Plate With A View: Bellevue Brasserie. St Petersburg, Russia
One of the newer restaurants in St Petersburg also has the best view, bar none. Bellevue sits on the ninth floor of the Kempinski Hotel. It's really the roof of this refurbished old mansion on the Moika embankment, but is set back from the façade so that, from below, you can't tell it's there.
Moika was one of the most fashionable addresses in Tsarist St Petersburg. This sturdy, neoclassical town house is only two minutes' walk from the Winter Palace and was designed around a central courtyard by the Dutch engineer Basil von Witte in 1853.
The restaurant, by contrast, is completely modern, glassed in like a conservatory, giving an impressive 180-degree sweep of the rooftops of the Golden Triangle, St Petersburg's palace quarter. The decor is vaguely nautical with navy-blue upholstery, cherrywood armrests and crisp white tablecloths. You can also eat outside on the roof. Here, dining tables and comfortable sofas overlook the inner courtyard. Service is friendly and the staff speak excellent English.
The menu mixes classic Mediterranean fare (tomatoes and mozzarella; parma ham and asparagus) with solid, expensive Russian dishes such as borscht with duck foie gras and caviar. Beef Stroganoff at 1,050 roubles (£23) is tempting, given the location only a few blocks from the palace of the family from which it takes its name. Another Russian dish, the Coupe Romanoff (strawberries, vanilla ice-cream and whipped cream) makes a great dessert at 500 roubles (£11). All wine is expensive in St Petersburg; a basic Bordeaux here runs to 2,500 roubles (£55). Just remember, though, you're getting the view for free.
If ever a restaurant deserved its name, it's the Bellevue. The strict height limit for buildings in St Petersburg means nothing obstructs your view of the spire of the cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, the roof of the Hermitage, the chariot over the General Staff Building, the golden spire of the Admiralty, the Alexander Column and the shining dome of St Isaac's Cathedral. You also get a good view of the faux-traditional Church of the Spilt Blood, which looks as though St Basil's, Moscow, has been cloned and rudely inserted into this neo-classical landscape.
There is also the chance to peep down into the unrestored courtyards of mansions not yet converted into hotels, plus the unusual Art Nouveau spire of the DLT ("Leningrad Trading House") shopping centre, one of the few buildings in the city still sporting a red star. The view into the courtyard of the baroque Glinka Capella (home of the Imperial Choir) is not to be missed.
Beluga caviar; pan-seared scallops or beef Stroganoff with a salad to follow; and Coupe Romanoff plus a bottle of Italian wine between two will work out at 4,500 roubles (£100) per head.
Bellevue Brasserie, Kempinski Hotel Moika 22, St Petersburg, Russia (007 812 335 9111; kempinski-st-petersburg.com). Open daily, noon to 3am in summer (to 1am the rest of the year).
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