We’d been warned before our visit that Russia doesn’t have a cafe culture. In Russia’s major cities, nothing could be further from the truth. You can’t walk 100 metres in Moscow without passing a cafe or кафе.
However, getting good coffee or what a certified ACS (Australian Coffee Snob) would consider as such is another matter. Greedy Girl was resigned to the notion she’d struggle with her coffee addiction inside Russia. She was very pleasantly surprised.
Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband are more than food tourists – searching out the best coffee is not only good for the soul but a great way of getting to areas of a city tourists wouldn’t necessarily see. Such was the case in Moscow.
Using the not entirely scientific method of typing ‘Australian coffee in …’ into a search engine often reaps rich rewards. As a card-carrying Australian, Greedy Girl is equally proud of the role of several Australian coffee entrepreneurs she’s found around the world, particularly in London, Paris and New York. Here in Moscow there was also an Australian connection, but more on that later.
After the overnight trip on a rather rattling and bumpy Tolstoy train from Helsinki, Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband dumped their bags at the hotel not far from the Arbatskaya walking street and asked the friendly doorman where we could go for coffee. When he suggested the British pub across the road, Greedy Girl tried very hard to keep a neutral expression. We decided to try our luck hitting the streets and seeing what we could find.
Chain restaurants seem to be huge in both Moscow and St Petersburg; one in Moscow that seemed to have an outlet every few metres was Coffee Mania. On discovering the branch on New Arbat Avenue and confirming it took credit cards (we’d not yet found a cash machine to get rubles), we sat down. Gluttonous husband ordered a double espresso and Greedy Girl was intrigued to see the word ‘piccolo’ on the coffee menu. Sorted.
Gluttonous husband was well pleased with his espresso, pronouncing it quite round and robust in flavour. While Greedy Girl’s piccolo looked the goods, it was still way too milky. Still, for our first experience of coffee in Moscow it wasn’t a bad brew and you can see what we were presented with in the picture at the top of this post.
Then we got the bill. Around A$17. Ouch! We were a little fuzzy from the overnight trip and it was also our first currency conversion to roubles. If this was the stuff of Moscow coffee we felt we’d be a bit sad and rather poor.
Undeterred, Greedy Girl kept researching and found Double B coffee and tea, near the Lubyanka Metro station. It’s also less than 15 minutes by foot from Red Square – just take the walking street alongside the gigantic GUM department store.
While Coffee Mania was a full on restaurant (open for breakfast, lunch and dinner), Double B focused entirely on the best barista-prepared coffees (and tea, but we weren’t interested in that). A friendly barista spoke a little English and understood what we were about – two double espressos and a jug of warm milk soon appeared.
This was serious stuff; the cafe had plaques on display showing the awards its baristas had won in international competitions. Our espressos were top notch; sadly none of us had the language skills to gain more information about the beans used but it was heady stuff. Greedy Girl added more milk than usual. We were delighted – but we’d found this cafe on a Friday and became slightly alarmed that it didn’t open until 11am on weekends. What to do?
It was time to do more research. The magic words ‘Australian coffee in Moscow’ threw up a result where an Australian interior design firm had won the contract to fit out the storefront for a business called Nude Coffee and Wine. On discovering it was a 30 minute walk from Red Square, we set off.
Like many European countries, Russia has two seasons – winter and construction. We had to gingerly pick our way down paths that were being routinely torn up for new drains and pipes. In some places, the pavement was replaced with rickety boards, in others there was just mud or pebbles. We trudged on to come across a little neighbourhood outlet in a leafy street and a huge payoff.
And what a find! This is a cafe with a small menu of snacks throughout the day, unlike Double B which only had a few croissants. We took some brunch options – very good buckwheat pancakes with blueberries, candied nuts and chantilly cream, and an incredible roasted apple porridge. Our first visit, we took two double espressos with a jug of steamed milk, but the subsequent visit Greedy Girl chose a macchiato. Wow. Heaven in a cup. It was just about perfect.
Of course, not everyone likes their coffee or кофе this way; there are certainly plenty of Starbucks and its clones, so if that’s your thing, Moscow will not disappoint you. If you’re into the finer aspects of coffee, definitely seek out some of these options – and the bonus is exploring some neighbourhoods of the city you normally wouldn’t experience.
There are no addresses listed here – it’s probably easiest to look up these places on TripAdvisor, because then you can use the Google map function to then find them from your location. Enjoy!