Chapter 10 – Dinner in Moscow

The Most Expensive Restaurant in Moscow

The delegates were escorted by vehicles to the restaurant which was situated on Tverskoy Boulevard a few steps from the famous Cafe Pushkin. It was 11:00pm and the delegates were treated like royalty as they exited the vehicles and walked into the restaurant with as much glamour and style as the close protection team would allow.

Kirill had arranged a table for the group of delegates and the maitre d’ took great-pleasure in guiding the women personally to the table on the second floor overlooking the orchestra podium above which is a majestic chandelier of Malaysian crystal. The ambiance was literally sensational, luxurious fine dining and surrounded by the finest antiques. Their expensive coats were whisked away as the delegates quickly selected their choice of seat.

It is the most expensive restaurant in all of Russia, based on Puccini’s most famous opera and this themed restaurant recreates the ostentation of 17th-century baroque Europe in all its finery. In the opera, Princess Turandot poses three riddles to potential suitors, who meet with death if they fail. Sadly, it transpires that the sole victor of her cognitive machinations will die by morning unless she can discover his name, thus spawning Puccini’s famous Nessun Dorma (no one sleeps) to which the restaurant nightly opens its doors.

The restaurant has numerous dining halls whose walls, floors and decorative elements were handmade over a six year period by the greatest handcrafts and everything is genuine!

Aperitifs were already on the table, a selection of the finest drinks the wine waiter could provide. They were given time to embrace the atmosphere, the plush surroundings and review the menu which hopefully had something for everybody to enjoy. The maitre d’ had given assurances that every assistance would be given to ensure that an enjoyable and delicious meal would be available to every delegate.

The restaurant offered a wide range of the most delicious Chinese and Japanese cuisine together with a selection of the finest, fish, meat and vegetarian dishes. The choice was substantial with another extended menu provided for an exclusive selection of national traditional favorites.

Kirill knew what he wanted from the menu and sat calmly in the high-backed chair taking in the atmosphere while waiting for the delegates to make their own choices. The wine waiter had poured a large Beluga vodka from the bottle before returning it to the ice bucket at the side of the table. He carefully placed three chunks of ice into the glass and placed it down on the coaster before moving away from the table, all the guests had drinks and the head waiter was arriving to take their food orders.

He started with Taya and continued clockwise around the table, leaving Kirill until the last.

He ordered quietly:

  • Scallops with tomato and ginger sauce
  • Black Cod in Sha Cha sauce         
  • Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva Giuseppe Cortese 2001
  • Assorted cheeses with fruit
  • Chateau d’Yquem 1994

The delegates were talking about the ballet which to all accounts had been absolutely wonderful, although the three hours had been a bit too long for some, after sitting for most of the day during the conference. It appeared that all the delegates had managed to find something they could enjoy about the visit to the ballet. Taya sat to his left and Victoria to his right and he was struggling with the small talk and hoped the meal would not take too long. If the truth be known, he would have preferred the quiet of his own company together with vodka and cigarettes.

Taya had turned towards him, asking if he too had also enjoyed the ballet. Her low cut blouse permitted an expansive view of her large bosom, which had been the intention, knowing that Victoria from her position could not avoid observing her assets. She smiled on the inside while brushing her right boot across his left leg in pretence of an accident.

He answered casually that he could not watch the ballet due to the security constraints, but wished that he could have done so, because it was regarded as a very good performance of an absolute classic! That was a little white lie, because underneath he could not stand watching the ballet and all that it stood for, but he would not allow that to deflect his primary role and that was to ensure that the delegates had a most enjoyable evening.

Victoria had a passion for fine dining and this restaurant would deliver on all levels together with favourites for Zhen Li (Chinese) and Suzu (Japanese) and the seafood salads for the diet fanatics would more than suffice, there should indeed be no complaints. However, the light snacks before the ballet may have tipped the scales for a couple of the delegates, as they too were absolutely superb. Kirill relaxed further as the vodka seeped through his veins and the palatial atmosphere permeated the small group.

