location close

Laekjarbrekka: Suddenly Tasty Place in the Midst of Tourists in Reykjavik.

Lækjarbrekka, Bankastræti, Reykjavík, Iceland / 29 января 2018

It’s that rare, really rare occasion when a gingerbread house on the most touristic street turns out to be tasty.

We all know that a restaurant on a crowded street doesn’t have to be tasty, why should it? Especially, if it’s open on January 1, while everything around isn’t; a hungry angry half-drunk tourist will wolf down anything.

Yet, there’re some exceptions.

The only thing without exceptions is the prices, such a restaurant doesn’t have to be cheap, at all. Exceptions don’t occur twice, that’s why soups here are for $30, plates of appetizers for $45 and main dishes for $45-70. But it’s the risen from its knees Iceland and yes, there’s a nuance!

Portions are northern, that means they’re double for a normal eater. So, it’s not too bad.

All the rest’s really nice: fucking awesome lobster soup, here it’s made with coconut milk and oranges; an excellent steak of local beef and transcendental local lamb that is fed on moss only (I’ll never cease to repeat it) and has a completely different smell (no smell) if compared to a usual one and texture (more like liver, to my mind).

In addition, wines in the menu aren’t for $100+ like everywhere else on the island, but for 50+, excellent zinfandel for 65, which is a gift judging by local standards.

What more could one wish for?

Reykjavik (Winter): All Night Long™.

Reykjavík, Leirubakki, Iceland / 28 января 2018

Why winter? – because winter and summer are two different Reykjaviks and two different Icelands.

Completely. That means ABSOLUTELY.

I’m madly in love with this city and this country. And you shouldn’t be horrified and faint, for instance, from prices, or from absolutely Martian emptiness lasting for some 100 kilometers; you just need to make proper use of it (c).

Already while landing at Keflavik if the weather is good, you see streams of steam springing out of black soil here and there – Island’s welcoming you.

Reykjavik subtly resembles Jurmala, though it has spread out greatly over the past 10 years and even acquired some groves upon once perfect emptiness. Anyhow, its center, which you can and should walk all over across in 20 minutes, is built with 2-3-storey wooden “dachas” with balconies and carved railings of crayon colors.

You see bulbs, fir-trees, and candles burning in ice bowls everywhere.

In winter it’s almost always night. Day lasts for about 5-6 hours, half of which it’s shadowless lilac twilights that fill everything with matte studio light and crawl into each microdetail of the world, which makes already unreal landscapes look even stranger.

The city with its plush comfort is sort of a challenge to the deadly landscapes around it.

As if it was purposely wrapped in a mohair scarf, there’s even no of that insane wind, and the streets are covered with clean white snow for décor only, and tough Icelandic teens with bare legs in shorts are riding their boards along the main street’s slope on the block 101, in the morning of January 1 like it’s absolutely normal.

Here, like in few other places, I’m under the “reverse alienation”: the first day everything and everyone seems wrong; yet, day after day you’re getting into it, each day more deeply, you get more and more pleasure from simple stuff: caffeine, lamb shawarma, emptiness and morning-to-midday darkness, cars of incredible sizes, those ridiculous houses, shops full of jewelry that looks more like exhibit items of a looted Celtic museum.

Reykjavik is probably the last city on earth where the New Year is still dwelling: the light day is short, and in these eternal twilights the city is with its, again, eternal illumination and crowds of cheerful people walking around, which creates the mood like no other.

The state’s combating against drunkenness and selling alcohol only beginning  with the 2d of January and only in official shops has led to the fact that many people are hanging around a little buzzed, with flasks in their hands, but you’ll see neither fights, nor aggression.

Here they know how to celebrate: at midnight the entire city and the same amount of tourists gather at the Town Hall Square with bottles of champagne and strategic supplies of fireworks, which is enough for several hours of merrymaking; such a 9th of May we could be jealous of!

And that wild childlike jubilation – when you can yell yourself up hoarse in the middle of this fiery storm and drink brotherhood with strangers, and laugh ‘till your throat sores.

Here it’s incredibly delicious. Before there were only superproducts, for example, an incredible lamb that is fed on moss only and lives for 4 months max, it tastes more like liver, and cod, langoustines, horse meat, beef, various other fish and game meat also: whales and puffins; but now the entire “fashionable fashion” ™ of the world’s gastronomy can be found here – all these yuzu/ponzu and even local wasabi grown on thermal waters.

But we’ll consider the restaurants separately.

