Teplo, St. Petersburg 06-2013

I'd woken up really early that morning to visit The Hermitage. I made it before the gates opened and before any crowds (almost anyone) had arrived. Or so I thought - once inside the main gates there was a slow moving queue waiting for the next set of doors. However the Winter Palace was the most opulent of any I've seen anywhere in the world and memories and photos are what I have to remember it by.

It wasn't surprising that I spent a long time here and didn't get out until late afternoon for lunch. Teplo was known for potato pancakes, pastries and desserts, and just down the road from the hostel, but the time of day meant it was nice and peaceful inside.

I settled for the Potato Pancakes (with Buko cheese, red caviar and smoked salmon). This was a really excellent plate with the crisp pancakes (or rosti perhaps?) complemented well by the cheese, smoked fish and the potent salty caviar. Caviar from Russia and Scandinavia is really like none I've had in Australia and Asia (including Japan) and this was a shining example.

Khochu Kharcho, St. Petersburg 06-2013

My first dinner in St. Petersburg was solo (not unusual at all for me).

After many different variations on Russian cuisine, I was interested in branching out and trying some of the bordering foods. Georgian was one of these and I had read a lot about a restaurant closeby to my hostel Soul Kitchen Junior (which has to be the best hostel I've ever seen in the world). This restaurant was also 24 hour (not that it mattered to me) and a nice relaxing lounge feel.

The specialty (from the name of the restaurant) is kharcho - a traditional Georgian meat soup. This one was cooked with veal meat, rice, vegetables and spices and was lovely and warming.

I also couldn't resist Aunt Elisa's khachapuri (stuffed with Suluguni cheese) which was essentially a thick crusted delicious cheese pizza. It was fantastic and huge but unfortunately I could only eat a few slices before leaving the rest for the restaurant staff.

One of the downsides of eating alone - I don't like waste but sometimes my greed and enthusiasm means I have to stuff myself or sacrifice. In hindsight I probably should've taken the rest away.

Of all the places I ate in Moscow, the Golden Ring and St. Petersburg on this trip, Khochu Kharcho is the one I look most forward to returning to. A great meal and then exploring the city under the White Nights.

Eliseevskiy Gastronom, St. Petersburg 06-2013

After visiting the beautiful store in Moscow a week earlier (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/eliseevskiy-moscow-06-2013), my final morning in St. Petersburg was torn between two things - having breakfast at Zoom Cafe (known for borsch, vegetables au gratin and meatballs) or a dash to Eliseevskiy to buy some caviar.

Yes I decided to impulse buy and get some caviar. I ended up with the second highest grade Osetra (as the highest Beluga and Sterlet weren't available and may have even been illegal at that point) and some small samples of various vodka to bring back to London. The caviar is also advertised as Malossol meaning minimally salted and highest quality.

Of the vodkas, the best (as judged by 3 of us several weeks later) was Vodka Царская Золотая or (translated by a Russian friend to) Tsar's Gold Vodka. It's the red/green/yellow bottle in the photo surrounding one section of caviar. Unfortunately it's not available anywhere outside of St. Petersburg Eliseevskiy. I'll have to wait until next time.

Eliseevskiy in St. Petersburg was much more interesting for food (although less ornate) than Moscow with people sitting there drinking coffee and eating sweets, oysters (from France) for sale, as well as generally a lot of items to pick from.

Eliseevskiy, Moscow 06-2013

After enjoying the decor of the famous Cafe Pushkin, my attentions turned to my other food interest - the supermarket. Eliseevskiy is more of a gourmet store particularly well known for its adornments more than the food.

I spent a good while in here, taking photos, admiring the layout and also looking at the food items naturally. I didn't end up buying anything although I came closest to succumbing to the crab and lobster meat in jars.

There's also a branch in St. Petersburg (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/yeliseevskiy-gastronom-st-petersburg-06-2013).

Kafe Stolle, Yaroslav 06-2013

I'd actually heard of Stolle from the St. Petersburg part of my Rough Guide. The specialty pies of salmon and seasonal berries sounded excellent. Unfortunately there was already a host of other places there that I wanted to eat. A lot of my preparations for solo travelling in the Golden Ring came from the In Your Pocket guide and I was really excited to see Stolle was listed there too. Other than Sobraniye and Imedi cafe, there weren't any other places that interested me for the brief 24 hours I was there, so this was a good snack to go for during the mid-afternoon whilst wandering around the sites.

