The name? Well, it's an untranslatable weary pun, mixing the colloquial word for “bye!” with the name of cabbage soup. It's one of those extremely contrived jokes that you hate the moment you hear it, and it gets worse with repetition – particularly since “bye!” (rather than maybe “hello!”?) is weak name for any kind of eaterie. But though it's hard to swallow – we don't have to eat the name.
The location is superb – directly opposite the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum – if you'd come here two centuries earlier, the artist Tropinin would have been living next door, where he had his studios too. It's even located so that you can see an exhibition, saunter down the small side-street where the Museum's exit is located, and topple through the front door (take care when crossing the road, however). Unlike the Pushkin, across the road – which is mainly Western art, with a bit of Russian – Shchisliva mainly features traditional Russian dishes. However, they are served with a loving delicacy and lightness of approach, that you'd hardly recognise them if you've been bombarded with their greasy canteen counterparts. This is Russian food prepared with aplomb, and served with the aesthetic beauty the neighbourhood inspires.
They don't – yet – have a liquor licence, although they're allowed to serve you beer (they have a good range of international beers, in fact). If you want anything stronger, you can bring it yourself (a grocery street around the corner on Lenivka), and they charge a 500 RUB corkage charge per bottle. There's a range of home-made lemonades – the pear-flavoured one (250 RUB) was quite pleasant, and a large glassful, instead of the usual thimbleful.
The décor is minimalist-Scandinavian – primarily geometric pine furniture and avocado-green fabrics that add a probably unintentional 1970s feel to the place – you expect to see Diane Keaton waiting for Woody Allen to show up? And rather like Greenwich Village in the 1970s, you have to go outside if you want to light up – it's a 100% no-smoking venue, which suits me fine. Wi-Fi is free, has no fiddly passwords, and goes like the clappers.
Following our established pattern, Emilia cross-examined the waiter about the most complex and outlandish dishes on the menu - whereas I prefer to see how they cope with established classic dishes. The result is usually that Emilia gets left with some outré experiment while I tuck into something nice – but the tables were turned today! The idea of Anchovy in Spicy Battered Leaves of Sage
(240 RUB) sounded like something from a fish-and-chip shop to me - but it arrived as elegantly light tempura-style wafers without a hint of grease to them at all. However, if I'd been expecting a Russian-Railways style “salat” (i.e. “leftovers in mayonnaise”), I was delighted to find that Salad of Herrings & Mustard Sauce with Cherry Potatoes
(260 RUB) was a tangy and light collation, with lots of crispy Cos lettuce leaves, al-dente potatoes, and delicious herring as the magma core of this extensive volcanic portion. I particularly enjoyed the contrasting textures of crispy lettuce alongside smooth potato, and the mustard sauce was the tongue-tingling masterstroke that brought it all together. I could quite happily have cut straight to the coffee and the bill after that, and felt more than satisfied.
However, our lunch was only just beginning. Although Shchisliva was pretty full for a weekday lunchtime, service was enviably brisk and charmingly shy. With seamless refills of our drinks in hand, we'd decided to try a sampler portion of Okroshka
(250 RUB) – Russia's beloved summer soup. It's usually assembled at the table, and can be made with either kvass, or kefir. We tried a little of both, and Emilia came down firmly in favour of the kefir version – which is home-made, the waiter confirmed, although the menu doesn't say so. Since Emilia is something of an okroshka maven at hope, it was a testing moment to discover if they could make it as she likes it? Happy smiles and eager enthusiasm resulted, and the restaurant's reputation was instantly confirmed.
On to the hot main dishes, and once again, I'd chosen a taster portion of two different dumpling dishes. Dumplings with North Sea Fish
(440 RUB) were tender and very pleasant, but a bit monotonous on their own – they really needed the foil of some kind of side dish? However, the Fried Dumplings with White Oyster Mushrooms
(360 RUB) were my star find of the day, and served in a creamy savoury sauce that sets new records for calorific content. As a Brit reared on my mum's pie and gravy, this was like a Freudian regression into childhood bliss - and I even minded my manners and didn't talk while I was eating it. Culinary satisfaction was in evidence on the other side of the table too – with the arrival of Home-made Smoked Duck with Mashed Parsnip
(470 RUB). Although it looked a little bare on the plate, the duck was deliciously tender – although visually the decoration of cranberries might have been better replaced with some kind of jus of them instead? The parsnip easily won the Best Supporting Vegetable Award – creamy, buttered, and just the way your mum made them.
And at that point, we had to admit defeat. It had all been so delicious that we'd sent the plates back scraped clean of every last morsel. The desserts all sounded tempting - but they'd have had to send us home on wheels if we'd given in to temptation.
Shchisliva serves reliable, appealing food without any silly pretentions, in a pleasant and modern setting with attentive service. The prices are rather less than we expected for such a ritzy location, and the atmosphere is relaxed and laid-back, with no particular dress code at all. The strict non-smoking policy is slightly unusual for Moscow, but we found it a major plus.
Shchisliva has an appetising line-up of items for breakfast, and instead of a “business lunch” promotion it offers 20% discount on the entire menu from 12-4pm on weekdays.