It was a wet Wednesday in October when I set off with Nastinka Bellafonte for Market. The immediate, and as it transpired, correct, first impression, was that this cool and happy joint was going to be a relaxed and welcoming and convivial place. The staff dress in neat, simple, functional uniforms which reflect the theme of a bustling street market in errr… someplace. It was early evening when we made our visit – but one gets the impression that it’s not necessarily necessary to over dress. There were even diners in t-shirts, gasp!
Market themselves agree that an average bill will come in at a hundred dollars, and many clients spend substantially more. Despite the public this attracts, the atmosphere succeeds in being relaxed and democratic.
The menu has the usual ‘Engrish’ elements: e.g. Lamb’s slices with Ginger
will cost you 1300 RUR. Or you could have Striploin Steak
for 1600 RUR. Saucy! Apart from those odd diversions the choice on offer is rather bewildering – the best menus’ are simple, to my mind. Market, on the other hand, has a Menu of two halves; page one – fish. Fresh fish from France and other places, such as Japan and Australia. Straight off the fresh fish-plane. Nice.
A further ten pages of the menu are given over to glossy photos of pseudo-Japanese/faux-Chinese selections of beansprouting, noodley, crispy fried tit-bits - and steak. I was almost tempted - but in the end I did the only reasonable thing under the circumstances and ordered some fish. Which was great. It was particularly great thanks to a little stroke of luck courtesy of our dear and delightful waitress Alyona, who forgot to bring my hot sauce. So I was left with fresh, tasty, brilliantly cooked fish. Brilliantly cooked in that I asked for it rare (being as it was tuna steak) – and I got it rare. Slapped on the grill for long enough to be scorched. Job done. Absolutely delicious. When the sauce arrived, almost too late, I was glad I’d missed out on it – not so much because it was bad, which it wasn’t – but because the fish was so good it didn’t need embellishing.
Neither did the steamed or grilled vegetables. Fresh, tasty, good. And only half an arm and a leg in cost. 6.1 RUR per gram in the case of my fish, and 3.5 rubles per gram in the case of the crab enjoyed by her ladyship. She simpered ecstatically about the crab but it might have been served with a less obtrusive sauce in my opinion. No complaints though.
Good food is always a crowd pleaser if I’m in the audience. And I need a bit of pleasing if the raggafon selection on the in-house cd, played shamelessly at up-front volume doesn’t become more sophisticated quite quickly. It doesn’t. Bad music works – why change it?, is the abiding principle/annoying tradition, which ‘Market’ is unremarkable in adhering to.
Pudding was served – I got the most popular dish cream with wild cherry baked in a soft meringue
590 rubles to find out what the fuss was about – it wasn’t a good idea – taking the edge off my fish high as it did. But each to their own as Shakespeare said and it wasn’t unduly inedible. Madame Belafonte’s Cheese Mousse and passion fruit sauce
was more delectable but just as mundane. 410 rubles for a tasty little pudding...?
If you think you might be heading to Market anyhow, worth knowing that from 8th-12th November Khor Beng Sin – Chef to the President of Malaysia – has a short residency adding some personal flourishes to the menu.