Ironically, “Upper Chamber” is in a basement. Specious and usually empty, it is suitable for events. The menu is minimalistic. But it is open till midnight, and run by a bunch of fun-loving locals who get progressively happier as the day nears its end, the fact a hard core immersion and authenticity connoisseur is certain to uppreciate.
The address is Spekoka 32.
Ulitsa Spekova is the one that starts from the statue of a Soviet hero after whom it was named throwing a hand grenade at evil Finns who dared to refuse the Russian demand for land. That’s a late 30s business, when Russia mirrored German invasion of Poland. The participants of the aggression are still considered heros, not victims of times when it was about impossible not get immersed in evil and stupidity as an active participant.
Perhaps I’ve been one of these grumpy ever-critical Russians too much and too long. To make up let me open a new Russophilia category for things that I actually like about this place and its inhabitants. Done, here.
The first entry will be an ordinary liquor and beer store at Pervomayskaya 57 in Kandalaksha that put one plastic table in the corner of the hall, dubbed itslef a cafe, and thus circumvented the ban on boose sale after 9pm. Being a cafe they will have to insist on opening the bottle on the premises but no one will force you to stay there till done.
I had a beer there three or four years ago, and was most delighted today do discover that this time capsule is still around. Okolitsa (“the outskirts”) caters to the aluminum smelter workers, active or retired, mostly certified alcoholics. As basic as it gets. Beer and chips, with an open-face sandwich and a home-made pickle to priviledged clients. Most of the intact part of the building is occupied by public baths, open 9am to 9pm daily, Friday 12 noon to 9pm. Tuesdays and Saturdays are for women, and Wednesdays, Friday, and Sundays are for men. After 9pm you can have the whole banya for 750 roubles ($25) per hour regardless of the number of persons.
The place certainly qualifies to be listed under Filming locations, along with Stolovaya No. 12, a 1970s time capsule. But I’d place Okolitsa into early 90s, the time of freedom, anarchy, and makeshift style.
My penchant for time capsules takes me to places like that. Just “stolovaya”, and to make it unique give it a number. In this case “12”.
In Moscow this plate would be in an antique shop
The sign merely informs, not entices.
“Stolovaya” is from “stol”, which means “table”. No effort to build identity. These days such refusal to try to be unique as everyone else is almost an offence. A statement for sure. An identity in itself when the battle cry is “be unique like everyone else”. Someone please point to the stoning scene from Life of Brian.
The only non-functional element of the interior is plentiful live plants.
No TV. It’s been a while since I encountered a public space without the screen.
Open 11am to 3pm which is neither constraining nor imposing on you the need to chose when you have lunch. Lunch is to be had during lunchtime.
The menu does not force you the need to make decisions either. Two types of salad, meat and fish, boiled rice, mashed potatoes, one kind of soup, white bread, brown bread, buns, tea with or without lemon and sugar already in either case, and “kompot”. (“Kompot” is not “compote” but more like tea made of dried fruit.) Just enough variety to make it more than a school canteen from the 70s.
If you wish to wind down, it is only vodka and only one kind. Last time I saw a place with just one drink option was in 1993 somewhere in the Voronezh province.
Even if for only 40 minutes but today, Tuesday, October 29 2013, Pasha was pleased with life and his place in it.
Yes, Stolovaya No. 12 at the corner of Pronina and Novaya utterly failed to annoy me.
The last detail that turned the old grouch me to near euphoria was a pot-belied figure on the washroom door.
When done put the tray with dishes and utensils on this belt.
Less than a full meal but much more that a snack for two was 228 roubles ($7).
A view onto the railroad in a late fall. Gloomy alright but this gloom is somehow easier to take when it is in pure form. Add some colour and light, and will only get worse.
Looking for pre-perestroyka scenery? That’s it. See more character scenery under Filming locations. Also, since most of you travellers will find the arrangement appauling, I’m putting this eatery into the Russian Misery Tourism (c) category.
Ulitsa Naberezhnaya (riverside) 130, in the Spolokhi (sprites) hotel. Tel. +7 921 164 0016. Open 11am to 1am Monday to Thursday, and 11am to 3am Friday to Sunday. Free Wi-fi and pool. Deliveries. Their page looks good.