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THE DISH: Brera Bar

Brera Bar//14 Pochtamtskaya Ulitsa//Tel. +7 921 941 9090//Open daily noon till midnight//Menu in Russian and Italian//Lunch for two without alcohol 1,430 rubles ($47)

Published: January 16, 2013 (Issue # 1742)


Fifty shades of gray

Brera is a smart new bar that opened at the end of last year on the unassuming Pochtamtskaya Ulitsa. Housed just a few doors down from the upscale gourmet giant that is Ginzas Mansarda, and around the corner from the row of expensive eateries comprised by the Stroganoff Steak House, Russian Vodka Room No. 1 and Graf-in, Brera offers a considerably less expensive and formal alternative for hungry office workers in this neighborhood.

Named after a district in Milan, the restaurant offers a menu that is unsurprisingly predominantly Italian, and given that districts reputation as the Milanese Montmartre, the interior is also suitably artistic.

A lot of work has gone into Breras original design, which certainly lives up to Italys reputation as the design capital. A centerpiece is the chandelier, which consists of dozens of spherical lamp bulbs bunched together with a red cord. On one wall, a huge mirror hangs in a wooden frame around which climbing vines snake their way, threaded in and out of a trellis. Large silver-colored lampshades resemble the kind of dryers that elderly ladies seem to spend hours under at the hairdressers, and doorknockers provide quirky decorations for the backs of some of the chairs. Spacious gray velvet armchairs positioned in front of the windows provide a languorously comfortable spot from which to watch the world go by. Gray is indeed a dominant theme, with the walls and a wardrobe at the entrance also painted in its shadowy shades.

There is also an international feel to Breras decoration, and a constant contrast between old and new, with flag designs inset into the shiny tables, other country symbols adorning the walls and furniture and a vast globe sitting in a stand on the bar that dominates one wall (and boasts an impressive peanut dispenser). Old-fashioned traveling trunks are dotted around the interior, among the smart leather hassocks and giant candles standing in enormous glass jars. Above the bar stands a miniature obelisk resembling a Cleopatras Needle, while a classical bust completes the picture of empire. A jarring note was, as so often encountered in Russian restaurants, the shopping channel playing on a flat-screen TV.

From the Italian classics on offer, bruschetta (100 rubles, $3.30) featured decadently ferocious amounts of fresh garlic alongside the tomatoes and basil. It was a small portion, but given its reasonable price and that it came from the Bar Snacks section of the menu, this was probably to be expected.

Traditional Italian clear soup with meatballs (290 rubles, $9.60) was a winner, and contained delicate, pea-sized pieces of potatoes and carrots, as well as tender meatballs. It made an excellent appetizer and winter warmer, without being too rich.

Another national favorite, ravioli with ricotta and arugula (250 rubles, $8.30), was disappointingly average, however, and lacked any strong taste, while the arugula was undetectable, presumably swamped by the oily sauce in which the ravioli were served.

Moving into more international territory, the hamburger (410 rubles, $13.50) was a spectacular sight, featuring both bacon and burger, as well as a mountainous hunk of Mozzarella and rings of roasted red onion, along with the obligatory lettuce and gherkin. The burger was very moist, which unfortunately made the bun disagreeably soggy. Despite this, it was refreshingly light for a hamburger, and the accompanying fries were a welcome surprise, in that they turned out to be chunky, British-style chips rather than American-style fries.

With a substantial wine menu as well as a range of fresh juices available for 200 rubles ($6.60) per 250 milliliters, Brera may not be a new gourmet Mecca, but as a smaller and reasonably priced café-bar with a relaxed atmosphere, it is a welcome addition to a district dominated by large and expensive eateries.





 

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Sept. 3


Although thesand sculptures at the Peter and Paul Fortress are more centrally located and therefore more visible to the throngs of tourists, the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburgs own collection closes today so fans of the classic beach activity should get there while they can.



Thursday, Sept. 4


Vladimir I. Danchenkov, Head of Baltic Customs, will be in attendance during AmChams Customs and Transportation Committee Meeting convening this afternoon at the organizations office near St. Isaacs Square at 3 p.m.



Friday, Sept. 5


Scrabble lovers and chess masters get their chance to assert their intellectual dominance at the return of the British Book Centers Board Game Evenings tonight. Held weekly on Friday nights, the event gives both board game lovers and those hoping to improve their English the chance to meet, greet and compete. Check out the centers VK page for more details.



Saturday, Sept. 6


Athletes will relish the chance to get the latest gear and try out something new at I Choose Sport, an annual event at Lenexpo forum that plans to welcome more than 30,000 people this week to the international exhibition center. Not only will visitors get to try their hand at various athletic endeavors but they will also be able to peruse equipment that can fulfill their dreams of becoming a champion.


Local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg open their season this evening at home against Lokomotiv Yarovslavl at the Ice Palace arena next to the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. See their website for a full schedule and available tickets.



Sunday, Sept. 7


Check out retro and antique cars at Fort Konstantin on Kronstadt Island in the Gulf of Finland at FORTuna, a yearly car festival that highlights the eccentricities of the Soviet automobile industry. A car race, contests and a stunt show will give visitors a chance to rev their engines.



Monday, Sept. 8


This evening marks the opening of the two-week ballet festival High Season at the Mikhailovsky Theater. Check the theaters website for more details about performances and featured dancers.



Tuesday, Sept. 9


Discuss the latest news and issues at the AmCham Hazardous Waste Management Roundtable this morning in the Tango Conference Hall of the Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge on Birzhevoy Pereulok. Starting at 9 a.m., planned topics include the Krasny Bor landfill and waste transportation between Russia and Finland.


Learn more about the citys modern architectural trends at the SPIBA Real Estate and Construction Committees meeting on the topic Contemporary Petersburg Style: What is It? Participants will get the chance to discuss whats in-demand with RBI Holdings Irina Petrova and Lubava Pryanikova, and the current state of the local real estate market. Please confirm your attendance by Sept. 5 through SPIBAs website if you wish to attend.



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