to be an evening of superlatives.

The Café Russe has become a refuge for many in a city that seems to run on adrenalin! It is elegant, yet comfortable and does not require the ‘airs & graces’ that so many other establishments employ. One would refer to the Café Russe as refined elegance.

As the members entered the waiters served them with a rose champagne. It was interesting to observe how many were pre-occupied greeting old friends but as they raised their glasses for the second or third time, the looks appreciation formed. We were drinking a Balaklava Brut Rose from the Crimea. This raised some eyebrows but this aperitif and the amazingly succulent canapés set the scene for the evening.

As is tradition, all members were asked to seat punctually at 20:00. We were welcomed by Bernie Aird from the Ritz Carlton and then introduced to our Chef, Pavel Belyalov. “Is he not a bit young mentioned one of our esteemed members!”). Then to the amazing personality of Anton our Sommelier for the evening. Pavel explained the menu and then disappeared into his kitchen. Anton explained that for this evening, he has specially selected wines from Crimea.

Our first course was Beetroot Marinated Salmon with green apple horseradish cream and fresh herbs. Many were surprised by the colour of the salmon as it was deep red from the beetroot. The tastes were immaculate and individual and the dish excellently paired with a Sary Pandas from the Zaharin Estate. An extremely well balanced wine and perfect for the salmon.

This was followed by Slow Cooked Chicken Breast, with smoked celeriac puree and chicken Jus. This dish received mixed reviews, the chicken was succulent but a little bland, however the crispy nuggets of well roasted skin flavoured the dish and suited the overall taste. Anton had warned us that this wine would be controversial and how right he was. The Chardonay Reseve Baccal Su, divided the group with some liking and some totally against it’s almost sherry flavour. However it was noted that few glasses remained full and the top up from the Café Russe’s excellent waiters were never refused!

On to the main course of Grilled Venison with pan fried Chanterelle, Herb Brioche, fresh berries and Venison Jus. Admirably paired with a bold and deep Kefessia from the Zaharin Estate, the venison was succulent and full of flavour. The brioche was quite surprising and added well to the combined flavour with the fresh berries providing some final sharpness. An excellently paired course with suggestions of the Winter to come!

Moscow Good Food Club members are canny and new to keep space for dessert. As the last of the dishes were cleared and the Kefessia being bid a fond farewell, the desserts appeared. The colour and decoration had most members grabbing for their phones to take pictures of this beautiful Raspberry Composition with intriguing Pain Perdue and Vanilla Chantilly. Again perfectly balanced providing an excellent flavour to cleanse the palate from this amazing meal. Always one for surprises Anton served a Berry Bitter, Beluga Gold to conclude this gastronomic journey.

Tea and coffee were served as the members discussed and prepared their Critiques. These have become an important part of any Moscow Good Food Club evening and lead to lively discussions on each table.

As each spokesperson took to the floor, it was evident that, even if there were some points for discussion, the general impression was excellent with great praise for the young Chef, Pavel Belyakov. Whilst each course was ‘dissected’ by our juries, you could see Pavel making note of each comment. A Chef rarely has such an opportunity to hear an honest appraisal of his creations.

The wines were also discussed in some depth with varying critiques but always to the pleasure of Anton who really appreciates such feedback. Once again the general impression was that Russian wines are certainly coming of age and will soon take the justified place in world markets. Once correlated, the ratings from our MGFC Members were:-

So congratulations to Pavel, Anton and the entire team at the Café Russia, for another excellent Moscow Good Food Club!

As is customary our members are asked some relevant questions. On this occasion the question was: The centre of Moscow has changed so much over the Summer with so many projects. If you had 3 wishes for the mayor’s Department for more improvements what would these be? As usual the answers varied from practical to outright hilarious and included:- Less Disney Land styles; more parking; food trucks in the centre; better communication with residents prior to re-construction; lifts to be provided in Metro stations: re-launch small shops in or near the metro stations and a 24 hour Metro.

Suitably fulfilled by the excellent meal and with the warm feeling produced by the Berry Bitter Beluga Gold, the stalwart members of the Moscow Good Food Club bate farewell to the Café Russe and made their way out of the grand entrance of the Ritz Carlton to resume normal life in Moscow.