The peculiarities of St. Petersburg cuisine: which meals are served on the banks of the Neva River

25 February 2021

The northern capital intends to continue development of gastronomic tourism.

Izvestia, Alexander Sidorov

St. Petersburg traditionally occupies a leading position as one of the highly demanded tourist destinations of the country. Travelers are foremost attracted by the mighty cultural potential of the Northern capital - outstanding historical and cultural landmarks, extensive museum collections, multi-format theater, stage and concert venues. However, in recent years, more and more attention has been paid to the development of one more focus area, which is fundamentally important for regional tourism - gastronomic. Details - in the "Izvestia" materials.

“Gastronomy is inextricably linked with the cultural component of the city - due to the specifics of the location. St. Petersburg as a "window" between Russia and Europe combines an eclectic mix of various national cuisines, so the Northern capital is set to be called not only the cultural capital of Russia, but the gastronomic one as well. We would like to give the right direction to the further development of St. Petersburg cuisine through cultural and educational tourism, creating new gastronomic routes and appropriately positioning the city on the regional and world tourist markets," said Sergey Korneev, Chairman of the Saint Petersburg Committee for Tourism Development, to Izvestia.

Dinner with history

The idea of creating a new gastronomic brand on the banks of the Neva River - St. Petersburg cuisine - originated about several years ago. It was based on the historical recipes of the 18th-19th centuries, collected primarily in the paradigmatic edition of Ignatius Radetsky "Petersburg cuisine" (1862), as well as on the results of numerous scientific researches of William Pokhlebkin, but not limited to these. Historians literally bit by bit compiled information from various sources - literary works, periodicals, diaries, letters, works of art. As a result, a vast corpus of texts was formed, which makes it possible to understand not only what people ate in the capital of the Russian Empire, but also where the recipes were borrowed from, how and why they were processed, how certain dishes were served, what the dinner consisted of - everyday, festive, lenten, gala etc.

“Petersburg cuisine was a combination of Russian, German, French, Dutch gastronomic traditions, national products and European, first of all, French techniques. Though, it was not a matter of copying, but a creative reinterpretation of what would later be called haute cuisine. Petersburg cuisine was significantly different from both traditional Russian and merchant Moscow. It was in a genuine sense aristocratic,” - shared Tatyana Tsvetkova, curator of the Museum of the History of the Development of Public food service in St. Petersburg.

At a certain point, dozens of St. Petersburg restaurants joined the implementation of the ambitious project, introducing reconstructed dishes into their menu, or even creating whole "historical" sections of them. Today such places are easily recognizable by the corresponding branded badge on the front door. It means that here you may taste, for example, chopped fish made from Ladoga pike perch, Skobelevskie rissole, Guryev porridge, Nesselrode pudding or something else, no less intricate, but until recently almost unknown to guests and residents of the Northern capital.

Note: in Palkin restaurant, one of the three historic St. Petersburg restaurants that have survived from the 19th century to the present day, the idea of ​​revitalization of St. Petersburg cuisine was enthusiastically welcomed. Today here you may taste, for example, hare's cutlets and black truffles served with mushroom soufflé and sauternes sauce; shchi - old Russian style sauerkraut soup with bacon, long baked in the oven with head meat and cep mushrooms; sterlet sturgeon baked in white wine served with gherkins in crayfish sauce; and for dessert - chamomile blancmange with specialty ice cream.

Sense of taste

Historical cuisine is an important, but not single component of gastronomic tourism. In recent years, several restaurants have emerged in the city where you can get acquainted with cuisine of a completely different kind: very modern performance, following the current world trends, truly stylish and fashionable, at the same time with an original cooking manner. It is not for nothing that these restaurants have been on the top lists of domestic and international restaurant ratings for a long time. And after visiting them it becomes clear why Petersburg deserves to be called one of the capitals of global gastronomy.

Those who seek surprise and vivid impressions from food should visit the Birch restaurant managed by the chef Hezret Arslan Berdiev. Everything here is not what it seems at first sight. Each dish is an intricate cross word puzzle and solving it is not only very delicious, but also terribly exciting. For example, a vegetable salad whose taste is completely recognizable is made liquid. The octopus is hidden in the bone marrow and fit son a slice of fried potatoes. The eel sandwich is complemented by a seafood and seaweed consommé to enhance the palette of sea tastes. Caramelized onion mousse joins veal to morel. Uzbek lemon with extremely powerful taste and in three textures suddenly turns out to be a wonderful dessert.

