In the very glamorous Belmond Grand Hotel in St Petersburg, L’Europe restaurant turns back the clock. This amazing room, with vaulted ceilings, stained glass and chandeliers is the oldest continually serving restaurant in Russia. Pretty much what you’d expect in a city noted for seeing history at every turn. Indeed, what you see today has basically been in place since 1905 when it became the first restaurant in Russia to feature electric lighting.

Not exactly on the food radar, Greedy Girl had resorted to Googling ‘best restaurants St Petersburg’. L’Europe popped right up, so an immediate booking was sought. A very prompt reply confirmed but commented the restaurant was often closed for private functions. Greedy Girl can well believe it but estimated we’d be very unlucky to be gazumped on a Monday evening. Having battled through peak-hour crowds down Nevsky Prospekt and a torrential downpour, we were a rather soggy mess by the time we arrived – and at just after 7pm, we were the first customers. Still, a couple of napkins, the lighting of the candelabra on the table and a cocktail and we very quickly started to feel human.

The menu (food and wine) is huge. Most bottles of wine, especially champagne, in Russia lean to the expensive side. We thumbed through the menu to find the ‘designed gourmet’ selection – three courses with three paired wines for 4333 rubles (just over A$100, an absolute bargain). We made our selections for the first two courses (the final being pastries) and the only other choice for Greedy Girl was a glass of sparkling wine or a shot of Russian vodka for her first course. She’d not had vodka to that point so … why not.

Before our menu proper started, we were given an amuse bouche. White asparagus ‘espuma’ with crab. This was served on top of the restaurant’s signature plates and was a nice touch. The asparagus soup was smooth and the crab flavour came through. A good start.

Best restaurants St Petersburg

Asparagus espuma with crab

First up for gluttonous husband was foie gras. This was sauteed with a nut crumble, orange and raisins. OMG. It was seriously good. Greedy Girl realises that many people have an aversion to foie gras on ethical grounds but she’s not reached the point that she can turn this down. It’s soft, buttery, rich and the nut crumble was an inspired addition, giving some texture. It was paired with a sweet wine and here the language barrier really hurt – it was virtually impossible to get information about the booze component. C’est la vie.

Best restaurants St Petersburg

Foie gras with nut crumble

Greedy Girl plumped for the other starter, ‘egg in egg’. This was essentially truffled scrambled eggs with salmon caviar served inside egg shells and it was accompaned by the shot of vodka. Greedy Girl was instructed to drink the vodka in one gulp, then attack the dish. The pouring was a little too generous, so Greedy Girl managed only half the glass – leaving a perfect amount for gluttonous husband to try. She certainly felt all warm inside afterwards. The egg was sublime. Again, very rich but a beautiful combination and the pops of salt from the caviar (which was quite mild) were delightful. There were two on the plate. Gluttonous husband was a happy man.

Best restaurants St Petersburg

Egg in egg

By this point, the room had not only started to fill but musicians also took the stage – perhaps a little kitsch to listen to the piano and violin but undeniably pleasant. Apparently the restaurant has Tchaikovsky nights and ballet as well as jazz. A nice touch.

We were up for main courses. Greedy Girl had the stroganoff. This was elegantly presented atop a mound of mashed potato, topped by thin, crispy and delicious onion rings. Initially a bit dry, one needed to delve more deeply into the potato mound to get the cream and mushroom sauce. There were also some matchsticks of beetroot (left for gluttonous husband) and salted cucumber. Very nicely balanced. It was paired with a glass of red ‘Italian wine’. That was the only description available.

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Beef stroganoff

Gluttonous husband had a most dramatic-looking dish – rainbow trout served ‘Russian style’ – topped with baby vegetables and a cream sauce. The main part of the flesh had been filleted and gluttonous husband was delighted that it was indeed ‘boneless’ (part of the menu description) although he delved into the head and tail and needed to watch out for the odd bone there. He said the fish had been cooked perfectly and not much remained on the plate – except for that sinister-looking head. He had a glass of pinot grigio to accompany it.

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Rainbow trout

When the time came to clear our plates we had our first breakthrough with a waiter in Russia. Our comment was: ‘yum’. He smiled broadly and said: “yes, I know”. That’s as engaging as it got, folks.

We were offered a little pre-dessert of a tamarind sorbet. This certainly packed a punch of flavour.

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Tamarind sorbet

The actual dessert was up next and we were wheeled a trolley of cakes. Greedy Girl unsurprisingly took the chocolate, while gluttonous husband took a honey cake. Both were served with coulis/creme anglaise designs on the plates and despite looking exceedingly rich were actually quite light. The dessert wine was a doozy; again its style and origin eluded us but even gluttonous husband, he who loves his ‘stickies’ couldn’t finish.

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Layered chocolate cake

Best restaurants St Petersburg

Honey cake

It was time to depart. We opted not to have coffee, but a little tray of chocolates was brought to finish. With bellies groaning under the weight of such rich food, we actually looked forward to the trek along Nevsky back to the hotel.

Best restaurants St Petersburg L'Europe

Petits fours

This was an excellent experience and, if your exchange rate is good against the ruble, a very affordable one.


Nevsky Prospekt, Mikhailovskaya Ulitsa 1/7, St Petersburg

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