May 11, 2018
This glittering Faberger Egg of a hotel is the last word in moneyed style, taste and sophistication. Once the haunt of such literary giants as Pushkin, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Ivan Turgenev and Mikhail Saltykov and on occasion even Catherine the Great herself. today, one feels, it epitomises the sometimes ruthless pursuit of pleasure that has come to mark post-Soviet Russia. Part, restaurant, part casino, part hotel, the former pre-revolutionary palazzo of merchant and patron of the arts Stepan Eliseyev, it refines the word ‘opulent.’ A champagne’s glass throw from the Hermitage, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and the Church of Our Savior of the Spilt Blood, it’s a grand carpeted affair of endless rooms positively dripping with art, priceless antiques and the odd touch of modern comfort. As for the bar itself, it takes its name from Alexander Griboedov (1795 -1829), a man famous in Russian literature for just one work, the verse play Woe From Wit. Full marks for the blue-leather sofas and chairs which grace the main bar lounge. The jury is still out on the designer labels of the gorgeous staff, most of whom appear to have stepped straight off the covers of Russian Vogue. Service is impeccable, as one would expect, as indeed is the cocktail list. If we have one favourite room, it is the Cigar Lounge where, against an elegant backdrop of walnut wainscotting, high-flying Russians and millionaire ex-pats – connoisseurs of good taste(!) – smoke big fat Cohibas over pricey cognacs. Do visit the Atlantes lobby bar, so named because of its four gigantic Atlantes statues which strain to support the atrium ceiling. It is as if the Communist Manifesto had never been written.