A change of course for Chekhov's favourite café


Anton Chekhov celebrated the premiere of one of his plays here, and Vladimir Mayakovsky wrote a poem praising the tasty lunches and high-quality beer. But the Prague restaurant, perhaps the most famous eatery in Moscow, has closed its doors for good and will soon be turned into a luxury restaurant run by the Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli.

Mr Cavalli's representatives have reached a verbal agreement to buy the restaurant from its current owner, the controversial billionaire Telman Ismailov, and the restaurant will reopen in the summer under the name of "Just Cavalli", according to Russian media.

Mr Cavalli has yet to confirm the move, but it looks like the capital's most famous eatery, which has changed faces many times during its long existence, is due for another makeover. The building, an art nouveau masterpiece that stands at one end of Moscow's pedestrianised Arbat Street, has a legendary place in the city's history. It started out as an ordinary drinking tavern and cheap cafe, but when the wealthy merchant Pyotr Tararykin won the entire building in a game of billiards in 1896, he decided to turn it into something special. He hired the best chefs in town and served elaborate dishes to the upper echelons of Moscow society in nine different dining rooms. It also attracted a literary and artistic clientele; after the premiere of Anton Chekhov's new play Three Sisters in 1901, the actors and playwright celebrated together at the restaurant.

After the revolution in 1917, the restaurant was nationalised and most of the dining halls were closed down to make way for a cinema and shops. The kitchen was used for the canteen of a state-run agricultural conglomerate. But in 1955, to celebrate a decade since the liberation of Prague from the Nazis, the restaurant was reopened under its former name, and soon again became one of the capital's most famous dining spots. During the last decades of the Soviet Union, it was one of only a handful of restaurants in the capital.

In recent years, as hundreds of restaurants have sprung up in the new, cash-rich Moscow, the Prague was unable to compete and the legendary restaurant has not been open to casual callers, catering instead only to parties and banquets. Its most recent owner, Mr Ismailov, is a moustachioed businessman famous for extravagances such as flying in Jennifer Lopez to sing "Happy Birthday" to him at his lavish parties.

In 2009, he drew criticism from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for opening a super-luxury hotel in Turkey. Mr Putin suggested that the businessman would be better off investing in Russia and shortly afterwards a sprawling market that he ran on the outskirts of Moscow was raided by police and shut down. Mr Ismailov fled Russia and went into hiding, but now seems to be back in favour with the Kremlin and Mr Putin.

The closing of the Prague, however, means that he now has hardly any business in Moscow.

Russian news agencies said that Mr Cavalli and another businessman had bought the restaurant and brand for $450m (£287m) from Mr Ismailov's AST company. But other sources said that so far there had only been a provisional agreement, and the deal would involve renting rather than outright buying the place. The designer, whose clothes are popular among Russia's new rich, already runs a similar bar and restaurant, also called Just Cavalli, in Milan.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home