Saint Petersburg, Russia: Palkin Restaurant - 220 Years of Russian Tradition

Nevsky pr., 47, Sankt-Peterburg, Russia, 191025
220 Years of Tradition. Palkin Restaurant - Saint Petersburg, Russia.

I bid farewell to Moscow on a high - literally - note, and Saint Petersburg was no different. 

Saint Petersburg is the historical, luxuriant counterpart to Moscow's gaudy new-money glamour, so Palkin was the perfect fit for my last meal in Imperial Russia's capital. There's nothing I love more than dining in high-end, historically-rich, slightly-chintzy, rose-hued ambience and enjoying dinner-table theatrics with exceptionally attentive service - in other words, dining like a Tsar. So when my parents told me to pick a restaurant for our last dinner in St P, my research told me that it had to be Palkin!

220 Years of History - Palkin then and now

With over two centuries of history to its name, Palkin is one of the oldest dining establishments in the city - one of the few whose original name and location survived the upheaval of revolution. From the get-go, the Palkin family’s gastronomical endeavours enjoyed great popularity - they expanded from humble family taverns to a showcase restaurant on the fashionable Nevsky Prospect (St Petersburg’s answer to Bond Street). The restaurant attracted a star-studded patronage of the creative variety - poet Alexander Blok, writers Nikolai Gogol, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Anton Chekhov, painter Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, composer Petr Tchaikovsky to name a few - all who enjoyed distinguished, groundbreaking cuisine that was the first to adopt French elements into Russian food. 

In a country that has endured extreme reformation, Palkin Restaurant had to evolve not just to survive but also thrive. After the Bolshevik revolution, the restaurant was converted into a movie theatre frequented by Leningrad (St Petersburg’s name at the time)’s bohemians and international film festival circle. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, 47 Nevsky Prospect reinvented itself as a casino club - before finally coming full circle to its origins as a restaurant. And what a restaurant! Like Café Pushkin in Moscow, Palkin is one of the few restaurants in the world to savour the best in Russian aristocratic cuisine in a place of historical significance.

The walk from the busy cobblestoned roads of bustling Nevsky Prospect to Palkin restaurant is quite an epic one - past throngs of pavement-pounders, through many flights of very slippery marble-and-glass stairs (no wonder Russians are so fit...), and through many a door leading to chess-rooms, bars, cigar lounges etc. but the payoff is worth it - a serene, rosy oasis of refinement and elegance to the soundtrack of a pianist gently tickling the ivories.

220 Years of Tradition. Palkin Restaurant - Saint Petersburg, Russia.

220 Years of Tradition. Palkin Restaurant - Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Beautifully embossed and bound leather menus proudly chronicles the restaurant's long and illustrious history.

A cup of berries to tickle the tastebuds - a perfectly sweet accompaniment to the fresh notes of my champagne.

An amuse bouche of something creamy and delicious I can't quite recall (what? I've been travelling a lot lately...) with a subtle but oh-so-neccessary addition of pine nuts.

220 Years of Tradition. Palkin Restaurant - Saint Petersburg, Russia.

For your consideration - an Alaskan king crab, fresh from the restaurant's tank.

220 Years of Tradition. Palkin Restaurant - Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Sad that my Russian holiday was coming to an end, I drowned my sorrows - in meat. In my favourite dish, steak tartare - two of them, to be exact. Beautifully marinated and simply presented, but artfully so, and accompanied with a sauce that was specially prepared in front of me. Bespoke, in a word - what did I say about the service? At Palkin restaurant, extra care is taken to make you feel like an aristocrat - from the attention to detail, to the charming ease of the staff...

... to table-top theatrics, like this display of smoke and mirrors (sans mirrors).

Less you dismiss this swirly show as prettily pointless, let me tell you that the dry ice-mist is to distract you while the waiters whisk your empty plates away. The mist eventually disappears to reveal a pristine table top...

...all the better to enjoy the tart simplicity of your palate cleanser, a refreshing sorbet.

Which did very well to reset my palate to 'default factory mode' for the star dish of the evening.

A beautiful 'chocolate bomb', the melt-away sort that the Russians have perfected (as enjoyed by Londoners in Mayfair's Bob Bob Ricard). Here at Palkin, this is where the original was born - enjoy the spectacle, you're witnessing culinary history.

220 Years of Tradition. Palkin Restaurant - Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Warm chocolate sauce, seductively poured from a silver goblet, slowly and hypnotising breaks down the chocolate shell of the pudding to reveal a centre of strawberries and marshmallows. 

This, my friend, is what dreams are made of.

It was with the heaviest of hearts and the heaviest of butts that I peeled myself out of my chair to leave - but the charming lavatory doors, below, gave me a hand.

Again, I reiterate - attention to detail is everything.

Photo sources: 2, 3, and 4.

I can't recommend Palkin Restaurant enough for its ambience, food, service, and of course history. In fact, that's why the restaurant gets its own blog post, although the other 4 Saint Petersburg Restaurants I've reviewed also deserve a read! Palkin Restaurant was a lovely ending to a beautiful, see-it-to-believe-it trip. A lot of people have an opinion on Russia - and often, a strong one too - but not many have actually been. The only way to have an actual educated opinion (the phrase about fools opening their mouths and removing all doubt comes to mind) about a nation is to visit the country yourself, so I spent ten days in Russia. You can read what I think about Moscow here and Saint Petersburg here, and the rest of my Russia blog posts here

Next stop...Tallinn, Estonia! Ballin' round the Baltics, as one does...


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