A showcase capital of the Tsars. A powerhouse of the arts. And, with its canals and bridges, a Venice of the north. St Petersburg has much to charm and delight. Whether visiting during the long, long days of summer or wrapping up warm to enjoy the snowy winter delights, one thing definitely adds a lift to a few days spent in St Petersburg. It is savouring the luxury of St Petersburg caviar paired with some of the world's best vodka.
There is nothing more synonymous with luxury than caviar, a signature delicacy in Russia. Caviar is salt-cured fish eggs taken from the wild sturgeon that live and breed in the Caspian and Black Seas. The extraction process is time-consuming and costly, making caviar a gourmet delicacy. Traditionally, caviar is served with a mother-of-pearl spoon. A small amount is spooned onto a blini or small pancake and eaten with sour cream, hard-boiled eggs, onion and herbs.
In St Petersburg caviar comes in many colours and varieties but the main types are Beluga, Oscietra and Sevruga. Beluga is the rarest and most costly caviar while Sevruga is the most commonly eaten. Caviar varieties vary in size but all are deliciously salty, and like wine paired with cheese in the west, caviar is paired with vodka in St Petersburg. Russian vodka has a subtle flavour, especially when served icy cold. This delicate flavour is the perfect foil for caviar, pushing it to centre stage on the palate. While it is fun to experiment and see what sparks up your taste buds, there are some classic pairings of St Petersburg vodka and caviar to try. Beluga caviar and Beluga vodka is a pairing made in heaven while Tsarskaya and Stolichnaya vodka both work well with Sevruga caviar.
Chilled caviar is served on a plate without ice. As it slowly reaches room temperature, the full flavours of the caviar are revealed. To eat caviar St Petersburg-style, use the serving spoon to spread a generous amount on a warm buttered blini. Add some chopped hard-boiled egg and between each mouthful, take a sip of ice-cold vodka. Tingling tastebuds are guaranteed. If you want to live like a member of the imperial court, there are some truly tempting venues in St Petersburg where you can enjoy this pairing of caviar with vodka.
Art-Caviar Boutique and Restaurant
Located on Bolshaya Konyushennaya, Art-Caviar is owned and run by the largest manufacturer of black caviar in Russia. As well as appreciating and buying fine caviar in the boutique, you can try caviar in different tasting dishes created by Roman Palkin, considered to be one of the best chefs in the country. Enjoy your caviar and vodka pairings in an interior inspired by both the Art Deco period and the lavish salons of the mid-20th-century. It definitely dates from a time when a party wasn't a party without jazz, champagne, vodka and, of course, caviar.
Palkin first opened its doors in 1785 on the corner of Nevsky Prospekt and Bolshaya Morskaya Street. While singing nightingales are no longer part of the entertainment, the restaurant is still located on Nevsky Prospekt and is still famous for serving up excellent Russian cuisine including caviar. Beluga, sturgeon and salmon caviar are served up in the traditional way with wheat pancakes, sour cream and quail eggs. Ask the experienced and knowledgeable waiter for the best vodka to sip after each moutful of delicious caviar.
Feel like Russian aristocracy as you take a tempting journey through a menu of caviar and vodka in the Tsar Restaurant. Everything in this restaurant from the food and the décor to the service and the drinks is wrapped and served in the traditions of Russian hospitality. The historic interiors are enhanced with rare antiques and even a royal throne while the chef Roman Vasiliev has become a master of Russian gastronomy. You can follow the menu or ask the dedicated staff to suggest their favourite caviar and vodka pairings.