There must be a rule somewhere, that if you own a vegan cafe you must either call it “green” something or “avocado”. Originality aside, I was very relieved to not only find a vegan restaurant, but to locate one so close to my hotel.
From all of the 24 hours I’ve been here, I am confirm that the stereotype is true. Russia is awful for vegetarians, especially if they don’t speak Russian.
I hadn’t expected there to be so little linguistic overlap, or so few budget falafel shops that litter the rest of Europe. I say litter, I meant enhance. But thinking about it, the sort of people who immigrate to Moscow most likely come from the provinces and ex-Soviet territory, where, with the possible exception of Georgia, food is mainly meat and potatoes. And I imagine even Georgia’s meals revolve around meat and two veg somewhat.
ThUs, the culinary scene isn’t as varied as London or New York. Think Paris, a scene where they do their own cuisine exceptionally well, and haven’t branched out a lot to other nationalities. Chinese restaurants aren’t as numerous as I thought considering Russia shares a border with China, but there are more than enough Georgian restaurants to make up for any deficit. Plus there’s a swanky Italian place called Bosco in the old GUM shopping centre.
So I chose to be unadventurous and hunted down Avocado, a vegan restaurant about 15 minutes walk from my hotel. The menu has been mauled by Google translate (I imagine), but if you can get past that and just say “vegan” in a questioning tone while pointing at the pictures, you’ll probably be fine. Like in Hungary, I get the feeling that Russians still go for these set menus with a soup and a main. (Edit. Or salad, as I have been reliably informed by a Russian reader). I don’t. I hate starting meals with soup. It’s like drinking a ton of water that fills you up and then you can’t enjoy the main couse. So the server looked at me as though I was a felon when I ordered two mains to make up for no soup. Thankfully the salad and rosti type fritters were small, and they came with a helping of vegan sour cream which was fabulous. Beware of the oil though – there was a lot of it.
There seemed to a few vegan deserts, there were stir fries, heavy, Russian sounding dishes – potato with a side of potato – style. However, what I did have was delicious and for ten pounds (two mains and a drink) not a bad price at all.
The decor of the place was sparse to say the least, and like everywhere I’ve been to in Moscow so far (including my hotel room) located in a basement. To counter this, the establishment had thoughtfully installed two TV screens which showed a mountain stream flowing through a wood accompanied by tinkling music. Thank God they did.