And yes, you can always spend a day to head the country (it’s better to leave when it’s still dark), which looks like Mars, to reach icebergs, too, and geysers with waterfalls, even alien Vik beaches – everything is close to the city. Just watch the weather – here it is no Europe! – even in summer the same panorama – and you can see up to 50 kilometers away! – might include the sun, and rain, and rainbow, and fog, all at the same time, and if talking about winter, a clear day can easily swap into a snow storm, like in a movie, not a big deal.

About prices: yes, it’s expensive, at first sight, very expensive, yet, there’s a secret. They’ve just raised the lower threshold: you won’t be able to eat for 3-5eur, even a shawarma will cost you 20, but what a shawarma it will be! – made of medium rare lamb, stuffed into a huge and thinnest lavash.

Yes, a main dish in a restaurant can easily cost 70EUR, but again, portions are huge, and a set of 5-6 courses in the same restaurant will cost you 100-110EUR. If you are used to traveling across Europe spending 50EUR per person a day – here it will be complicated for you, but if your norm is 250-300, then it’ll be even cheaper.

PS: Don’t forget to get some of these awesome local products to bring home, especially since they cost nothing – this peculiar lamb is for 25EUR.

MaréAlta: Fish out of Competition on the Island of Madeira.

MaréAlta - Peixe & Mariscos, Machico, Portugal / 07 декабря 2017

Generally, Madeira is a paradise for the massive elastic fresh Atlantic fish lovers.  Everything here is either alive or just slaughtered on the grounds that it wouldn’t gobble you up. Therefore you have to believe me that in such quantity and quality there is no better place for fresh fish than Madeira.

And so, if despite the fact that everywhere is kind of the same, you still go back to the same glass restaurant, on an idyllic beach, then this is an indicator.

Neither the road, nor the non-childish price list could stop us. 4 days out of 7 we kept on going back there and did not regret it.

It’s south of Madeira. And it’s much warmer here. Natural pools are made into lagoons, all covered with yellow sand. It’s like you’re not in raging Atlantic…

Mums, grandfathers, grandchildren. All of it rummage in the golden sand, warming up under the very bright November’s sun. Like we did not stand in windbreaks yesterday under the icy sprinkles in the North, watching how giant waves break into sharp rocks.

55 kilometres to the south and it’s like we moved to the Canary Islands. Some kind of absurd… The silence. The sand. The sun.

«Prego, signore. Quanto costa? Pescada? Ostriche? Oh, nice. Fresh? Multo fresco? Bene Bene … » In Madeira you don’t need to know the language throughout. It’s amazing. In 2 days you chat using a weird mixture of all the Latin groups. A little lisping to pass for one of them and that’s it.

To the glass restaurant we, the curious ones, were dragged by a finger snapping at the neck of a bottle. The old waitress was scanning codes from our yesterday’s faces and lured us with a bottle of Vino Verde.

We didn’t hesitate for too long. And while the rest of our family faithfully waited for a «dinner» call, whilst eating banana passionfruit (this is a local mix of banana and passionfruit) lying on towels at the edge of the ocean. We looked around thievishly and sat at the table with a crisp snow-white tablecloth. And with no remorse gobbled up 2 dozen of some kind of delicious mini oysters of precisely that highest freshness and with pearl glitter. This pearl glitter disappears, god knows where to, for those gloomily waiting for their turn in the Moscow aquarium gardens.

After a bottle of biting tongue, young, green wine we pulled out in complete tranquility to swim and lie down on the sand. The place for lunch was selected.

An hour later we were awaited for a gigantic red snapper in salt and for the content of enamelled basins, filled with sea inhabitants home salted and to be given as snacks. I haven’t had escabeche like there; neither before, nor after. There was no doubt that all of lobsters of the coast were used for the soup, and home-made bread with aioli was melting in the mouth, treacherously occupying a place meant for fish and octopus.

The next day our family pushed us into a corner, demanding to repeat the banquet, and we did not resist, although the restaurant was in half of island away, and the nearest restaurants were not bad at all. But we were maniacally called by escabeche and lobster soup.

If on an island full of wild luxurious fish again and again you go back to a glass restaurant on the beach, then it means only one thing –  you have found the best fish restaurant in Madeira. And it is MaréAlta – you must visit.

Palazzetto Pisani: Venetian Pictures Forever™.

Palazzetto Pisani Grand Canal, Sestiere di San Marco, Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy / 03 декабря 2017

It does happen.

All sorts of movies-pictures often do get engraved on one’s mind and remain forever there in the form of sankharas/wedges.

