International Cuisine

Never thought I would visit this city, and I’m glad I did

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Diana Florescu, Founder & CEO Local Spoon
April 2018
St. Petersburg is a three-hour hop from London and, having slept little on the night before, I pass out immediately. We land at Pulkovo airport — a relatively small airport for what we’re about to find in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city. An Uber-driver is there to pick us up. The surroundings look quite industrial, but as we head down to the Astoria Hotel, the buildings begin to get more imposing and landmarks start appearing.

The weather is on our side this time. With an unbelievable forecast of 16–17 degrees, it looks like winter has finally left St. Petersburg and spring is here!

And the schedule, in between wandering the streets of St. Petersburg, involves a Swan Lake play, visits to top art museums, a Russian afternoon-Tea experience, and more culinary adventures (our taste buds are still missing those flavours).

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Peter and Paul Fortress — Top view over the city from Colonnaded Walkway

What to see in St. Petersburg?

1) Swan Lake at The Mikhailovsky

We bought tickets in advance to The Mikhailovsky theatre to watch Swan Lake on the day we arrived. Lucky enough to catch this performance during our trip, the next show will play in summer. The Astoria sponsors two arts festivals a year and also has their dedicated box.

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Swan Lake Show
2) Saviour of the Spilled Blood Admire the architectural confectionery of St. Saviour Cathedral

3) The State of Hermitage  Spend a day at the Hermitage, home to over 2 million pieces of art

4) St. Isaac’s Cathedral (the view from the top is breath-taking) The largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city and the fourth largest cathedral in the world.

Food Stories

Hotel Astoria is considered a national heritage and just as any other historical building it must be preserved and restored. Refurbishments of the interior have been made over the decades, but the hotel’s facade has barely changed since 1912. When you step inside the hotel, the modern, luxurious pieces of furniture and the old finely coexist. The 100 years old chandeliers are brightening up the hallways and the main reception. Leaving the reception desk and turning right, you’ll find yourself in the Rotonda parlour. By day, it’s home to a great Russian afternoon tea experience. By night it turns into a very elegant salon where you can enjoy a fine cocktail or a glass of wine listening to live music and piano.

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Astoria Cafe

On the other side of the main corridor and passing the reception area, it’s the Astoria restaurant. Of course, I can describe every single dish we enjoyed there, but this won’t pay it justice. So I will let the pictures do the talking and try to walk you through our culinary experiences starting from Day One.

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It was created by Hotel Astoria St Petersburg Pastry Chef, Yulla Ivanova, in collaboration with the famous ballet dancer. Everything you see on this plate is edible including the gold foil. Nothing is made of powder sugar, but white chocolate, cranberries, baked apple with cinnamon, yogurt mousse spheres with cranberry filling, caramelized puff pastry and Cranberry mousse spheres with dulce de lache filling. In a nutshell: dazzling!
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Afternoon Tea

This experience is available at the Rotonda Lounge (Astoria Hotel). You can choose from all kinds of Russian sweetmeats to go with the tea (confectionery chef Yulia Ivanova), homemade blini with sauces, traditional Russian meat patties, mini-sandwiches, biscuits and gingerbread…

Take a closer look and notice the delicate blue criss-cross of diamonds on white. We were told this particular type of porcelain was created for Hotel Astoria and soon became a national icon. For ease, visit the Art Salon opposite St Isaacs by the Neva.

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A Final Note…

The city is a real jewellery, but I wish I had a bit more time to visit the royal palace on the outskirts of St Petersburg.

The fountains at Peterhof, modelled on Versailles, were still turned off. In summer, this place is surreal and we must visit it one day. Everybody told us Pushkin is the most beautiful in winter, with its landscaped parks and two palaces. We ran out of time and it is one of many reasons to return.

For three days I had the chance to unveil stories of the city and to discover the soul of St. Petersburg — Turning street corners, visiting some of the world’s most imposing buildings and gazing beyond façades into historical courtyards.

The full article was originally published on Medium on April 22, 2018.

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