Dizzy with the successful contemplation of high art in the Tretyakov Gallery, you have just fallen over on the street*. Or perhaps you were overcome by the heat. Either way you came down a right thump and have retreated to a café for food and tea.
They do exceptionally good tea here. It comes in a vast teapot accompanied by small glasses to sip it from, little rocks of sugar to add and tiny teaspoons to stir contemplatively. You have drunk a lot of those glasses by now, and partaken of, amongst other things, roasted aubergines smothered in garlic, and are feeling quite restored although not quite yet ready to go back out into the furnace that is Moscow at 2pm on what they promise is to be the last day of the heatwave**.
Tea in Moscow is a bit like coffee in London. You take for granted that it will be leaf of exceptional quality and frequently specially blended. And then you are surprised when you get back to the UK and somebody hands you a cup of lukewarm water with a teabag haphazardly immersed in it.
In much the same way you forget that in the UK, when you order coffee outside of the capital, it will be mid-range instant, whereas within the city limits even the meanest greasy spoon will have a go at brewing you something freshly ground. It may not be especially nice, but it can hardly be worse than the cup a five-star hotel gave you recently. Of course, that hotel was a good four hours north of the centre of the British universe.
Anyway, there was an ominous crack as your bag hit the pavement and so you are feeling the need to check over your computer thoroughly. It seems to be working. You hope you will be able to say the same about your camera. Perhaps you ought to give it a test and in this way demonstrate another feature of Moscow life, the theme restaurant showcasing the cuisine of the Caucuses.
You’ve already been to one of these this holiday and very nice it was too, with its English salad and mountain of kebab meat, not to mention the starter of yoghurt, dill and rice drink.
But best of all was the small fountain tinkling between plastic grape vines, plush and slightly too low couches, tasselled nylon draperies and assorted atmospheric vessels of mysterious purpose.
This one is not quite that impressive, but it does have the same attention to detail shown by the fibreglass walls simulating rustic mud huts. Sadly, the wait staff are not in full national costume today, but you can only hope they haven’t done away with it altogether.
You blame Irish theme pubs, but not too much as in fact, you’ve rejoiced ever since the Shesh Besh chain, which is where you are, opened about 8 years ago. This is because you enjoy unembarrassed tacky, partly because of the aubergines but mostly because it represented a new dawn in lifestyle in Moscow, something for the aspiring middle class. Prior to places like this, there was the very cheap or the very expensive and not much in between that wasn’t McDonalds.
There are only so many plates of pelamini you want to eat standing up and sadly very few of your friends are oligarchs.
*Or not. See What I did on my Holidays Part 1.
**They lied. It wasn’t.