Text by Frank Ebbecke
‘FRIENDS FOREVER’ – surely not the most common name for a Moscow café but it fits. Just come in, swallow the atmosphere and you feel somewhat at home or with friends right away: a big sofa, deep, comfortable armchairs, little ‘Kaffeehaus’- tables – like in typical European cafés, all in warm beige/brown colors, an open fireplace, plenty of black and white historical photographs of Manhattan/ NYC scenery, nicely framed, covering the pink/purple painted walls. Even the soft level of jazz music and American/English ballades add to the homely ambience.
Not that easy to find, but you may recognize the small place from Petrovka, looking up into Dmitrovsky Pereulok on the left side of the Marriott Royal Aurora Hotel: the only big window is overshadowed by a large sunshade and the light brown, wooden entrance door is always invitingly kept wide open.
And here Nina often greets you personally: a pretty young lady in jeans and a t-shirt or a flowery, free-floating long dress – more Spanish than Russian looking. Don’t be confused: her hometown is Moscow but she spent her college years in the British-International School in Lanzarote/Canary Islands. However, her big love is New York City where she, funnily enough, has never lived yet. Subsequently while ‘positioning’ her little jewel she put in these words: ‘Part of New York in the heart of Moscow’. However, NYC has not been her sole inspiration when creating her own café idea: frequent visits to Vienna, most probably the global heart of ‘Kaffeehaus’ culture, left her quite obviously with lasting impressions. The very young Vicky (the 18-year-old manager) and easy going guys with big smiles on their faces bring the goodies to tables which can accommodate a maximum of 30 customers at any one time. Choose one of the delicious, healthy salads, soups or other snacks, accompanied by a great selection of fresh juices, light cocktails or the variety of coffees and teas from a comprehensive menu. There are also freshly made desserts and cakes, often with fresh berries of all kinds which are really tasty, even if not that healthy (… and the prices are well below ‘normal’ ones in comparison to other places in the area). Nina herself is the gifted chef, reigning her own place from the open kitchen in the back. She continuously keeps thinking of fresh ideas: ‘Cooking with Children’, Americantype pizzas (take-away or house delivery: www.friendlypizza. ru), ‘Spanish/Italian Specialities Months’, ‘Enjoy your Breakfast at Any Hour of the Opening Hours’ – and, for sure, many more tasty ideas are to be expected from her and her gang.
Another little thing may remind you more of strict US/European regulations for public places than Russian habits: it’s a non-smoking establishment but if you can’t resist, you can grab your coffee and sit on one of the two bar stools outside under the sunshade for a couple of minutes.
To sum up what you can expect from visiting FRIENDS FOREVER, just read a personal quote of a frequent customer. (Nina had the neat idea to place a little guestbook on the big sofa table which is heavily used every day): “I come to your place and I forget about all my problems and I feel at home.”