Many of us, including me, often complain that there are very few budget restaurants in Moscow that prepare good wholesome food, and do not cost a fortune. This is one of the biggest issues for foreigners who live and visit this city. Why should you have to be a member of the pseudo-elite to eat out? Where in fact do I eat without re-mortgaging my house? You may now officially relax. There are a few places around town, and your starring editor, John Harrison, knows them all.
Here’s the first in our series of eateries for the people (and I’m not talking about McDonalds or Rostix): ÑÓÏ or for non-Cyrils, SOUP. There are in fact two ÑÓÏs in Moscow, one on 1st Bretskaya Ulitsa, and the other on Skakovaya Street, with the former much nearer the Metro than the second.
As the name implies, the restaurant sells soup. A lot of it, with about 40 different types to choose from. They cost between 150 and 200 roubles a bowl, depending on the complexity of preparation. With a fruit juice and a desert of some kind, the average bill comes out at between 500 and 1000 roubles, just what the hungry business visitor staying at the Intercontinental just round the corner needs when he wants to eat and not re-mortgage his already re-mortgaged house back home in his bankrupt country.
But ÑÓÏ’s main clientele are young people, and the restaurants are open 24 hours a day. Many come here to pre- or afterparty, some have breakfast here, and there are of course the business people who come in for an econo-lunch.
When I visited, thanks to being the editor, I was treated to a variety of delicious soups, and just as with wine degustations, after the first few spoonfuls, it soon became difficult to remember what I tasted before. I tasted cheese, borshcht, seafood soup Boston (seafood with bacon, potato and cream), Fricandelles soup, Finnish fish soup, Kharcho and Tom Yam soup. All were delicious, I can remember that, but I particularly liked the Tom Yam and cheese soups.
For desert I sampled Cherry soup with vanilla ice-cream, Chocolate soup with vanilla ice-cream, strawberry soup. All were presented well, with service that was acceptable. The restaurant on Bretskaya is in a large basement, but tastefully decorated in browns and greens, so there was a feeling of intimacy and privacy sadly lacking in just about every other restaurant in Moscow where you spend less than 2000 roubles per person.
Apart from Soups and deserts, the restaurant also a full range of salads, pastas, shashliks and other dishes, such as turkey grilled on coal with mango sauce for 440 roubles, fish steak for 782 roubles.
The man behind ÑÓÏ is Valeria Goryachev, who explained that the business model took some time to work out, but now, ten years later, it is solid and bankable. So much so, that he is considering major expansion into a “federal project” (i.e. going nation-wide). Money, he said, is now no problem, and he went on to comment that while others opened expensive swish joints that closed a year later, he has spent the last decade providing good solid food.
There is an art in providing reasonably good food in an OK environment for little money, and ÑÓÏ does exactly that. It is well worth a visit.
Both ÑÓÏ cafes are near Belorusskaya Metro station.