- Rybnik fish pie;
- Season berry pie;
- Kulyebaka with meat.

The first two were the recommended choices for the St. Petersburg part of the Rough Guide. The last was to round out the meal. The crusts were firm and the breads soft and the fillings nice too. The fish was more pleasurable than the meat and the sweet berries rounded off the mini meal. 

Teremok, Moscow 06-2013

I wasn't really sure what to eat for my last meal in Moscow. After returning from the Golden Ring, I had a ticket booked on the midnight train Red Arrow to St. Petersburg (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/red-arrow-train-moscow-and-st-petersburg-06-2013). This meant that after I arrived back at my original hostel to pick up my bags, I didn't really have a lot to do, nor the enthusiasm to venture far.

I ended up wandering up and down the streets (as I often do when I can't decide what to have) until settling on Teremok. The ads outside for cheap food (as I'd been quite liberal with spending along the Golden Ring) coupled with seeing a few solo people enjoying (relatively) their meals and not having any other preferences made the decision.

Teremok specialise in blini (pancakes) and do them well. Meat and melted cheese are encased in soft but slightly crisp coatings. I added an extra of pelmeni (dumplings) to complete the carbohydrate and protein meal. It wasn't the best meal I'd had, but it was enough to keep me sated for the journey ahead.

Red Arrow Train, Moscow & St. Petersburg 06-2013

One of the highlights of my trip to Russia was the Red Arrow Train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Considering the train departs at 2355, I ended up lazing around the hostel chatting to a Mexican guy from the USA and one of the blonde Russian hostel receptionists. I eventually left and made my way to the station.

It isn't the fastest train (that is the Sapsan) but it's certainly the most famous. The train itself actually looks sleek and impressive. I spent a good few minutes peering through the windows into the higher class rooms and the dining cart.

The bed is comfortable, the other guests were courteous and quiet. After a pleasant sleep, I sat up to snack on the free box of breakfast items - a very average breadroll, a packet of water and a few snacks. Overall it was a pleasant trip which arrived at the estimated 0800.

St. Petersburg and the White Nights awaited - what a stunning city...

Sobranie, Yaroslavl 06-2013

Quite possibly my favourite meal along the Golden Ring was in Yaroslavl. After staying in a small hostel and having a good chat with the gorgeous model who was the receptionist there, the stage was set for a nice walk about town. There is an impressive cathedral in the middle of town, with a close walk to a waterside area where the sun shines down. People wander about pleasantly, some playing ball, others more non-specific.

In the evening I found my research choice in Sobranie. The specialty of the house is food stewed in cast-iron pots in Russian oven. Who doesn't like a great stew?

- Borsch (seasoned soup with veal, cabbage, beetroot together with a beef rasstegai pastry);
- Stew of traditional roast pork with potatoes & mushrooms served in a cast-iron pot.

The atmosphere is lovely and the food is great. I was lucky enough to have the whole oven room to myself (other than the staff coming in and out occasionally to move the pots in and out).

Trapeznaya Palata, Sergiev Posad 06-2013

After exploring the lovely complex of Holy Trinity St. Sergius, it was only a short walk down the street to my food preference. It was a little difficult to find, in the end discovering I had to enter some gates into a big courtyard then figure out which corner of it had the restaurant.

In the end it looked like a church dining hall, with religious paintings and wooden furniture filling it seemingly for mass worshipers.

I wasn't overly hungry so settled for a small salmon and vegetable salad and a lovely warm bowl of borsch.

Losos i Kofe, Suzdal 06-2013

Just off the main road of Suzdal facing an open courtyard area lies Losos i kofe - translated into salmon and coffee. The menu is completely in Russian, and as could be expected there was minimal English spoken (not that I would have it any other way). Luckily my saturation with the Russian alphabet allowed me to identify the necessary item on the menu. Reading the most recent TA reviews suggests an English menu has since become available and the tourists have thus started coming.

On my afternoon there was only myself a couple of other Russians. Naturally due to the cafe name I ordered grilled salmon which was nice and served with some pretty basic vegetables.

The interior is very cutely decorated with an basic homely elegance.