No 57 CTOΛOBAЯ
On the first day in Moscow at lunchtime we went to a shopping mall to find a restaurant. Not just any shopping mall however but ‘Glavnyi Universalnyi Magazin’ or GUM, the most famous department store in Moscow. The once grim and dingy store filled with the endless queues that epitomised the Soviet era is now a fashionable, airy building full of fountains, flowers, bars and restaurants that stretches along one side of Red Square. It was built in the late nineteenth century to replace a covered market and originally contained over a thousand stores. It is built on three levels with a vaulted glass roof and even today resembles a modern cathedral.
On this first visit, thirsty and hungry we ignored the rows of designer shops and made for No 57 CTOΛOBAЯ, the recommended restaurant on the third floor with a noble history of providing good quality, reasonably priced food for the proletariat.
We picked up a tray, waited in line, selected our food and took it to our chosen table and it turned out to be really, really good, probably the best meal we had had so far in Russia and it amused me to think that we were sitting here in the historic centre of Moscow, of Soviet era Russia, in a westernised shopping mall that represented everything that communism stood against: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’, a laudable but ultimately unachievable state of Utopia that could naturally be delivered without shops.
Lenin closed the mall and Stalin converted it into State administrative offices. They must be spinning in their graves – well, not Lenin of course because he is still laid out in his mausoleum on permanent public display patiently waiting for a spinning opportunity!