Rich in both history and carbs, Russian cuisine is often underappreciated. Rest assured, in Moscow a wealth of delicious local and international options await to satisfy any craving, whether it be blini, gelato, smooth pour-over coffee or something stronger. If your stomach is already rumbling, check out our rundown of top foodie spots in the Russian capital, then hurry up and book your flight.
Set beneath a vast, domed flower-like structure, Danilovsky Market is a Soviet-era rynok (farmer’s market) quite at home in the 21st century. The market’s transformation is an apt example of the wave of gentrification taking Moscow by storm; love it or loathe it, the wafting aromas of freshly baked breads and other treats make Danilovsky hard to resist. Since the market’s renovation in 2015, vendors selling the best of Russia and Central Asia’s farm-to-table produce – expect organic meats, vibrantly coloured vegetables, golden honey and impressive pyramids of dried fruits and nuts – have stood alongside a plethora of small eateries offering dishes from around the world. Begin a global gastronomic tour with an authentic Middle Eastern shakshuka or sabih from The Hummus, washed down with a mango shake from Vietnamese joint Bô, or perhaps a tender duck burger from Schepka paired with a refreshing juice by Juicy Lab. Enjoy a sweet ending to any meal with a scoop of heavenly fig and mascarpone gelato from Gelateria Plombiere or pick up a slice of caramel apple pie at Lubov Pirogova.
The perfect spot for a caffeine break not too far from the Otkritie Arena, intimate coffee house and bar Progress has recently set up shop in Sokol. An afternoon or evening spent here evokes soirées in a bohemian St Petersburg flat, all the while giving the slight sensation of sitting down for drinks in one of the more opulent metro stations: the chandeliers certainly wouldn’t look out of place at Kievskaya or Komsomolskaya. Along with first-class espresso and a great selection of craft beer, Progress is home to an innovative and tasty food menu. At their Sokol location, the bar has teamed up with local Vietnamese food specialists Vietwok to offer a tantalising menu, featuring sesame chicken noodles and delicate shrimp spring rolls.
Sosna i Lipa + Na chili
One of the coolest places to sip a craft beer in Moscow, Sosna i Lipa (Pine and Linden) is a firm favourite among the Russian capital’s hipster set. Once you’ve successfully found the bar – on the second floor of a semi-abandoned building in Kitay Gorod – you’re greeted by a rustic yet chic, minimalist interior centred around brick and oak. Magazine cuttings hang on the walls, alongside shelves housing history books, the New Testament and dictionaries, while a number of musical instruments sit in a carpeted corner, waiting for guests to begin an impromptu jam session. Around 80 varieties of beer, both draft and bottled, make up Sosna i Lipa’s generous selection, chosen by co-founder Andrei Lipa. Russian, Scandinavian, Scottish and American options are all on offer, to name just a few. Hungry? Head next door to the Na Chili cafe to line your stomach with tantalising tacos and burritos.
Metro: Chistye Prudy
Both in terms of it architecture and its menu, Severyane centres around a traditional Russian wood-burning stove. Young chef Georgy Troyan has come up with an innovative menu that draws both on tradition and diversity, making use of the myriad ingredients available within Russia’s borders and taking inspiration from the cultures of the country’s diverse population: try baked aubergine with creamy kimchi, grilled salmon with asparagus and sorrel, and pumpkin cheesecake with sea buckthorn, accompanied by a glass or three of natural wine or a homemade flavoured spirit. In keeping with its name – Severyane means northerners – the restaurant’s interior recalls a northern winter, where the sun never makes its presence felt. Here you eat enveloped in a velvety darkness, guided by the glow of seemingly flying candles and warmed by the heat of the stove.
Metro: Okhotny Ryad / Arbatskaya / Alexandrovsky Sad
Why be content with looking at art when you can live it? Intimate-bar-cum-art-installation Seagull-Swallow is a hidden seaside oasis within Proliv, a restaurant wildly popular among Moscow’s creative class. The brainchild of Alexander Brodsky, the man frequently hailed as Russia’s greatest living architect and famous for his “paper architecture”, Seagull-Swallow is a night spent below deck, an evening at a seafarers’ tavern where time has stood still, and a multi-sensory experience. Rays of light filter through the cracks in the door of the windowless space, while the sounds of crashing waves and screeching seagulls – a soundtrack devised by Leonid Fyodorov of alternative rock band Auktyon – accompany guests as they order another round of homemade nastoiki infusions and another plate of innovative, tradition-inspired food. Horseradish-infused spirits and prawn pelmeni taste that much better when enjoyed by the sea.
Moscow is certainly not short of places to eat and drink, but many of the high quality cafes (and, indeed, some of the less high quality) in town may leave your wallet a little lighter than you’d hoped. With locations throughout central Moscow, the Karavaev Brothers’ Culinary Shop (Kulinarya lavka bratyev Karavaev), is perfectly poised to meet this gap in the market, offering affordable and tasty food in a buffet style. Most locations have decent sized tables – not to mention reasonably priced coffee and cake – making it a popular spot for studying. Along with the Russian classics you’ll also find at other self-service chains such as Grabli, chez the Karavaev Brothers you can indulge in some exotic international fare such as schezuan beef or tempura shrimp. Maybe save your visit for dinner – after 7pm, you get a 20% discount on the entire menu! Now you can feel fully justified in going crazy at the buffet.
Locations around central Moscow
If you haven’t gorged yourself at Teremok, have you even been to Moscow? If you’re in need of fast food on your trip, ditch the burger and fries in favour of Teremok’s rich menu of blini (thin pancakes). Offering traditional Russian fillings such as red caviar or creamy mushrooms along with some rather more experimental options – think a black pancake filled with teriyaki chicken – Teremok has well over 100 locations in the Moscow area, so you’re never far away from blini-based deliciousness. For dessert, consider a pancake filled with condensed milk – a classic Russian treat – and wash it down with some sweet medovukha. New York residents who fall for Teremok on their travels are in luck, as the chain recently set up shop in Manhattan.
Locations around central Moscow
Despite the longstanding market domination of local chains like Shokoladnitsa, Moscow is home to a thriving, constantly evolving coffee scene. With its name taken from the acronym for Manhattan’s Lower East Side – as well as doubling as the Russian word for forest – LES should be high on the list for any Moscow coffee tour. LES cafes (of which there are four across central Moscow) roast their own coffee and offer a tempting menu of pour-over and espresso-based options, along with a selection of cakes and other sweet treats. At its flagship store on Pokrovka, weekend food collabs are a regular fixture; pancakes and croissants with breakfast specialists Eggsellent, Indian curries and Middles Eastern shakshuka are just a few of the delicious dishes to have made an appearance in recent weeks. Visit LES’s location in the courtyard of the Museum of Moscow on a sunny day to enjoy one of the city’s most beloved terraces.
Pokrovka: metro Chistye Prudy / Museum of Moscow: metro Park Kultury