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Les Menus by Pierre Gagnaire, Lotte Hotel, Moscow

The Lotte Hotel in Moscow only opened three years ago, but in that short time it has managed to earn the top spot on TripAdvisor as the number one hotel in Moscow as well as string of other awards such as Conde Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Award for the Best Hotel in Russia 2012. It’s easy to see why. The hotel, within walking distance to Red Square, is finished to the highest standard and boasts of conference rooms, a state-of-the-art fitness centre and a Mandara spa. The rooms are spacious and comfy with many classy touches such as an easy to use touch-pad lighting system and an impressive bathroom that boasts of Molton Brown products, a heated loo seat and a automated bidet. The Lotte Hotel chain is little known outside its home country of South Korea but it is one of their most respected top ten brands, and all the ingredients that have made it such a success there have been brought to the Moscow location.

Superior room

Superior room

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Caviar Bar, Grand Hotel Europe, St Petersburg

After the W Hotel St Petersburg I moved onto The Grand Hotel Europe St Petersburg where I stayed one night. It’s a grand dame of a hotel if there ever was one and houses the famous Caviar Bar Restaurant. Palatial and luxurious, it’s long been recognised as one of the best hotels in the world with a string of awards to its name. The Grand Hotel Europe is steeped in history and dates back to 1875, and in the 100 plus years of its existence it has hosted a long list of royalty, Heads of State and other A-list celebrities the likes of which have included Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Bill Clinton, Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney.

Apart from its superior and deluxe rooms and one bedroom and executive suites, the hotel also boasts 10 special historically themed suites, each of which were designed around famous personalities, places and institutions dear to St Petersburg’s heart. Take the Pavarotti Suite – this was where Pavarotti stayed during his farewell tour and houses the baby grand piano that he practiced on while on tour in St Petersburg. There is also the Faberge Suite, named after the renowned jeweler and features furniture encrusted with precious stones.

During my stay at the Grand Hotel Europe I was fortunate enough to be upgraded to one of these historical suites, The Romanov Suite, so named as it was dedicated to the last Imperial Russian dynasty. Members of the Romanov family were regular visitors to The Grand Hotel Europe, and the last emperor, Nicholas II, held many diplomatic receptions here. Decedents of the Romanov Family were personally involved in the creation of the suite, and the copies of the private family photos that now hang in the suite were donated for use by the Romanov decedents themselves.

Romanov Suite

Romanov Suite

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48 Hours in Moscow

At first glance, Moscow does not come across as the prettiest of cities. And the momentary confusion that grabs you as you first walk into the metro feels a little overwhelming as there are no English signs. But as you learn to navigate yourself and chip away at the language barriers, you soon discover that Moscow is not without its charms. The more you dig, the more you realise that there is more than meets the eye. There is an incredible depth of history behind this grand old city – inside the Kremlin walls is a treasure trove of riches and the fine art offerings in its museums are world class. And St Basil’s Cathedral – well it’s hard to capture the sense of awe that you feel when you first lay eyes on its colourful grandeur.

Saint Basil's Cathedral

Saint Basil’s Cathedral

Friends of mine who went to Moscow 20 years ago told me that back in those dark communist times one had to wait about ten hours to get served at McDonald’s. Now the restaurant choices are plentiful and varied, Japanese restaurants are en vogue and some critically acclaimed chefs such as the likes of Pierre Gagnaire have set up shop in Moscow with his restaurant Les Menus at the Lotte Hotel.

So I was on a mission to do some eating of my own, and the first restaurant on the agenda was Expedition, a restaurant that is unique for its sense of adventure and its use of native Russian products. Also popular in Russia are cuisines from the ex-Soviet states so Georgian cuisine at Saperavi Café was up next. Finally Restaurant 57 rounded up the list for a spot of Soviet self-service eating which proved to be surprisingly good.

Expedition Restaurant

Expedition Restaurant

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Secret Soviet Supper – Russian Revels

Back in the day, Katrina Kollegaev from food blog Gastronomicalme use to host a series of lunch clubs at her home in North London. Being of Russian decent, her focus was on food with Soviet roots. The lunch I attended centred around Ukrainian food and it proved to be tasty and interesting. It was also an insightful glance into the eating habits of Ukrainians (for that post click here).

Since then, Katrina has gone on to form the Russian Revels with another Russian lady Karina Baldry. Russian Revels specialises in hosting Russian themed supper clubs with a twist, and their latest project is a series of Secret Soviet Suppers at a secret location near Farringdon.

The backdrop of these Secret Soviet Suppers is 1920s Russia, and in keeping with this theme the location was kept secret until two days before the event. We were charged with a Soviet ‘bourgeois’ dress code and impressively almost all the forty or so guests made an effort to dress up. We were also given a Soviet identity and an ID card for admission (I was Olga, a nurse), as well a special, secret password for use at the door. How fun!

Soviet ID

Soviet ID

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