Rich history meets contemporary chic in Moscow to strike a heady fusion of old and new.
Cosmopolitan in cuisine as well as culture, Moscow’s restaurants offer much more than traditional pelmeni dumplings. The menu at Ragout changes every week as chef Ilya Shalev finds new and tastier ways to please diners’ palettes with his unusual (and affordable) combination of French haute cuisine and hearty Russian dishes; expect suave salads, shepherd’s pie and steak tartare. Saperavi also uses new flavours to modernise Russia’s traditional Georgian cuisine and caters particularly well for vegetarians offering well-spiced dishes such as hazelnut-stuffed aubergine slices, tarragon walnut baked mushrooms and soft red ‘lobio’ beans with cabbage. Though everything about Moscow’s White Rabbit is smart and sophisticated, and Vlladimir Mukhin’s refined Russian meals are mouth-wateringly good, it is the restaurant’s incredible 360 degree panoramic view across the city that will leave the most lasting impression.
While the best small-scale club is undoubtedly the extravagant Vanilniy Ninja – a tiny private club combining techno, thorned lamps and baroque armchairs – Moscow’s stereotyped Dhs73 a beverage clubs are dying out. A new New York-meets-Berlin brand of nightlife is taking hold, making industrial estates and abandoned factories the new party territory.
Gipsy, with a dance floor inside, and another on an outdoor terrace, is just one of a neighbourhood of clubs and bars based at the former Red October factory site. Arma 17, in an industrial area near the Kurskiy rail station, is a temple for all techno-heads, with three dance floors, and huge parties two or three times a month (it also attracts international sets from the likes of Richie Hawtin and Ricardo Villalobo, and Ibiza revellers Resident Advisor, Circo Loco and Flying Circus). If you miss the party at Arma, Monasterio (based at another former factory) holds weekly techno club nights, featuring sets from the likes of Regis, Moerbeck and Levon Vincent, and has one of the best sound systems of the clubbing circuit. And, whenever you find yourself out in Moscow you can always head to Propaganda, the only club opening every night of the week. Propaganda is free and attracts a lively student crowd – Sanches’s Thursdays is a favourite night for techno tunes.
In Moscow, designer wear is for flouting; when going to dinner it is always safer to dress up than down. Facing the Red Square, GUM is a beautiful Moscow shopping centre selling every imaginable deluxe brand; from Louis Vuitton and Dior to popular high-street houses Calvin Klein and Zara, and home to boutiques selling everything from jewellery to crockery. Though not the cheapest place to shop, the arcade’s grand architecture, rich Soviet history and tasty eateries should entice even the least fashion-inclined.
For a more down-to-earth experience of Moscow shopping, the Tsvetnoy Central Market is home to all the hottest high-street brands, including Topshop and American Apparel as well as hipper high-end brands Acne and Vivienne Westwood. A place for Russians by Russians, the Tsvetnoy market also hosts many contemporary designers including Aleksander Terekhov and Walk of Shame, and is within walking distance of up and coming fashion houses Mary Katrantzou and Peter Pilotto.
The most creative brands can be found at Kuznetsky Most 20, including the likes of Maison Martin Margiela, Mark Fast and Commes des Garçons. Kuznetskiy, 20, is a great place to pick up accessories, such as Nixon watches, glasses by Mykita and Linda Farrow and swimwear by We Are Handsome. There is also a store by Russian designer Gosha Rubchinsky (who is regularly stocked by Opening Ceremony and Dover Street Market) and a large variety of menswear outlets.
While the grand Bolshoi Theatre is rich in heritage and has attracted tourists for over 300 years, its productions are at the forefront of contemporary performance. One of the best performances The Bolshoi has offered up recently is the intensely moving opera, Boris Godunov by Mrsogskiy. With encapsulating song and jaw-dropping theatrical design the 1948 production remained potent and easily transports audiences back to sixteenth century Russia.
Other accomplished companies include the Satirikon Theatre, which received rave reviews for its take on Chekov’s psychological masterpiece Chaika/The Seagull, while the recent run of Swan Lake at the Stanislavskiy Theatre epitomises how Russian ballet is capable of reinterpreting timeless classics in unexpected ways.
Need to know
Emirates flies direct to Moscow from Dhs2,175 return. www.emirates.com