Fish‘n’Chips in Moscow
To continue our series on nice eateries for under $50, John Harrison, our editor, admitted that he wanted to investigate where fish & chips are served in Moscow. Being a true Brit, he had a craving for the this culinary delight that needed to be urgently fixed.
So, I loaded my fish & chips expert into the car and off we went. The internet search of the previous night had revealed that, after the closing of ‘Paul MacBride’s Fish and Chips’ only two places in Moscow claim to serve cod in batter – ‘Molly Gwynn’s’, and the recently opened sports bar ‘Bleachers’, another enterprise founded by Doug Steele. (See also ‘Doug and Marty’s Boarhouse’)
At ‘Molly Gwynn’s’, we decided to sit inside and enjoy the joys of air conditioning. When designing the interior, the owners tried their hardest to meet the expectations bestowed on a pub – dark wood, massive tables, brick walls, hops hanging from the ceiling, etc. Both John and I found it too polished for a pub: it just didn’t sound like a pub and didn’t smell like a pub should smell – a mixture of a couple of pints of beer spilled on the floor, cigar smoke, wood. Having leafed through the menu, we determined that ‘Molly’ could boast a good mixture of pub food, British food, and beer snacks; the portions at the table next to us looked big and our neighbors seemed to be enjoying their food, but we were not going to be thrown off course by a Yorkshire pudding. ‘Fish & chips, please!’
The description on the menu claimed ‘battered fillet of cod with home-made chips and garden peas’, which sounded just perfect. On closer inspection, the cod proved to be covered with a very thin film of batter (no way that could have been deepfried – looks too thin and too smooth), the fries oops sorry.. chips, were the ‘soppy British variety’, to quote our expert here, and the peas… They were Hungarian peas, the same that went into the deluxe New Year edition ‘Russian salad’ (also known as ‘Olivier Salad’) back in Soviet times. Those same peas that, together with the Bulgarian ketchup and Danish canned ham, were the only imported foods to slip through the Iron Curtain. It seems that Molly Gwynn’s people consider it post-modern perestroika chic to introduce mushy canned peas as a side dish. All in all, our verdict was: quite bland, the fish has no taste, and it is nothing remotely like the stuff you get in England.
‘Bleachers’ (1 Volgogradsky prospect) is enormous, enough to accommodate a whole army of sports fans. The place has the right smell for a sport club. I could swear the bathrooms were designed and constructed by the same guy who renovated the bathrooms at ‘Starlite Diner’ – so strong was my sense of deja vu. Each connecting room has a large plasma screen with different sports broadcasts on air. The walls are decorated with different sports memorabilia, the tables and booths are wooden, with upholstered benches. There are also pool tables, dart boards and table-tennis, which is a very nice touch and certainly gains the management some points. If only they had invested in an air hockey table, they’d be my best friends forever — I live in the neighborhood and my friends Margo, Andrew and I always have a problem finding a nice air hockey table. Hope Doug Steele reads our magazine!
Both John and I really liked the design and composition of the menu, which is both systematic and fun. Our eyes were hungrily searching for fish & chips, and spotted it in the British section. Since we were the only customers who came before 9, our order arrived so fast that John thought that it must have been cooked by magic or simply had been waiting to be warmed up. By the way, all food is cooked in an open-view kitchen, which is quite comforting to me, as a customer. The fish and chips themselves were more imaginative than the ones at ‘Molly Gwynn’s’, but still a disappointment. They were breaded, rather than battered, the chips were the American variety this time, and I could swear I knew which brand they were. There was also a sauce to go with fish – something of a cross between Tartar and cilantro dip. The strips of Pangascius Catfish inside the breading (which, by the way, had some chili pepper flakes in it, which gained some points with me but went totally unnoticed by John) were so thin, that we couldn’t taste any fish at all. Important note: ‘Bleachers’ has fantastically cheap beer, and we also tried Doug’s famous pizza – a favorite among the expat community. What a cholesterol night we had!
Even though we had a good time at both restaurants, and both venues have a lot going for them, we have to testify that there are no real ‘fish & chips’ that we know of in Moscow, in the British sense of it.
Molly Gwynn’s: Molly Gwynn’s 1, 2, 3 at Passport Restaurant Guide
1/5 Krasnaya Presnya, 252-2459
24/2 Novy Arbat, 290 3317
24 Pyatnitskaya, 959 5852