The appetizers arrived and the women were silent as they devoured the succulent delicacies, they appeared very happy, and the maitre d’ enquired about their satisfaction. To which Kirill expressed the greatest of pleasures and was assured the other courses would be of an equal or higher standard. Technically speaking he should have chosen the white wine but he loved the deep rich Barbaresco that was chasing his subtle scallops. He was secretly enjoying the meal and only wished the conversation could be more manly.

Taya had chosen the spring rolls with mango, scallop and shrimps, she had picked at the plate and said she needed to watch her diet as she would be having the main course of traditional Russian food.

Victoria had chosen the grilled beef tartare with avocado and mustard ice-cream. She had enjoyed every mouthful and left nothing on the plate. The beef had been simply delicious and cooked to perfection.

The other delegates had finished their appetizers to a general level of high satisfaction and the maitre d’ returned offering his profuse apologies to Kirill. An accident in the kitchen, and the main course would be delayed by approximately twenty minutes. Kirill told him to calm down, it was not a disaster, they could wait as it was better to be served correctly than not at all. The maitre d’ was totally shocked, because this level of customer pleasantness and acceptance of an unfortunate situation just did not happen in Moscow or anywhere in Russia and he resolutely promised that the main course would be no longer than twenty minutes, which in this company would prove a lifetime. However, something happened beyond the wildest imaginings of Kirill and the other delegates.

Victoria had excused herself to the ladies’ room, but instead she had strolled down the staircase to the musician’s podium which was just below their table. There had been a general lull across the restaurant, and he had not noticed that the musicians were no longer playing due to an accustomed break. She had spoken to the lead musician and was allowed access to the piano and prepared herself for an epic performance, that would be remembered for a long time but for many different reasons.

The chords echoed around the rooms, a combination of east and western cultures bounced from the black and white ivories, reverberating through the piano wires to the ears and hearts of the restaurant guests. A ten minute spell of purely divine music enveloped the spellbound audience. Kirill knew she was a concert level pianist but had no idea that she possessed a soul as well!

Kirill had stood and leaned against the rail looking down at the musician’s podium below, he was well and truly shocked as he looked down at Victoria, but he too was wrapped in the moment! Unknowingly his fellow delegates had joined him watching the show unfold below.

The final note hit the black key and the restaurant erupted in a cacophony of wild applause. It had been sublime moment of magic, when a little girl of no more than nine or ten had moved forward and sat on the seat next to Victoria and whispered in her ear. Her Russian was very rusty and the maitre d’ materialised and interpreted for the little girl. He stood to the side as Victoria and the little girl produced a rendition of Happy Birthday for her grandmother who sat only a short distance away.

The girl stood and kissed her on the cheeks, so very, very happy and flowers appeared from somewhere for the frail old lady who sat totally still, crying with the girl all together in a big embrace with her mother and father. A small cake with a solitary candle appeared as if by magic and Victoria continued with “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John, singing the words so lovingly for the old lady as she blew out the flame. The room erupted again, as Victoria stood amongst the generous applause and moved towards the old lady before giving her a big hug together with the little girl. There were tears and applause everywhere, no more so than the group of seven people standing at the balustrade beside the table on the terrace above.

A large bear like figure had appeared by her side smiling, and kissed her most approvingly on both cheeks before almost crushing her in a friendly caress while his daughter clapped in delighted applause. Victoria withdrew and floated away to the applause of her fellow diners. Kirill had not witnessed many moments of absolute pleasure with the delegates, but he would not forget this evening as she sat down humbly beside him acting so nonchalantly that it simply took his breath away.

Still in shock the bear like figure appeared and stood as a grotesque giant powering over his silent delegates. Kirill stood almost like a proud father as the Bear shook his hand profusely, almost ripping his arm from the socket in uncontrollable exhilaration!

