Beaujolais//29 Bolshaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa//Tel: 571 8151//Open 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. weekends//Menu in Russian, French and English//Meal for two with alcohol 2,940 rubles ($60)
Published: April 13, 2011 (Issue # 1651)
Beaujolais wine hails from the thick-skinned Gamay grape, an attribute that aptly lends itself to fine French cuisine being served up from the construction-ridden Bolshaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa. The restaurant’s desirable window seats beg for a better landscape than the muddy trenches and hard-hats that have blighted the street since the end of last year, and one can only sympathize with the many restaurants on the building site — both new ones such as Beaujolais, and older representatives of the dining scene.
The restaurant’s more refined, Parisian-style eatery on the first floor stands in contrast to the warm, rustic basement with its more rough-hewn decor, from which the cheerful strains of live accordion music drifted: popular Parisian melodies are performed, complete with a tawdry drum-machine in support, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. every evening.
The service at Beaujolais was superb, at points verging on over-zealous; and we welcomed the comprehensive selection of French wines, ranging in price from 750 rubles ($22) to close to infinity. The food is non-specifically French, at odds with the decor’s affectations; this however allows for an accommodating array of dishes. The decor attempts to evoke pastoral France with shelves of dusty wine bottles, which might have been successful, were it not for the smoothly integrated TV screens, mutely displaying Russian soaps.
From the selection of starters, an Italian sausage platter (390 rubles, $7.50) and Bouillebaisse (310 rubles, $6.50) proved, in the first case, rather bland — perhaps only due to the lack of any accompaniment (the impressive bread basket was offered only with the main course). The Bouillebaisse, however, was a real number, generously proportioning tender fish meat and seafood with subtle suggestions of citrus and tomato, making the dish well worth its price and position at the top of the French menu.
The three versions of the menu available (in English, French and Russian) — which rather strangely, differed entirely from one another — comprise a wide variety of European dishes punctuated by a number of local classics. The meat section ranged from pork a la Portugese with potatoes (390 rubles, $7.50) to a more expensive grilled veal in whiskey sauce (890 rubles, $18.30).
The mains arrived slightly late, but excused themselves in both presentation and body. The chicken breast with jamon and Dorblu, priced at a reasonable 350 rubles ($7.50), was a generous portion of tenderly prepared breast, and the center of blue cheese made for a wonderful, creamy texture with a rewarding zest.
The accompanying grilled vegetables were refreshing, and the eggplant and bell peppers complimented the simpler flavors of the centerpiece. They were served with a tangy tomato sauce, which added a necessary spice to the dish. The seafood tagliatelle (390 rubles, $7.50) was not such a hit: It arrived somewhat colder than expected and in a disappointingly small portion. The pasta itself was well cooked, but the tiny dollop of rich seafood sauce suffused with Parmesan simply wasn’t enough. The ingredients were disproportionate, and after enjoying the sauce, much of the plain pasta was left uneaten.
Among the extensive selection of beers and spirits, we opted for a lower-mid range Beaujolais (1,150 rubles, $37). This was selected in honor of the restaurant’s name, and we were not let down. It was a full-bodied and fruity red, served with much decorum. Our bucket-sized glasses were diligently refilled at every opportunity, and our meal was accompanied by warm rustic breads and flavored butters.
The atmosphere of a French bistro was an interesting counterpart to the Russian components of the menu. Alongside the substantial cellar and fantastic service, the restaurant has another string to its bow: The local celebrity chef Serge Ferie has lent his name and recipe to the restaurant’s creme brulee. Priced at a reasonable 150 rubles ($4.50), it was the finishing touch in an altogether convincingly French and enjoyable evening.
St. Petersburg has not forgotten its historical ties with French culture, and Gallic cuisine is well represented in the city, though it often tends to be at the upper end of the price scale.
This chain of cheerful bistros is represented by a couple of outlets in St. Petersburg — one on Ulitsa Marata and another on the Petrograd Side — as well as by several in Moscow. The menu comprises a range of classic French snacks and meals. 10 Ulitsa Marata, tel: 315 4903
Kukhnya boasts separate afternoon and evening menus featuring French classics as well as sandwiches and atypical “fusion pizzas” topped with Gorgonzola, salmon and other little luxuries. Portions are generous, and the dishes are delectable. The three rooms are spacious and uncluttered, and the overall impression is one of simplicity and extreme understatement. 77 Nab. Reki Fontanki, tel: 310 5280
Le Paris is most of the most upscale restaurants in St. Petersburg. The haute cuisine and wine list at this discreet, tasteful establishment are flawless, and are priced accordingly. 63 Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa, tel: 571 9545