Venice, a balcony for the two of us, a wildly vulgar lemon-crimson sunset that according to Hoyle standards is reflecting in the Grand Canal; champagne, spaghetti in the palm of your vis-à-vis as if in a spoon (oh year, this is exactly the right/proper way to eat it, if you can). A postcard of the view.

Out of style? Drop it. Everyone wishes to have such vulgar pictures. If your “heart is longing” (c) for it – then have it.

Yet, here you’ll face some difficulties: in fact, such a proposal exists only in films, or if you’re an owner of a palazzo at the Grand Canal; otherwise a dinner for two will cost you much more than €1000 – and that’s “a bit too much” for Venetian food, to my mind.

From Centurion to Aman, wherever you thrash about, there’ll be always something wrong: either there’s no balcony or dock, or there’s a crowd, or they’ve got a balcony, but it’s not for two, or the sunset is on the wrong side, or the price is infernal.

Yet there’s a nuance.

If you cross the Accademia Bridge from the Accademia side and go further passing the Flower Bridge and the falling church with its night concerts, you get to the square. Then turn right and go through a narrow arch to the Conservatory’s yard, where kids play football in the evenings. Then again to the right, and bravely you go straight to the porch. Left turn, along a dark colonnade and further into the darkness, past the huge fence, through which the interior of the Conservatory with its narrow street between two palazzos facing the Grand.

There’s a door to the left, 10 meters away from the Canal.

Actually, you should do it otherwise: this strange place doesn’t usually appear even on booking.com and other sites; well, their bed & breakfast place can be found (that’s the door to the right), but the owners 5-star hotel just isn’t on the Web.

So, you may search for: http://www.palazzettopisani.com and buy a package – a suite and a dinner on a balcony. You’ll get a two-room suite with a view to the Grand and a dinner of 5 courses on its balcony for… 900eur! I’ll repeat it, Venice, 50+ meter suite, at the Grand Canal, and a dinner for two for 900 Euro!

I gotta tell you, it doesn’t have much to do with gourmet food, it’s rather about the memories: the palazzo, the night, you two are together, the main staircase, and it’s almost dark, owners’ tapestries, stained-glass windows, crystal, the view on the Canal, fireplaces, halls, black beams and portrait galleries, and so on and so forth.

And you’re above the city, the Canal, and all the boats, the sun is falling behind the Salute… All this is worth its money, and these couple of thousands of seconds apparently can’t be rated.

However, their pasta with tuna is, indeed, quite a masterpiece.

Just book everything in advance. There are only two such balconies.

Twins Garden: Two-Storey Minimal Garden, with the Most Natural Components, Where Talent Happily Met Investors.

Twins Garden, Strastnoy Boulevard, Moscow, Russia / 29 ноября 2017

I’ve been meditating on how to write this text and decided to clip the wings of epithets, leaving behind everything that is important to me personally as this place requires closer attention; a bunch of emotions won’t do the job properly.

The Brothers’ new restaurant “Twins Garden” ™ blew up rather than opened, like a tree on fertilized soil, on the most worshipful place, where one of the first gastro-meccas of the city, “Varvara”™ restaurant, used to break my stereotypes of taste and price.

We enter and go through a mirror-and-birch hallway, then up to the 7th floor in a private elevator and literally get to the kitchen.

Here you immediately find yourself, and it’s hard not to notice it, in sorta “Scandinavian” space – it’s functional, with an open kitchen and open materials: no aluminum, frosted glass and other queer stuff – the glass is transparent and there’s stone, textured metal and wood.

(The second floor is more cocktail/twilight; we’ll discuss it after a closer look).

It was mad funny the way neighboring tables full of “respectable people” were looking at us: two clowns in floor-length skirts and teared Japanese clothes, disheveled and obviously still messed up since yesterday; by some reason chefs themselves were bringing them all the dishes and actually paying them too much attention – this dissonance, I must say, was sorta weirdly cute and, dare I say it, remained in my memory.

Everything here is for the sake of food: local light above each table, and virtually invisible design without any fucking Moscow show-off. However, panoramic view of the city behind the window is still there, but no distraction.

The only thing that I might like to correct – there should be just a tiny little bit less brightness of ambient light between tables, because it makes everything way too detailed, like on a catwalk.

We take a seat and stumble upon the unrealistic figure of 35eur for… ha-ha! for a set of 7 (sic) courses. This is a kind of generosity, unprecedented even for post-crisis Moscow.

But let’s get to the food, the main thing here. Yet I have to say at once, that Brothers expanded the set for us a little as we were starving after Saturday booze at Simachev bar.

