The Chekonte restaurant at the Intercontinental Moscow Tverskaya was the venue selected for the fourth Moscow Good Food Club (MGFC) meeting in March. 33 Good Food Lovers filled four massive tables in this large contemporary restaurant overlooking Tverskaya in the heart of Moscow.
Guests were greeted with a glass of Prosecco di Zonin Brut. The restaurantâs executive chef Taki, spoke in friendly Australian about the delights in store for us. Kim Waddoup, publisher of Moscow expat Life explained MGFCâs informal rules: no salt and pepper to enable us to really taste the food, diversified seating arrangement to encourage meeting new people, and each guest to fill out a restaurant critique valuing the food. Finally, to steer the conversation away from the omnipresent and may I say overpowering political events, guests were asked to draw up a series of suggestions on improvements for Moscow that they felt still need to be made. This suggestion was greeted with applause.
The starter dish, Kachofoli, and one has to give Taki top marks for being so creative with the names of his dishes, was a warm brandade, served up with micro greens with sturgeon caviar. Guests remarked how unusual this was, ââ¦something we wouldnât have thought about.â This was accompanied by a glass of TÃ¶rley Chardonnay Brut. As with all drinks served, this seemed to match perfectly.
Next was a very Asian pork & prawn wonton soup scented by ginger grass and lemon juice which had been given an enticing name: Forbidden City. This was served together with Pfefferer Goldmuskateller Colterenzio. Several members of the club felt that the asparagus was just a little too strong for the meat, although approval ratings for his dish were high.
Taki gave us a choice of meat or fish for the main course, accompanied by Wunderlich Cabernet Franc; a wonderful red wine, tinged with raspberry and black current, and which worked just as well with both dishes. The meat dish was called Casablancaâs Best, one of Takiâs specials from his Moroccan days. The meat was tender, some said a little bland, but this was compensated for with an adequate amount of rosemary. The courgettes were superb. The only real criticism levelled at this offering was perplexity as to why the dish was served in a soup bowl.
The fish; a sea bream fillet served with shaved Spanish Jamon, eggplant puree, fragrant Tahitian lime pesto and pomegranate molasses was simply delicious. Being a part-time vegetarian I couldnât eat the ham. I mentioned to this to one of the waiters and within a few minutes the ham was replaced with an ample stock of vegetables. Other guests had similar experiences: ââ¦the service was absolutely excellent, especially as two men on my table have certain allergies, and the chef came up with a special dish for them, which was lovely.â A number of other guests mentioned that service was incredible, and couldnât be improved on. Takiâs appearances at the tables and the friendly conversations he had with us were much appreciated.
To finish off the evening, we were presented with one of Takiâs âfavourite desert dishesâ, Pinacolicious. This was an amazing concoction of lime, pineapple, rum, coconut and mint, served with Prosecco. One guest said that the coconut and pineapple was sticky, but that was really interesting.â Another said: ââ¦the pudding was absolutely incredible, we have never tasted anything like it.â
The general manager of the Intercontinental, Mathieu van Alpen and his wife Susanne were amongst the guests. Mathieu commented: âWe found the evening very nice and the outcome was excellent. With the food and wines selection, we certainly achieved what we wanted as the ratings were all in the 9âs and 10âs. As for the wines, we tried to show alternatives to the usual ones that also show of high quality. Hungarian wines have become well known in the world and have received recognition at all of the wines contest and exhibitions in the world, often compared to the world most know wine regions.â
In short, MGFC members were impressed with what the Intercontinental has come up with. For those of us who remember the old Minsk hotel, this is akin to being on a different planet. Thanks for a fantastic evening.
Suggestions put forward by MGFC members during the evening as to how to improve Moscow included:
- Instigating a congestion charge for driving in the centre
- Improve the bus service, ban parking on bus lanes
- Introducing low emission cars
- Zebra crossings to have push buttons
- Dual English/Russian signs
- Clarity as to where to pay parking fines
- Parking payment machines that work!
- More pedestrian areas
- Stop closing Red Square
- More childrenâs zones
- More left turns!
- Introduction of dedicated bicycle lanes
- Better distribution of fruit and vegetables
- Introduce temperature control of radiators
- Stop spitting and discarding cigarette butts
- Lower import duties for wine
- Less face control
- Introduce customer service recognition programmes
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