Travel

Belly of the Beast – Moscow

Russia is the Beast of Eastern Europe, and Moscow, its hustling, gargantuam, larger-than-life capital is the big Beast. Other cities in the region pale in comparison to the sheer, high voltage charge of this 12-million strong metropolis fuelled on vodka, Siberian oil, oligarch bling-bling and a resurgent Russian nationalism. Plus, its streets and high-octane nightclubs are pullulating with sassy, stylish Russian girls, the favorite belles of the 21st century.

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The bad news for B EAST readers is that Moscow ain’t the wild, everything-goes city of the 90s. It is a lot more civilized now. The upside is that the city’s gone through a ‘Californication’ in the past few years: It’s cleaner, greener, and airconditioned in summer. And, it’s not just Paris Hilton that the party girls wanna emulate; they’re also into shorts, the higher-gloss bleached-blond look, and above-ground swimming pools in restaurants. Slacker alert! You don’t need Gucci or fistfuls of dollars to pick up these days. Tattoos and attitude are enough.

NIGHTWATCH

Krisha
Moscow’s club-of-the-moment for the city’s posh, decadent and capricious crowd. Krisha means roof in Russian, but it also refers to the ‘protection’ under which any well-connected business runs. Although its ‘cool’ factor has peaked, this 3-floor ‘industrial’ club in a former factory building on the embankment is pretty finger lickin’ good. You enter through a deserted courtyard, which gives you that slight horror-buzz, and then walk up narrow, candelit stairs to the main dance areas. The music’s pretty wicked, Goa trance, Chicago House, Electro, and the glam’s 12 points. The ‘in-crowd’ light up their spliffs on the roof terrace.
p.s. Unless you know someone, or hack their secret password, your chances of getting in are 0.0001 %

Nyets. Pretentious. Over over-priced drinks, like €18 for an Evian. Fuck Me I’m Famous kind of attitude. Nazi face control.

Nabherezhnaya near Hotel Ukraine. Look out for a long line of fashion victims on the river, near the industrial dock.

Simachev Bar
Finally, a cool bar in Moscow, a city that despises anything small and tinny. Bars! It’s just not a Moscow thing. Unless, that is you create a design bar, as Dennis Simachev—a fashion designer known for his cult of Putin T-shirts and backed by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich—has done. On first sight, its 70s retro look coupled with a ‘toilet’ humor and theme (think dry sinks on the tables, and a photoshopped picture behind the bar of Bush being cheered by world leaders including Bin Laden) works. After the first visit though, it came across as much too contrived, as were most of its desperate-to-be-cool clientele. Still, the food is healthy and very moderately priced, and so are the drinks. The DJs rock! And, it’s open all night. One of Nina Kraviz’s favorite spots.

12 Stoleshnikov Per. Open 24/7. Simachev shop upstairs.
Gazgolder
With its exposed brick walls, red velvet, London-loft edge, and weird location near Paveleksty Vokzal, it’s the place where the golden youth go when they want to get down and dirty, doing rails in the toilets and chatting up the occasional transvestite or outrageous club babe. With no sign, no big neon or doormen, and just a tiny buzzer through which they let the ones they like enter, the club creates an intimate atmosphere of naughties decadence.
Nizhnyi Susalnyi per. 5 (near Paveletsky Vokzal)

Propaganda
An old skool 90s venue, that plays serious house music and Berlin electro, Propaganda always attracted the city’s best looking bohemians, that mix of gays, hip students, media types and sophisticated clubbers that could belong in Amsterdam or Berlin. Thursday nights are our favorites, but ‘Nu Rave’ Fridays seem to have a cult following among good-looking trend hunters. Don’t ask us why? Candy neckglaces and blinking baby pacifiers were kinda trippy only on ecstasy. And, even then, just …

Bolshoi Zlatoustinsky per. 7 (just off Maroseika)

Fabrique
Its not on the top-tier of Moscow clubs, but for some reason, Fabrique attracts a foreigner-friendly crowd (quite rare in today’s Moscow) and has a ‘flower power’ door policy in comparison to the Nazis that man the elitny clubs. Two levels, an outdoor terrace, and a rammed dance floor pumping Detroit Techno or hard house gives it a fun-house feeling. Our Shanghai editor was buzzed by a girl after he refused to buy her a red bull vodka cocktail, but still loves the place.
Kosmodamianskaya Nab. 2
Dagilev
Super-elite club opened last spring by the owners of Zima, Leta, Osen—Moscow’s most successful club experiment. Diaghilev, a nod to Russia’s Ballet Russe, is a lot more commercial than the first ones, with big video screens outside, VIP tables upstairs that cost $5000 to rent for the night, and a hi-tech dance floor.

Nyets. Lost its appeal among cool Oligarchs after Krisha and Rai opened last year. Becoming more a club for rich wankers from the provinces.

Fri.-Sat. 0.00-6.00
790 74 00, Karetnyi Ryad 3
Sad Hermitage
Metro Pushkinskaya
Hungry Duck
This Moscow institution of teenage debauchery, ladies nights and naked US marines doing the macarena on the horseshoe bar is still going despite many changes in ownership over the years. It’s just as sleazy, beery, sweaty and horny as ever, with provincial Lolitas with bad teeth lolling out sexual favors to anyone—no matter how old or potbellied—who can splurge for a 150R Heineken on tap.
Pushechnaya ul. 9 (next to Kuznetsky Most Metro)

GOURMAND

Bon Restaurant
With both Ralph Laurent and J Lo opening flagships boutiques in Moscow, the city’s gone mainstream glam these days. Hey, it’s even got its own Philippe Starcke restaurant (bet you the hotel’s opening within two years!). It’s quite gothic and surreal with candlesticks, stained-glass windows and diamond-encrusted stuffed owls, lit by Kalashnikov lamps. Think Black Dahlia meets Rich Russia.