Let’s get back to our courses: first we were served bread and unrefined sunflower oil made on fried seeds (hereinafter: most of the produce come from their farm, somewhere near Kaluga, where they threaten to arrange a summer restaurant). Ok, we’ve seen all types of bread and unrefined oil, but! Here the concentration of smell in a bottle is like it’s some kind of dandelion wine, and immediately the bell rings loudly in my head, and: it’s summer, there’s my aunt Sonya’s cow Zorka, and a grassy slope towards Volga, and I stretch my hand with a chunk of bread with this very same oil, slightly squinting, as I’m afraid it might bite me out of greediness, while it’s trying to eat the bread with its warm, watery, huge lips.

A click. Pfff… what was I talking about?

Overall, it’s some fucking awesome oil; and memories worth holding on to…

I’m fond of Brothers’ food, and I know it well on their previous places. I won’t praise it: it’s firmly established in Moscow gastro-life; here it’s like Japanese anime that has grown out of Disney classics; it’s brought to a brave new level.

I’ll dwell upon the new stuff. And upon what I’ve missed in the CITY.


Either because of the farm, or it’s something else, but yesterday all the vegetable side dishes were bulging into a separate, absolutely independent type of meal; which was difficult to imagine earlier, when I used to take vegetables for some kind of obligatory and rather awkward addition.

It’s not like that here.

Everything that lies on a plate next to meat/fish is as valuable as animal/protein forms of life.

Of course, the Garden Salad is a another story: a mixture of root crops, vegetable caviar, vegetables, and leaves. Besides, all the components are of fucking completely different temperature.

Fragile because of nitrogen mint leaves, semi-icy caviar, room-temperature vegetables, baked hot roots – all these temperature gradients are still unbearably rare in the capital: not only a dish can’t be saved for later, but it’s being constructed right under your nose.

And this unpretentiously looking plate literally explodes with tastes: temperatures are multiplied by consistency and texture, and they hit taste buds like an orchestral volley. The war. The revolution. And then a small putsch, fading out, and an echo.

This is fucking awesome™; the fact that you get that high even without any meat – le plus grand respect.

I also have to mention finely made lemonades, for example the birch one… and all the other items in the set on which you can easily gorge yourself for desired $40.

More-moreover, they also have these non-sweet, kinda northern-restrained desserts. Including little birches with vegetables (sic!) extracts turned into candies/jellies.

So, I congratulate the CITY on a new acquisition and I wish it fair winds.

And, tomorrow I’ll go study the menu besides the set: it’s huge and requires my attention.

Bravo, guys!

PS: They’ve got a huge enoteca, 70% of which, according to the chefs, is brought by Brothers themselves, and can’t be find at the majors.

PPS: There’ll be a chef’s table laboratory soon, for 4-6 people at most, with no menu: bare experiments/improvisations. I’m looking forward to it.

PPPS: And yes, if this place is able to turn a half-drunk awakening into a night to remember, it’s worth a lot.

Do enjoy.

Corner Pub: Almost Free Bar for Locals and Foreigners (If They Manage to Find It) with “One-Window System” ™.

Calle della Chiesa, 30123, Venice, VE, Italy / 29 ноября 2017

Venice. To love it one has to make an effort, as known.

The city keeps on hiding in a den, only exposing its worst sides to the fucking annoying tourists.

Of course, you didn’t consider that all those nightmarish fish restaurants near Rialto and/or a coffee for €20 at San Marco is the real Venice, did you? You’ve never thought that way, right?

Then, let’s go.

Right turn after Salute, along the Grand Canal through a house, or left turn after Academy, again some literally 500 meters until signs become faded and people with dogs appear.

The bar is at the corner. Right in front of Charming House. (Is that magical hotel still there? – It is.)

There’s a corner of a house, a crowd, a bar, and a window through which they hand alcohol on the street.

It turns out they also have food, but it doesn’t matter at all.

What matters is: Aperol for €5 and the same price for Campari with juice, and to take it out and to sit in the crowd of locals on the bridge that leads to a restaurant you’ve wanted to visit for 15 years already; and to sit right there on stone steps and to look at the life behind rare lit windows, and to think of nothing.

And to drink, hustle and look again at houses; to listen to the city and locals and to become one for a second: one who gets his drinks “from the window” and goes to the bridge is a local.

Dogs and hubbub, people, teenagers  from a nearby hostel with a pizza; they carry potato for someone on the bridge, it was caught with a sieve from an oil tub; you feel like you’re squeezing inside this “crossroad”, and the city that until now was so unreal, as if it was painted on a canvas, – is right here in front of you.

Don’t miss it.