There comes a time for every traveller, no matter how savvy, that they find themselves in a tourist trap. Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband pride themselves on avoiding these for the most part. In Moscow, for example, we resolutely avoided the restaurant and souvenir stall touts every few metres on Arbatskaya, a not particularly attractive walking street. But the lure of olde worlde Russian glamour was too strong and we decided to try Cafe Pushkin for lunch.

For the most part in Russia, wait staff were quite reserved (although that could have been down to the language barrier) but the style of service was relatively formal. Cafe Pushkin, named after Alexander Pushkin, legendary poet and father of modern Russian literature, is on Tverskoy Boulevard, not far from Pushkin Square. It’s open 24 hours a day and that might explain some of the fatigue by the wait staff towards tourists but Greedy Girl is getting ahead of herself.

The restaurant was opened in 1999 inside a building painstakingly renovated to look like one of the great houses of the nobility. It’s a bit of a spin out with lots of mouldings and chandeliers but very dark inside. Check out the cafe’s website for pictures which are obviously taken with professional lighting. We were shown to a table in the conservatory and left to our own devices.

Greedy Girl had read on the website about an express lunch available. We were just given the standard menus, which are the size of a book. Shrugging our shoulders, we chose our dishes. And waited. And waited. Finally Greedy Girl asked for a wine list. That took our waiter a couple of circuits before he mimed a light bulb moment when glancing in our direction. A horrendously expensive list was procured and Greedy Girl opted for what she thought might be safest in terms of price and alcohol content – a cosmopolitan while gluttonous husband took a glass of Bordeaux.

Where to eat Moscow: Cafe Pushkin

A very good cosmopolitan

Being lunchtime and having dinner reservations, we opted for just one course each. Gluttonous husband chose beef stroganoff with potatoes ‘a la Pushkin’ which was a very grand name for roasted, chipped potatoes. It came in the restaurant equivalent of a TV dinner tray – three separate containers. One for the stroganoff, laced with mushrooms and creme fraiche, another for the chips and a third for a dish of gherkins and a few large cherry tomatoes.

Where to eat Moscow: Cafe Pushkin

Beef stroganoff

We’d heard two stories about the origin of this dish. Apparently the chef for Count Stroganoff was supposedly trying to make his meat supplies go further so decided to mix the beef with cream and mushrooms. A more plausible version is that the venerable Count was getting on in years, so the chef was trying to disguise having to cut up the beef into very small pieces.

Greedy Girl chose a ‘chicken cutlet’. This was presented in a very dramatic style (see the picture at the top of this post) with the cutlet propped up on rests made from hard-baked bread dough. It had two quite voluptuous moments – when the chicken was cut, a truffle, butter and cheese sauce oozed out, reminiscent of a chicken kiev. Second, when the mound of mashed potato was opened, it contained a truffled cep mushroom and cream mixture. Clearly a clever chef who was able to work out that technique. There were also two huge pieces of cucumber on the plate.

Both dishes, it must be said, were very good. One needed to be vigilant though; these were both so rich, we wanted to take our time eating them. Apparently leaving your cutlery idle for any length of time in Russia is a signal that you’re done. We needed to constantly be on watch that our plate was not whisked away.

Gluttonous husband excused himself to visit the rest room. On his return he indicated to Greedy Girl that she should brave the descent of the dark staircase to the basement and see the facilities for herself. Perhaps not the best story to include in a blog about food, but the toilets looked the goods (although Greedy Girl isn’t certain in Pushkin’s time whether he would have had this level of plumbing). With a very satisfying yank, she ‘pulled the chain’.

The food at Cafe Pushkin is quite good. The service, such as it is, is in English and it’s a pleasant spot to sit. It’s open 24 hours so perhaps a visit in the wee hours would have more atmosphere.

Cafe Pushkin

Tverskoy Blvd, 26А, Moscow

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