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THE DISH: Brera Bar

Brera Bar//14 Pochtamtskaya Ulitsa//Tel. +7 921 941 9090//Open daily noon till midnight//Menu in Russian and Italian//Lunch for two without alcohol 1,430 rubles ($47)

Published: January 16, 2013 (Issue # 1742)


Fifty shades of gray

Brera is a smart new bar that opened at the end of last year on the unassuming Pochtamtskaya Ulitsa. Housed just a few doors down from the upscale gourmet giant that is Ginzas Mansarda, and around the corner from the row of expensive eateries comprised by the Stroganoff Steak House, Russian Vodka Room No. 1 and Graf-in, Brera offers a considerably less expensive and formal alternative for hungry office workers in this neighborhood.

Named after a district in Milan, the restaurant offers a menu that is unsurprisingly predominantly Italian, and given that districts reputation as the Milanese Montmartre, the interior is also suitably artistic.

A lot of work has gone into Breras original design, which certainly lives up to Italys reputation as the design capital. A centerpiece is the chandelier, which consists of dozens of spherical lamp bulbs bunched together with a red cord. On one wall, a huge mirror hangs in a wooden frame around which climbing vines snake their way, threaded in and out of a trellis. Large silver-colored lampshades resemble the kind of dryers that elderly ladies seem to spend hours under at the hairdressers, and doorknockers provide quirky decorations for the backs of some of the chairs. Spacious gray velvet armchairs positioned in front of the windows provide a languorously comfortable spot from which to watch the world go by. Gray is indeed a dominant theme, with the walls and a wardrobe at the entrance also painted in its shadowy shades.

There is also an international feel to Breras decoration, and a constant contrast between old and new, with flag designs inset into the shiny tables, other country symbols adorning the walls and furniture and a vast globe sitting in a stand on the bar that dominates one wall (and boasts an impressive peanut dispenser). Old-fashioned traveling trunks are dotted around the interior, among the smart leather hassocks and giant candles standing in enormous glass jars. Above the bar stands a miniature obelisk resembling a Cleopatras Needle, while a classical bust completes the picture of empire. A jarring note was, as so often encountered in Russian restaurants, the shopping channel playing on a flat-screen TV.

From the Italian classics on offer, bruschetta (100 rubles, $3.30) featured decadently ferocious amounts of fresh garlic alongside the tomatoes and basil. It was a small portion, but given its reasonable price and that it came from the Bar Snacks section of the menu, this was probably to be expected.

Traditional Italian clear soup with meatballs (290 rubles, $9.60) was a winner, and contained delicate, pea-sized pieces of potatoes and carrots, as well as tender meatballs. It made an excellent appetizer and winter warmer, without being too rich.

Another national favorite, ravioli with ricotta and arugula (250 rubles, $8.30), was disappointingly average, however, and lacked any strong taste, while the arugula was undetectable, presumably swamped by the oily sauce in which the ravioli were served.

Moving into more international territory, the hamburger (410 rubles, $13.50) was a spectacular sight, featuring both bacon and burger, as well as a mountainous hunk of Mozzarella and rings of roasted red onion, along with the obligatory lettuce and gherkin. The burger was very moist, which unfortunately made the bun disagreeably soggy. Despite this, it was refreshingly light for a hamburger, and the accompanying fries were a welcome surprise, in that they turned out to be chunky, British-style chips rather than American-style fries.

With a substantial wine menu as well as a range of fresh juices available for 200 rubles ($6.60) per 250 milliliters, Brera may not be a new gourmet Mecca, but as a smaller and reasonably priced café-bar with a relaxed atmosphere, it is a welcome addition to a district dominated by large and expensive eateries.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, July 31


Develop your leadership abilities during a lecture by famous Russian author and coach Radislav Gandapas. The event starts at 9 a.m. at 5 Lodeinopolskaya Ulitsa. The price for entry is 20,500 rubles ($570).


Relax and enjoy a Parisian atmosphere with some romantic and laidback jazz tunes during the Night of French Music at Lenny Jam Cafe, 63 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 250 rubles ($7).


The Womens Business Club is hosting a Beauty Brunch where participants are invited to discuss the latest news in the beauty industry and listen to lectures by professional stylists in the business.



Friday, Aug. 1


Bikers from all around the world will gather to take part in a parade, extreme shows and rock concerts during the International Biker Festival that revs its engines today and runs through Aug. 3 near Olgino Hotel, 4/2 Primorskogo Shosse.


The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldnt miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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