Tuesday, 7 June 2011

One night in Moscow

‘Beer please. I mean, Pivo…Piva? Pilsner? Pivo.’ Ah the international language of beer. I speak three words of Russian and the waitress probably does the same with English. Not to worry. Into the dining room at a Durdin beer restaurant (the one near Polyanka Metro) I go — great steampunk website by the way. There’s a small bar but I carried on through into the restaurant. Here, napkins on tables, long windows looking out into the heavy traffic that never seemed to stop in Moscow; a bit of post-industrial metal work tracing across the ceiling, there’s another space upstairs; in another city this could have done time as an atelier; brassiere-like, smoking allowed. Ah, here she comes, menu in hand. When she returns to take my order, sweet smile, no doubt a mask hiding irritation at having to deal with such a schmuck. Toothy grin, ingratiating, slightly embarrassed, horsy, from me. Point at the beer tester of five. Pilsner, Bohemian Dark, North Star, Cabinet Red and Weiss (and for a moment I think it how remarkable that Weiss went from being an old folks beer in the 1960s to one of the universal ‘speciality’ beers of the world these days — in a counter-factual universe imagine the same have happened to mild? Blue Mild? Mild Blue?). пиво it will be then. Sounds like a cliché but a long-legged blonde settles in the corner, lights up a cigarette and orders a Weiss. A few minutes later an older man, with a face like a more genial Putin comes in and they both move to a table in the middle of the room. Elsewhere, young blokes, suits and haircuts you’d see on bank lads and web designers in English cities come in and fill themselves with Pilsner. Talking of which: the filtered Pilsner is clean and crisp and has a slight hint of caramel in the body; the North Star is non-filtered and has a strange sarsaparilla character (you want style, but you’re not having style); the Weiss is thin, flat, calm and limpid with regulation bananas and custard. So far and the Pilsner is the only beer that really calls to me, only in the same way though as some bloke across the road waving cause I’ve dropped my paper. Bohemian Dark is filtered but has caramel, treacle and cough mixture on the palate — I rather like it. I don’t like the Cabinet Red — all sweetness and caramel and nothing in between its ears. I plump for a half litre of the Pilsner, which is served in a dimpled pot bellied mug (hold on this ain’t the Jolly Butchers is it?). Beef Stroganoff follows — an assault of cream on the arteries that decides that I will walk back to the hotel via Red Square and the Arbat. And on the way back I duck into a bar in the Arbat that promises draft Schneider. Pivo.


  1. I really like the sense of place you've added into this, I really got a feel for the atmosphere which is a hard thing to get across in so few words. Excellent beer writing!

  2. Hear hear.

    I love the building too: pure Master and Margarita.

    Must. Go. To. Moscow.

  3. Thanks guys, really recommend the place, look out for my guide to the place in a future issue of the Sunday Times Travel Magazine (August I’m told).