Yakimanskaya Embankment 4/4.

Starlite Diner
An expat favorite, this ‘American’ diner with its jukebokes, red vinyl couches, and waitresses in bobby sox and pleated skirts had its heydey in the late 90s when Gringos were in favor. Things have changed since then, and though the cool crowd turns up its nose, the cheeseburgers, huge milkshakes, nacho plates, yummy omelettes makes former Muscovites like me nostalgic for the days when all this felt like luxury. Prices have rised steeply though, and the service lacks that over-eager American touch 😉 Yet, still one of the best places for a weekend brunch.

Two locations. #1: Sadovaya Bolshaya ul. 16; #2: Ul Korovy val. 9
Discreet Charm of the Bourgeouise
Anyone who names a restaurant after a Bunuel classic, must have enough taste to stay away from opening yet another cookie-cutter, Wallpaper*-inspired restaurant that have popped up all over Moscow. Serving reasonably-priced pan-Asian/Italian food, it caters to Moscow’s emerging middle class: the types who watch the Russian version of ‘Sex and the City’ and prefer beer or wine over vodka.
24 Ul. Bolshaya Lubyanka (M. Lubyanka)
Tel. 923-0848
Open 24 hours

Aist
A Novikov classic, with an outdoor patio on Moscow’s charming Malaya Bronaya Ulitsa, occupying a three-storey mansion. The second floor has is decorated in grand Czarist Russian style, with candelabras, oil paintings, and the rest. French/Mediteraen cuisine and a fancy wine list. Be prepared to punch a beasty hole in your wallet if you come here on a date!

8/1 Malaya Bronnaya Ul. (M. Pushkinskaya) 736-9131/32, noon-last guest

Anime i Manga
The rest of the region needs places like this. A sushi bar with a manga theme, the walls are covered with Japanese cartoons, and the waitresses dress as Japanese schoolgirls!! It’s the Beast version of heaven: Russian schoolgirls posing as Japanese, with wasabi and eel to boot.

79 Butyrskaya Ul. (M. Dmitrovskaya) 210-3549, noon-midnight

Café Pushkin
Although overpriced and overdecorated, this place is the ultimate Moscow experience with its fin-de-siecle atmosphere that oozes Czarist excess, its clientele of Russia’s movers and shakers, and mouth-watering Russian delicacies, like blinis with black caviar. You pay dearly for the experience, but certainly worth the occasional splurge.

Tverskoi bulvar 26A. Tel. 229-5590

Tiflis
No trip to Russia’s capital is complete without a dinner at a Georgian restaurant, with its stewed chicken and lamb dishes with unpronouncable names. Although Georgian wines are ‘technically’ banned in Russia due to the bad blood between the reformist government and Mr. Putin, the staff can always find you a wonderful white. With its outdoor terrace, excellent service and wonderful appetizers, including fried eggplant and green beans, Tiflis is said to be the best Caucasian restaurant in Moscow.

Ostozhenka 32 Tel. 290-2897
MORNING AFTER (if you make it, that is!)

WinZavod
Moscow is getting cooler each year, and this sprawling, art space in a former brewery behind Kursky train station, is a testament to its ‘global city’ ambitions. Modeled on the same concept as London’s Truman Brewery (only larger) it includes contemporary art galleries, the largest photography studio in Russia, artist’s workshops, record stores, bars and restaurants. Having just opened last year, it’s still got a fresh vibe about it, and a rawness that keeps art wank attitude at bay for now.

Art-center “Winzavod” 4-th Syromyatnicheskiy pereulok, 1. str. 6 www.winzavod.com

KGB Museum
This is Moscow’s most gruesome museum, bragging about the fearsome feats of the infamous Soviet secret service. Aside from the usual James Bond assortment of blow-up pens, cigars, listening devices and other toys that the master spys used for their espionage, there are even interrogation videos of Baltic partisons, and a ‘loving’ homage to all the former KGB chiefs, including our very own Vladimir Putin. Make sure you don’t come here on a hangover—or you might throw up.

Visits are by appointment only.

12 Ulitsa Bolshaya Lubyanskaya Metro: Kitai-gorod Moscow. Tel: +7 (495) 926 5566 to arrange tours.
Museum of Modern Art
As Moscow plays catch-up with the rest of the world, it was only a matter before it was inspired to open a Modern Art Museum. Unfortunately, the city, which is still under the spell of kitschy Georgian artist Zurab Tseretelli (whose massive Statue of Peter the Great for Moscow caused widespread protests under the late 90s) has given his grotesque, Social Realist-like sculptures pride of place in its main courtyard. Amassed together though, they make for quite a Heronymous Boschian spectable. The museum has recently added other contemporary artists, including transgressive ones like Oleg Kulik, to its roster.

Ulitsa Petrovka 25 . Tel. (495) 200 6695

MORE HOT PLACES TO BE…

BUCHAREST

KIEV

PRAGUE

RIGA

TALLINN

WARSAW

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One Response to “Belly of the Beast – Moscow”

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