Another restaurant of this kind was opened in March, but only worked for a couple of weeks and then was put in quarantine and was reopened in the autumn. The Eclipse restaurant is located in Repino, one of the most popular and prestigious suburbs. It takes 40 minutes to get here from Saint Petersburg by car since it is much more convenient to do this on the new highway. The menu only offers sets of dishes, but guests can compile a significant part of them on their own. To do this, each of the sections (cold and hot appetizers, main dish, desserts) has four options.

Chef Sergey Fokin, an obvious fan of Nordic cuisine, strive stop reserve the original taste of the ingredients as much as possible. He uses neither strong flavoring nor spicy sauces, tries to avoid using salt whenever possible and prefers mashed potatoes and textured mousses. Everything is based on halftones, shades and nuances. Murmansk shrimp tartar is delicately shaded with pear sorbet and honey biscuit is shaded with celery cream and sea buckthorn sorbet. Fillet of marbled catfish is complemented with baked beetroot and cucumber jelly. Chicken pie is served with quince, plum and farm sour cream sauce.

Everything is controlled and designed with utmost thoroughness.

Full concentration on the product is the most important element in the concept of Vovo, one of the city's most influential modern restaurants. High quality products from local and regional small farms are turned into sophisticated dishes with delicate, elegant and refined tastes by chef Artyom Grebenchshikov, who perfectly possesses French cooking techniques. Suddenly it turns out that scallop carpaccio goes well with sauerkraut and Ladoga pike perch goes well with morels and hazelnuts, baked beetroot seems to be specially created for red caviar and homemade ricotta while celery root is perfect to cook steaks out of it.

Old heroes, new places

More recently, there were several popular restaurant clusters in the city, and a visit to Rubinstein Street was almost an obligatory item on a decent tourist program. But the pandemic has made its own adjustments here too. Some establishments have closed; others have changed locations, in others the team has changed and, accordingly, the menu.

Today, experienced restaurateurs are increasingly looking at new points of human attraction - urban public spaces such as Sevkabel port or New Holland. Citizens and guests of St. Petersburg are offered a variety of leisure activities here - from ice skating in the fresh air to a master class in an art workshop. In such places, there are usually a lot of people not only on weekends, but also on weekdays.

It is not surprising that, along with ordinary cafes, establishments of a completely different class began to open here. The CoCoCo restaurant, one of the flagships of modern St. Petersburg gastronomy, has also moved to New Holland. The project team, headed by Chef Igor Grishechkin, launched a gastrobistro here in the summer, but in December a full-fledged gastronomic restaurant will also open in the neighborhood. In the first one, you can now try fried zucchini with walnuts and miso sauce, salmon tartar with radish and horseradish, hot dog with farm sausage in butter brioches, pasta with homemade stew and parmesan or Pavlova dessert with rhubarb and pear sorbet. The second promises everything for which gourmets of both capitals love Grishechkin so much - sophisticated signature food with an emphasis on local and seasonal products.

However, CoCoCo will have serious competitors on the small island - for example, the Kuznyahouse project, which has already settled here for a long time, headed by Chef Ruslan Zakirov. Moreover, his broccoli on charcoal with stractella and date sauce, caramella with suluguni and pumpkin and veal cheeks with baked leek did not get any worse during the pandemic.

Of course, the gastronomic life of the Northern capital is much broader and fuller than it can be imagined even in a lengthy sketch. The variety of St. Petersburg restaurants seems inexhaustible, so every traveler will find here something to his liking. And if for some Petersburg will be firmly associated with uncompromising cuisine in the spirit of zero waste from Harvest, others will remember it for the gastro aesthetics verified to the smallest detail from Percorso or the sparkling fireworks of flavors from Almond.

The material was prepared as a result of a series of 5 informational and familiarization press tours that took place from November 28 to December 7, 2020 in the northern capital. It was attended by 50 journalists and bloggers from different regions of Russia.