Teplitsa // 88 Nevsky Prospekt // Tel: 318 0105 // Open daily 8 a.m. till the last customer // Menu in Russian // Dinner for two 1,860 rubles ($66)
Published: May 18, 2011 (Issue # 1656)
With the White Nights rapidly approaching, a new eatery has taken the concept of a panoramic restaurant to a whole new level. Teplitsa, which means greenhouse, is indeed entirely made of glass, and is housed in a new extension on top of the former Stereo Kino movie theater. Instead of offering views of the city’s fabled skyline, however, it looks out onto a courtyard. Not just any old courtyard, though: This is Nevsky 88, home to an extensive labyrinth of smart, clean yards, with elegant lampposts and small islands of garden. There are no rotting Ladas here, only clean, expensive cars. The courtyard is home to a mini-hotel and several renovated apartments available for short-term rent, hence the care that obviously goes into maintaining it. There is also a dodgy-looking nightclub named Night Flight, a sex shop, and the usual litter of adorable stray kittens to keep things interesting.
The entrance to Teplitsa is through the old ticket offices of the movie theater, past an old grand piano, through a dimly lit but attractive hall and up a staircase with stucco molding on its white walls. Downstairs, in the former hall of the movie theater, renovation work is still being carried out on a nightclub due to open later this month, where clubbers will apparently come to worship at the shrine of the male form. After the dim lighting downstairs, it is a contrast to break out into the light and airy glass extension that houses the restaurant, or restoranchik, as Teplitsa calls itself.
The interior is in fact disguised as an exterior, with fake grass covering the floor, peppered with the occasional artificial flower. Potted plants are arranged in the corners, and ivy plants trail from freestanding shelves. The summery atmosphere is enhanced by the bright white chair covers and tablecloths. The shelves, also painted white, are loaded with wine bottles, stuffed toys, books and eclectic objects such as watering cans.
Teplitsa’s menu is predominantly Italian, and is very reasonably priced, with prices ranging from 150 rubles ($5.30) for a soup or hot snack to 950 rubles ($34) for the menu’s most expensive offering — black cod. Teplitsa only opened on May 7, and does not yet serve alcohol other than cider and excellent ice-cold unfiltered Blanche de Namur beer (200 rubles, $7 for half a liter).
The meal itself got off to a disastrous start when the tomato soup (180 rubles, $6.40) innocently ordered by an ichthyophobe in our party arrived with chunks of an unidentified white fish in it. The waitress offered to bring another one, giving rise to fears that the fish would simply be removed and the dish brought back — such things have been known to happen! — but such cynicism thankfully proved unfounded. The replacement bowl, which, the waitress announced generously, we would not be charged for, was felicitously fish-free, but nothing special in the flavor department.
Pumpkin soup (150 rubles, $5.30), also arrived with an unexpected maritime twist, this time in the form of squid rings. Nor was the thick, sweet concoction any more impressive than its tomato counterpart.
The salads at Teplitsa may well be a better bet — at least, salad with roast beef and chicken fillet (250 rubles, $8.90) was a resounding success. Arugula, lettuce, red and yellow bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and gherkins topped with tender meat and drizzled with a pesto sauce amounted to a generous portion, and the dish was as fresh and green as the season and setting.
Of the three lasagnas offered at Teplitsa (meat, vegetable and fish, all priced at 250 rubles or $8.90), the vegetable option was satisfactory, though no more exciting than the tomato soup. The proportion of grated carrot in the mixture of roast yellow peppers, mushrooms and bechamel sauce seemed excessive, and the crisp top layer of pasta suggested the dish had been reheated.
Likewise, beef Stroganoff “in a new style” (330 rubles, $11.75) did not really set a new precedent for the classic dish. While the beef was lean and tender enough, the mysterious sauce in which it was cooked, which appeared to contain sea kale, bore little resemblance to Stroganoff. The dish was decorated with a quartered gherkin.
While Teplitsa cannot be described as a gourmet establishment, nor does it appear to be marketing or pricing itself as such, and its unusual setting, laid-back atmosphere and democratic prices make it an engaging option for flaneurs seeking an alternative to the packed, overpriced tourist traps on Nevsky Prospekt.
In the Courtyard
Behind the stately renovated facades of the city’s streets lies a whole other world: The courtyards are often home to some of the city’s most fascinating clubs, bars, galleries and eateries.
A very popular restaurant serving European and Russian food in a homely environment, complete with guest slippers and an open log fire (“teplo” means “warm” in Russian). In the summer, tables are set up outdoors in the renovated, flower-strewn courtyard.
45 Bolshaya Morskaya Ulitsa
Tel: 570 1974
A swanky restaurant housed in a glass structure erected in the courtyard of the Stroganov Palace, serving Vietnamese, Italian and French dishes as well as sushi and seafood. The interior is dominated by red and black tones, and by a glass lift leading to the upper floor of the open kitchen station.
17 Nevsky Prospekt
Tel: 315 2315
This compact restaurant on the Petrograd Side is entered through the courtyard. Odin’s Viking theme is emphasized by its dark wooden interior. One table is housed in a longboat set in a small pond containing live fish. The cuisine is, predictably, Scandinavian and, less predictably, Japanese.
28 Ulitsa Kuibysheva
Tel: 498 6000