Russia: St. Petersburg: Where to Eat: Overview
The Russian dining scene has changed dramatically in the last decade with excellent international restaurants opening to cater to the city’s spoiled oligarchs and their set and their preference for sushi and Italian food. The hot spots of London, New York and St. Tropez have inspired their décor and their menus as well as the haughty attitude of many of their wait staff.
St. Petersburg is bursting with great restaurants, from Russian classics such as Palkin, to so-called “Soviet-chic” cafés like The Idiot, preferred by hip twenty-somethings. There are also haute-cuisine hotel eateries like L’Europe and restaurants, like Terrassa and Tsar, which bring a chic, modern aesthetic to St. Petersburg. You will see the word ‘pectopah’, meaning restaurant, on the front of most establishments, but be aware this is a Cyrillic word (it sounds out ‘resto-ran’), and the letters are just recognizable in English.
Expect to pay dearly for the privilege of eating at the city’s best tables, especially if you are ordering wine, which can be five times the price of what you would pay for a bottle in the States due to very high import taxes. During the summer and holiday periods, reservations are highly recommended at the most popular restaurants.
Many restaurants will accept credit cards but they will expect the tip (ten percent is expected) in cash, so it is wise to carry rubles, which you can get at the many ATMs around town and in most hotels.
Tip: If you would like to eat in the best restaurants but would like to pay less for the privilege, book a table for lunch instead of dinner. Many of the top restaurants offer business lunch specials that are very good deals. Also many of the restaurants do not like large bookings so if you are a group of more than 6, you might request that your concierge make multiple smaller bookings.