“You my friend, have made my daughter, wife and mother so very happy this evening, how could I possibly repay you for such kindness?” Victoria whispered in his ear and he delivered her words to the Russian. “Please show your appreciation, by your generosity, and reward the staff who have made your evening so memorable, that would indeed be the perfect solution and it would also show your little girl what a generous and loving father you are.”

The Bear smiled in appreciation before adding, “please may I also buy you whatever you wish to drink and share this evening with my family, you have made this moment so very special and I can only thank you.” Kirill spoke slowly gesticulating with his hands towards the abundance of alcohol already breaking the back of the dining table that no more was necessary and thanked him for his most generous offer as no insults were intended, “let us all share the moment and enjoy the rest of the evening as friends and dinner companions.” With a big raucous laugh, he turned smiling before moving towards the staircase before rejoining his family on the floor below.

Kirill turned towards Victoria, stunned and bewildered, “that was absolutely wonderful. I mean we have been truly enlightened, that was beautiful, well done, you have just made some people so very happy indeed. I knew that you were good, but you showed another side tonight, and that little girl saw it too.”

The main courses arrived after their unfortunate delay and normality returned, or so he thought.

Taya gave him daggers as his attention was drawn toward Victoria, and the jealous thoughts of how could that sexless woman attract any full-blooded male for god’s sake? Victoria was smiling at him almost totally unaware of the impact on Taya who was in turn beginning to consider her a threat, no a serious threat after what she and the others had just witnessed, and the bloody Victoria had been adored by everybody in the restaurant and no bloody way would she tolerate that, no bloody way at all!

The main courses arrived:

  • Grilled chicken with morel mushrooms, chanterelle and mashed potatoes with truffles for Taya
  • Japanese marble meat Kobe served with fried tofu, vegetables and Chinese tea noodles for Suzu and Victoria
  • Stir fried Mongolian style venison for Zhen Li
  • Grilled Chilean Sea Bass and Chinese honey sauce for Sabrina
  • Salad with warm crab meat and avocado for Susanna
  • Steak with eggplant and quinoa for Tamara
  • And, finally the Black Cod in Sha Cha sauce for Kirill

The table was quiet for a short while, the delegates appeared happy and Kirill was amused at how much these women could eat, but it had been a long day and there were still desserts and coffees if they desired.

There were no requests for any desserts, but Kirill and Victoria had ordered the cheese selections which would be accompanied by the Chateau d’Yquem 1994. An inspired choice Victoria had said as the cheese boards arrived together with a selection of savoury crackers, grapes and celery.

Kirill had received personal requests from each delegate on their timings for departure from the restaurant, and they started to leave as the dessert wine was poured and very quickly there were just the two of them seated at the round table. Victoria loved her food and tonight had been exceptional, a thoroughly enjoyable meal with delicious wines and finally fresh coffee with Amaretto Florence, and Kirill had ordered Drambuie.

The maitre d’ appeared and asked how satisfied they were with the evening and that he had a small personal request of Victoria. In that, would she perform one more requested number for all the clientele in the restaurant? He understood entirely if she should refuse the request, but sincerely hoped that she would accept, because the whole evening had been an exceptional night for the restaurant.

Victoria smiled, “but of course I would love to”, then a final sip of coffee, before she stood passing her Amaretto to Kirill while asking him to accompany her and bring their drinks. She swished her long braid behind her head with a “let’s not keep the audience waiting” before descending to the musician’s podium. She gave quick instructions to the other musicians before her fingers caressed the keys on the piano. She played an unusual number, Coles Corner written by Richard Hawley. The music oozed around the rooms with a sexual melancholy before ripping into the famous Edith Pfaff number of “je ne regrette rien,” then grabbing the glass from Kirill, raising it into the air and downing it in one gulp. There was spontaneous applause, before bowing and turning to Kirill, “should we be going now?”