Up until pretty recently, finding a cup of impressive coffee in Moscow was somewhat of a challenge. According to Polly Barks, blogger, editor-in-chief of Like a Local and resident Moscow cafe connoisseur, it was really in the last few years that many Muscovites seemed to finally reach their epicurean breaking point.
Tired of the same chain cafes that typically dominated the market with bad food and worse coffee, a select few on Moscow’s restaurant scene began the task of cultivating a unique, worthwhile cafe culture for the Russian capital. After just a few years, the idea spread like wildfire; today, cafes with a commitment to a great menu and a charismatic atmosphere have emerged all over the city. (Turns out, Moscow is even starting to understand the meaning of brunch!)
We asked Polly to share this burgeoning culture around Patriach’s Pond (also known to Moscow locals as “Patriki” or, jokingly, as “the Williamsburg of Moscow”) with us. Here’s what Polly recommends:
Polly: While many Russians reviewing the shop still seem unclear whether it’s Michel’s or Michelle’s, one thing is for sure: the reviews are glowing. I know firsthand that it’s practically impossible to leave the bakery without several sweet purchases you didn’t even know you wanted. Michelle’s Bakery’s first foray into the Russian market was in Saint Petersburg, and after several years of success, they opened up shop in Moscow. With undeniably adorable branding and an irresistible array of breads and cakes, there was really no question that the bakery would find success. Michelle’s serves a full menu of salads, soups, and sandwiches, but the real winners are of course the baked goods which, with the right wind, will beckon you with their wafting scent from at least 100 meters away.
(Pro tip: Free, fresh-baked croissants come with every takeout drink order!)
Polly: It’s difficult to imagine a person who could fail to be immediately charmed by the interior of Brownie Cafe. Owned by the Friends Forever Company, a restaurant group dedicated to bringing flair into Moscow’s cafe and restaurant scene, Brownie Cafe is a welcome relief from the overload of no-personality, mediocre-menu cafe chains that dot Moscow’s streets. This cafe has a vintage-themed style, sleek menu, and good service that wouldn’t be out of place in a trendy US city. But by far the best aspect of Brownie Cafe is their open kitchen plan—you can watch future cakes being made as you peruse the menu. A glittering display case directly in front of the door makes it difficult to ignore the pull of their oversized cake slices (all freshly made on their mint-green, 1950s style kitchen appliances), but their breakfast and lunch options are amazingly good as well. Unlike many trendy cafes, their portions actually match their prices: while you might pay a premium for your omelet or massive slice of cake, you probably won’t need another meal after brunch.
Polly: Don your Moscow hipster finery before popping into Essthetik Bistro. (Safe options include: thick glasses, beanies, construction-style boots, anything flannel, and/or a Los Angeles ball cap.) You’ll be glad you did as you make your way inside the pleasantly trendy interior; while many restaurants in patriki tend to cater to wealthy young families in the area, Essthetik Bistro is usually populated by a hipper, child-free crowd. Although its sumptuous meat and cheese list has likely been narrowed down considerably by recent sanctions, Essthetik’s menu continues to offer a range of dishes not readily available in typical cafes or restaurants. Better yet, it’s a cafe in Moscow where you can order a coffee and be sure it’ll be prepared correctly. Essthetik Bistro is most popular as a sit-down restaurant, but if you’re looking for a meal with a view, grab one of their bratwurst and find a free bench at Patriarch’s Pond (just a minute’s walk down Malaya Bronnaya Street).
Makes you want to cozy up with a warm drink and a flaky pastry, no? (Surely, it’s not just us who feels that way.)