From Russia with love…
Yes I have seen the movie, yes I have eaten blinis and yes I have drunk the very rare glass of Vodka! Wild cooks, what Russia had in store for my friends and I on a recent trip was incredible. Prepare to be amazed!
Nothing can get you ready for being looked after like this – Moscow was definitely calling!
We were met at the Airport after a 3 ¾ hr flight by not one but two chauffeur driven Mercedes before taking a trip to downtown Moscow to our destination the Hotel Metropol where we met our hosts Stephen Quinn, Food and Beverage Director and his PR Manager Andreas.
The hotel is amazing, the history oozes out of it, and the gold leaf and chandeliers are incredible (I even had a chandelier in my bedroom!)
We ate caviar and blinis and listened to a grand piano in the restaurant before tucking in to a feast of marinated fish, smoked salmon, beef stroganoff, chicken kiev, cranberry juice and a glass of Vodka that was a far cry from our Saturday night tipple over here!
The restaurant has an incredibly high ceiling and is made up of hundreds of pieces of glass. We were dining in the hotel Kevin Costner and Robert Downey Junior had stayed in the week before and as we looked over the way Don King was sat with a boxer from America!
Refreshed by a wonderful supper, at about 1am Russian time we set off for a walk around Red Square with Stephen Quinn! But then off to bed worn out after a big day. I sunk into my giant double bed and slept like a baby!
We saw some amazing sights: St Basil Cathedral, The Kremlin, The Gateway to Red Square and the major shop a kin to Harrods “Gum”.
Day two I woke up and looked out of my window to see this amazing building what was it?
Then a quick turn to the left and look, Red Square in the distance…
What a view! Off for a hearty breakfast and then out into the Moscow city centre in the sunshine! After a satisfying breakfast of fruits, cereals, all usual meats, eggs, vegetables and mushrooms with some unusual items like soured milk, a dessert table and of course the blinis and caviar option we were given a tour by Andreas of our home for the next few nights, The Hotel Metropol.
I would describe the hotel as historic and beautiful and all the staff were incredibly friendly and informative. Even having worked at The Dorchester in my youth, the gold leaf and sheer opulence took my breath away. This is such a historic hotel, a real contrast to the contemporary features of Rudding Park.
The tour took in everything from the dining rooms to the private cinema theatre (not that different to Rudding Park then!), the renovations of the former nightclub, a desk once sat at by Churchill and a room Michael Jackson stayed in.
So out into Moscow and a trip to the Red Square by day in the hot weather (No Russian hats required even though the snow had been a foot deep the week before).
Next to Restaurant Varvare, known in Russian as “Barbarian!”. Nothing could be further from the truth. The food of Anatoly Komm’s Moscow restaurant was full of finesse and fun. I loved the delicate flavours and the humble concepts around his dishes of borsch and my veal sweetbreads were delightful.
To start see above…
Paste from sea urchin, Russian beetroot powder with supplemented paste, bread and sunflower oil, caramelised sunflower bubble, cheese ice cream, beetroot paper with herring, beetroot powder with sour cream, cream of Jerusalem artichoke with pine kernels, herring and beetroot powder paper. To start with the sunflower oil tasted like bacon and the bubble was light and crisp and just cracked delicately. The herring was light and delicate the beetroot with a sushi was sensational.
We drank Russian rose wine which married perfectly to our challenging plate of flavours.
My sweetbreads had a white port sauce red pepper coulis and Ash burnt black salt with black rice crisps.
Warm soup juice was poured into a bowl filled with red vein sorrel, sour cream ice cream, shredded veal. Pain pushca (a bread crisp and light with a thin shard of rye flavoured bread almost tuille like in its consistency).
The ball of sour ice cream was hollow and melted gently into the beetroot powder and red vein sorrel.
The quail had a deep water seaweed sauce, aubergine layers and strawberry dust.
Back to the Hotel Metropol for the Yorkshire Pudding vs Blini challenge – bring it on I say!
Vladmir was busy making blinis and the kitchen was a hive of activity with Yorkies and blinis all over the place!
Plain flour and self-raising flour are not available in Russia so we used some flour given to us by the Sous Chef Hamdi, the only flour we could use. The milk was not what you would expect either. However, with Elaine Lemm (Author of the Yorkshire Pudding Book) on my team we felt confident, but I guess you never know!
(When looking around the hotel we came across some old style posters on the staff quarters wall)
The team from the Hotel Metropol included Ian, the pastry chef who is an English man in Moscow, along with Stephen who often dons his chef jacket, Hamdi from Egypt and Igor and Vlad who are Russian.
Well… Director of Food and Beverage Mr Stephen Quinn was very diplomatic and declared both sides as winners!
Bolshoi is the theatre I can see from my bedroom window and who would have thought I would have the view of our next destination. A trip to the Bolshoi ballet is most peoples idea of heaven and we felt humble to be asked to be the guests of the Hotel Metropol to see “Ivan the Terrible”.
The ballet was wonderful! The dancers were extremely talented portraying a true Russian story.
And then to the Kremlin…
The VIP pass to Putin’s private residence was incredible. We saw state room after state room clad in gold leaf and historic floors that have been danced on my many a Russian Tsar.
The Kremlin also has amazing collections of everything from diamonds and faberge eggs to coaches, some given as gifts from the English. There are many towers in the Kremlin churches and even the world’s largest cannon!
The markets were also amazing in their own way. I got into trouble for taking a photo of some fish in the window of a shop by the police! Thankfully we had Katiya with us to translate! Help…
The food was stunning – the fact that all the food was not packaged I found refreshing. Our EHO’s over here would have had many a comment but the variety and freshness of the food was truly fantastic.
Ladies looking after their stall of dried fish!
Next a trip to Cafe Pushkin a modern cafe made to look very olde traditional Russian.
Thank you to everyone at Hotel Metropol for looking after us so well. It has been an amazing experience. We all loved Russia and the food was just inspirational.