Founded by Peter the Great in 1703 as Russia’s “Window on the West”, St Petersburg has witnessed devastating floods, world war and two revolutions during its relatively brief history. Its atmospheric canal-lined streets have proven an inspiration for some of Russia’s most celebrated writers, from Fyodor Dostoyevsky to Nikolai Gogol. It is also home to the world-famous Hermitage Museum, a vast treasure house of artistic delights on the city’s gigantic Palace Square, as well as some truly magnificent churches and cathedrals.
Ballet and the performing arts are a big deal here – a visit to the recently renovated Mariinsky Theatre is one of the highlights of a trip to the city. It’s no surprise then that this stunning metropolis on the banks of the River Neva is considered Russia’s cultural capital, a reputation its people are fiercely proud of.
An enthralling mixture of Tsarist-era history, the Soviet period and modern-day Russia, St Petersburg’s food scene is likewise a combination of these three distinct eras, with centuries-old culinary delights vying for attention with more recent innovations. Take a stroll through its historic centre to discover a multitude of restaurants and cafés offering everything from the spicy food of the former Soviet republic of Georgia to high-quality Asian cuisine, many housed in centuries-old architectural gems.
But despite all the recent foreign influences, Russian traditional cooking remains important here, are some genuine surprises, and delights, awaiting adventurous taste buds.
Russia is a country that values its traditions. And no more so, perhaps, than its culinary traditions, which stretch back centuries to the rule of the tsars and tsarinas, and largely managed to survive the Soviet period intact. With the obvious exception of swan and peacock meat...