Going into this review, with a name like Gavroche, I was intrigued, to say the least. I did some quick research on location since finding places in Moscow is usually hit, miss, and frustration.
Arriving to Gavroche by car is a bit tricky. Building 11 is a Soviet monolith that occupies nearly the entire block. We parked on the street at an available spot, and we were at the wrong end of the street, as luck would have it. However, Gavroche has a parking lot “in the back” that actually had available spots, so call ahead.
Metro stop is Park Kultury, and it is not a difficult walk to Gavroche – investigate prior and you will arrive without problem. Note, though, that the entrance is well-marked, but across from building 26.
For me, an increasing portion of the buying decision is simple – free WiFi, yes or no? I am madly loyal to Coffee House (I am here now) because they have free WiFi. I avoid Shokoladnitza and Starbucks precisely because they do not have free WiFi. It’s not a question of money – the free portion – it is a question of make it convenient for me, and I will give you my business and tell others to do the same.
Gavroche, I am happy to say – and as a pleasant surprise – has free WiFi announced by a sign that jumps out on the front door, and WiFi that works good. I had my iPad with me, so it was really a super addition. Small example – I did not know what “Gavroche” is or meant. Two seconds later, Victor Hugo and Les Miserables
. Kudos to Gavroche for being, well, smart and recognizing its clientele.
I am a born cynic and that is how I went into Gavroche. I, however, do not have expectations that are not reasonable. On every count, Gavroche met my expectations – and, in all fairness, exceeded them as well.
With regard to interior, Gavroche is sleek and tastefully done. Nice and quiet. You can have a conversation easily across the table without having to huddle or yell. That was a huge plus, in addition to the fact that you are not crowded into a puny table. In short, you can relax, and you quickly do. Not the pretentious kind of relax, but actually feel at ease.
There is a seasonal terrace outside with sofa seating with blankets and space heaters available upon request. Inside, you do not feel cigarette smoke since it is whisked out almost immediately the central air system.
With regard to service, Gavroche does extremely well. Our waitress, Julia, was very attentive, but not over- attentive. Maybe I am alone in being annoyed when I finish my last bite – or not even finish it – and the plate is already off the table, seized by the hawk-eyed waiter or waitress who makes me feel like I am somehow not eating fast or efficiently enough.
This is not the case at Gavroche – again, you can relax here. Enjoy your seat, surf the net a bit, and eat at your own pace.
Gavroche is a wine bar with a sommelier that is happy to guide you through choices to meet your mood or entree. About 140 different wines are listed, with the most expensive approximately 17500 RUR, but with very nice bottles in the 2500 to 3500 RUR range.
Menus are in English and Russian, in separate covers, and, very importantly, they match each other. Where this is nice is if you are with somebody who does not speak English, he/she can suggest something, show it to you on his/her menu, and it will match up the English menu for you to poke at for your waitress. A small criticism is that portion sizes are not noted.
We started the meal with wine (Gentil Hugel Alsace
, 270 RUR glass and Givry
, 390 glass) that was recommended by the sommelier, as well as two appetizers – an artichoke, onions, and pickles assortment
(290 RUR) and a cured meat platter assortment
(470 RUR). The wine was excellent and the dishes came quickly, as well as a nice bowl of baguette style bread with soft butter. Both dishes were a super start to the dining experience, and there is a wide array of appetizers from which you can choose to suit your taste.
Again, with WiFi and an iPad on-hand, we enjoyed the quiet – but not empty – atmosphere and the good wine with appetizers. There was no rush to order, and we did not feel rushed.
I was not sure what I wanted to order for my entree, so I told Julia to surprise me. No fish, no pasta, but everything else was, as you can say, on the menu. We did, however, order two other entrees to have a basis of comparison – duck breast with cranberry sauce
(590 RUR) and steamed/grilled cod with vegetables and rice
The cod was very well prepared and flavorful. Duck is also something that I tend to stay away from because any time that I have ordered it in Moscow, I have been painfully disappointed – too dry, overcooked, and really just not up to par. However, the duck was excellent. In fact, it was as perfect as really possible – and for a person like me who is not a big fan of this meat, that says a lot about Gavroche’s cook and recipes.
Honestly, when I said “surprise me”, I wanted the ribeye steak
(950 RUR), medium done. Julia must have saw it in my eyes because that is exactly what she brought me, accompanied by a nice bowl of fresh greens and round/cube cut French fries that came with a bottle of Heinz ketchup too. No bowl of 50g – for the first time anywhere not Starlite Diner was I presented with my own bottle of ketchup.
The ribeye was super. Just super. The sauce that accompanied brought out the inherent flavor of the cut of meat. It was cooked to perfection, and exceeded my expectations in every way. A nice steak in Moscow at a reasonable price is hard to find since the price-good steak or not gamut is always a shot in the dark. If simply for another steak and big beer, I will be back to Gavroche.
I forgot to mention – before enjoying the entrees, we were able to consult with the sommelier again about wines that would go well with the dishes. He suggested Chablis Grand Regnard
(590 RUR glass) and Pouilly Fuisse Faiveley Le Marconnais
(470 RUR glass). The Chablis was good, but the first white wine got the green light our party for the best combination with a nice fish dish. The Pouilly was a perfect match for the duck entree. For my exquisite ribeye – nothing beats a big .5L Kronenburg draft
(210 RUR), even if you are in a wine bar with a selection as deep as Gavroche’s.
Dinner complete and extremely satisfied. We chatted amongst ourselves for 20 minutes or so before considering dessert. Looked up a few more random things using WiFi, made some phone calls with Skype, and was pulled in for dessert.
My huge conundrum is cheesecake in Moscow since, generally, good cheesecake is even harder to find than your own bottle of ketchup. The best cheesecake in the world is made by my Uncle Bruce in the US. He knows this, and the world knows this.
However, Uncle Bruce, you have a worthy competitor in the cheesecake with strawberry sauce (320 RUR) offered at Gavroche. I have had cheesecake at inexpensive and expensive places in Moscow – and few have scored memorable – but my quote when wolfing mine down with my Americano
(190 RUR) and Sambuca Molinari
(290 RUR) was, “(t)his is the best damn cheesecake in Moscow!”, and it is.
We tried two other deserts as well – a Sotern with Thai Orchid
(380 RUR) and chocolate fudge mindal cake
(310 RUR) with a cappuccino
(130 RUR) for my dining partner. I came out of my cheesecake bliss to try both of them, and both were very nice. Sotern was a new dish for me, and it was a nice, light composition. The chocolate fudge mindal, I postulate, was as much a round piece of heaven for chocolate lovers as my round piece of heaven cheesecake.
The appealing and relaxing atmosphere at Gavroche lasts the entire meal. I have had hard time thinking about “how” to express the atmosphere in words. Instead, I prefer to use examples.
For instance, Gavroche is a restaurant that would be perfect if you had friends or family visiting and you want a place that you can sit down to catch up. For those in a party like this, WiFi allows the just arrived to get caught up on things like email, places he/she would like to see in Moscow, and the like. The menu is diverse enough to satisfy most dining preferences, and, moreover, the wine list is impeccable in selection and pricing.
If not a friends and family type gathering, Gavroche is perfect for entertaining business clients, professional colleagues, or co-workers. Location is central, parking lot close, terrace available, excess seating upon request can be reserved, and it is a quite place for uninterrupted conversations.
In closing, I give Gavroche a ringing Purdy Five-Star Endorsement on all accounts. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend Gavroche to anybody in the Expat.ru community looking for a new place to try or a familiar place to return to you on your second, third, fourth, et al visits!