Delicatessen – Wellness Programme for Cocktail Enthusiasts
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Moscow is a city where the best things are sometimes hidden. The variety of hidden spots ranges from intimate cocktail rooms to spacious basement restaurants. I spent a few nights searching for and visiting some of the best bars in this fantastic city. Open minded people and creative concepts surpassed my highest expectations. Beside visiting Chainaya, Delicatessen was also mandatory on my wish list. It’s an institution and everybody who likes the combination of food & cocktails should visit this place at least once.
“Thank you for finding us” says a big sign above the entrance.
If you are facing the green door with the neon lights indicating Delicatessen’s whereabouts, you have finally made it to the inconspicuous courtyard where it is located. For three years in a row Delicatessen has been included in the list of The World’s 50 Best Bars, and quite rightly so.
Let’s go down the staircase to the reception. It had been recommended to me to make a reservation, so I had, and I was seated at a small table, but later I changed to my favourite seat at the bar counter. As the place is in the basement, there are no windows, but the venue is bright and homey from the very first moment. The interior has been chosen well. It has a bistro style with small wooden tables and a wooden floor. There is a crackling fireplace and a piano. They were playing jazzy live music when I was there. The eye-catching wallpaper, the books, the decoration and some comfortable armchairs support this cosy vibe. Beside intimate cocktail bars, I love the holistic approach of serving all the things I need for my pleasure in one place.
Delicatessen ticks all the right boxes for a bar experience with food, well-balanced drinks, homey atmosphere and a friendly team.
Almost seven years ago, the bar was opened by renowned Russian bartenders. The success story of the four friends are the pillars of the local bar scene. They also formed the Bartender Brothers, a community focused on the education of bartenders, and they are the fathers of the modern cocktail boom in Moscow. Their headquarters is situated in the so called Clabaratory which also serves as a creative laboratory and an extensive library. I met Slava Lankin, the legend behind the booze concept at Delicatessen, and two others of the brothers at the Moscow Bar Show. Later, I found out that Marad Saddarov, the head bartender of Noor, is also part of the community. All of these established bar luminaries are impressive characters and I was happy to get to know them. Unfortunately, there was no time left to see the Clabaratory, but postponed is not abandoned.
They have a strict ethos and a great passion for perfection. The drinks are refined and unique and fit the served dishes perfectly. Simply said: they are delicate(ssen).
The dishes of the day and some drinks are listed on chalkboards on the wall. There is no cocktail menu, but a clipboard for the food was handed to me. The food is inspired by Russian and European cuisine. It is traditional, very savoury and fantastic. As I am a great lover of tartare they recommended the horse meat tartare. I had never eaten horse before and the idea itself, especially the raw version, was a bit disgusting. Fearlessly, I ordered it and it came seared on a hot iron. It was delicious, I must admit, and with the recommended drink based on calvados and wine, it was a great pleasure.
The best thing is to talk to the bartenders and they will understand your tastes more than you do.
My main course was more grounded and I opted for some tortellini stuffed with braised lamb and Georgian cheese. It was time to move to the bar counter as, in the meantime, Stephan Hinz had arrived. He has already received numerous awards at only 30, including the titles “Bartender of the Year”, “German Cocktail Master” and “Mixologist of the Year”. He is the managing director of Cocktailkunst and Hinzself, the owner of the Cologne-based bar Little Link, has published several books, developed the Perfect Serve Collection, bar modules, recently an ice machine, and still has his feet firmly on the ground. I was honoured and very happy to share some bar experiences with him.
They have a gorgeous antique bar with cupboards full of premium and rare spirits, barrels, in-house infusions and other curiosities. The barrels placed on the bar top include one of Delicatessen’s signature drinks, the cherry-bourbon barrel-aged Pedro Manhattan, made with sherry instead of vermouth. Each drinker can press a button and watch the digital counter above the bar tick over. A nice gadget.
Delicatessen is a place where great bartenders have a great sense of hospitality and their knowledge seems infinite. As soon as you walk in, you feel at home. Drinks and food are done to a high and innovative standard.
We tried some of the nicely balanced concoctions and I really liked my Pisco Punch a lot. A famous drink with a long history dating back in the late 1800s. Pisco, pineapple, sugar, orange and lime. The drink tasted like a refreshing but boozy lemonade. At the end, I was allowed to stand behind the bar, the picture is my witness. I had delicious food, I had tasty drinks, my ears and eyes were treated pleasantly: a wellness programme for cocktail enthusiasts and cocktail enthusiast wannabes.