Kafe Stari Minsk (=Café Old Minsk): Super place - only four tables and great interior
A must! A very special interior, very well painted 3-D-walls, old books, old pharmacy stuff, to one shelf people have left small coins from their country (we did that as well).
There were only four (!) tables in the whole place - it was tiny.
It's easy to locate as it is located in the city centre in one of the main streets. I don't remember - and didn't check it there- the street number of this place. It's anyhow between house/address nr 10 and 20, on the even-numbered side of the street.
Though we didn't search for it, we had seen a big beer tent in a square and wanted to go in, didn't find the entrance but behind it found this tiny place with good service and great ambience.
Favorite Dish: There's no food here - only drinks (if I remember right no beer) but lots of different coffees and hot chocolates.
We tried (to warm up) a local vodka-based drink named "Grambambulia", which was great and the spirit didn't taste through at all. The drink (or shot) contained local vodka, honey, cinnamon and nut. Highly recommended! The price was appr. 3180 BYR (=Belarus rubles) which was a little bit more than 1 EUR.
Normal local vodka cost appr. 2500 BYR (0,5 cl) which is appr. 0,7 EUR. (In October 2007).
Stari Gorod (=Old Town): A restaurant with good food - for the adventurous
First of all we wanted to find a real local place, not any tourist restaurant or a hotel restaurant, nor a restaurant too lit and steril. And we found it! A really really local restaurant, where we were the only foreigners and only tourists.
It also meaned that...the staff didn't speak any languages! So we had to start with the very few Russian words we know.
Then the next surprise: the menu ONLY in Russian!!! We had no idea of what we were ordering, but it was fun. I decided to order my dish only according to the fact that it was underlined and bold in the menu, so I thought it must be some suggestion of the house or something. I took the risk and ordered it. We had a good laugh and many guesses when drinking our beers -and one local vodka for the excitement- and waiting for the portions to come. But at the end - no disappointments!
Later on, as we had tried to speak a little Russian, it was suddenly pointed out the the waiter guy anyhow knew -but just a few words- English. AFTER ordering he came to say "it's chicken" with not so good pronounciation. But we were happy we didn't get anything too exotic...
The place is easy to find (in the so-called old town) and it is open from 11:00-23:00.
I really recommend the place those who want to see something real, not artificial, meet local people - and eat good (but not too fine) local food in an informal, easy-going environment. Just be brave and go even with no knowledge of Russian - it is an experience as such, and I think everything in the list is good enough.
Favorite Dish: I only ate there once as we wanted to try different places.
The portion was big enough, cheap, yet delicious, contained a mixture of hacked chicken, potatoe cubes, onion and a lot of hot vegetables.
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Rakauski Brovar: A happy big brewery with good food
This brewery took us with its ambiance immediately as we stepped in. Everything worked smoothly; there was a man coming rapidly towards us, wearing a dark suit, being very polite. He showed us the way to the coatman and after it he led us to a table.
Soon a waitress, speaking English, came with the menus - luckily also in English.
Somewhere behind we could hear a local trio playing Belarus music and also old Russian music. They were touring the restaurant from table to another. According to my opinion they played a bit too loud.
The restaurant was already found by the few tourists.
One tip: you have to have a good map with you to find the place, and beforehand marked the place in it in order to be able to orienteer, especially in the dark. Or then take a taxi. The place is somewhat hidden and a bit difficult to find. Once you enter the correct street, you'll see it as it has lights like Christmas time and the house is quite big.
Favorite Dish: The locally brewed beers.
We were not 100% hungry yet so we ate something little - which was almost too much for me! It was four pieces of long, very tasty sausages with lots of pepper and the meat percentage surely was near 100%, and to accompany them I took salted cucumbers (the Russian style).
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Various: Tips on ordering food in Minsk restaurants
Some simple tips to consider when trying to order food in this country:-
* Learn as much Russian as you can before hand. Same as anywhere – having a go at speaking the native tongue is always appreciated even if it is just the most basic of words
* Take a Russian speaker with you if you can if your Russian isn’t so good. A native to the area would be even better
* Smile, be pleasant, stay calm, try not to let frustration get to you
* Get in some accelerated training in perseverance before you go – Be prepared mentally as an Olympian effort may be needed. Crooks like those in Saloon will try to grind you down
* When it goes wrong try to look positively on it afterwards as a character building experience. After all we’re all going to die 1 day
Best of luck.
Various restaurants: Minsk restaurants - best avoided
Places to avoid:-
What a place. If Hollywood conjured up the movie “Nightmare on Elm Street” then this place in Minsk was “Nightmare on Masherov Avenue”.
I asked for the mushroom soup emphasising without cream. Sure enough it came with cream and I was told, 'It's only a little cream'. Astonishingly when the bill came I was billed for the dish that I had sent back. I asked for the Manager. The Manager backed the waitress completely and joined in the argument and they tried to put a group pressure on me. Fortunately I had a native with me to help. It took some persistence to get the offending item removed from the bill. In the end justice was served (if not decent food). Clearly communism is well and truly consigned to the history books in this establishment - profiteering is the name of the game now in Saloon.
Although I haven’t given it too much thought this is possibly the worst place I’ve ever been to in my life. Best thing about this joint is the exit door. It is truly a victory for the human spirit that I don’t wake up in the middle of the night having the shakes from this place coming into my thoughts while I sleep. Shudder.
Despite a waitress being rustled up who spoke decent English (something I was very grateful for as my Russian is still a very poor standard) Il Patio seemed incapable of giving me a pasta dish without cheese (it took them 3 attempts). Factory production line style produced food. If you want something even slightly customised try elsewhere.
Favorite Dish: More places to avoid:-
In Bar 05 regardless of what you say it will be impossible to get a baked potato served without cheese. Perhaps unbeknown to me this place is the centre for the Cheese Appreciation Society of Belarus. People could travel from miles around just to try the cheese from this place on a potato. Don't eat here. The waitress spoke decent English (again I am grateful for that when I have so much of my own linguistics to develop) but it wasn’t any use. Trying to stop them putting cheese on a baked potato was as futile as trying to stop a T34 tank.
I believe that Bar 05 has been renamed. It's the place beside the white church.
Chinese place near Masherov Avenue (sorry I’ve forgot the name)
There is also a Chinese place close to Masherov Avenue (menu in English again I am delighted to say). When I put the food into my mouth it was an assault on my taste buds as pleasant as being rolled over by the previously mentioned T34. Again I haven’t given it that much thought but it was possibly the worst tasting dish I've ever had in a Chinese restaurant. There seems to be a lot of 'worsts' in eating in this town. I love Chinese food. Not from this restaurant.
Restaurant Voglia Matta
I am humbled to be stunned at how it can take an hour to prepare pasta with tomato sauce in a restaurant with a grand total of 1 customer. Maybe they are out harvesting the tomatoes from the neighbouring countryside, I have no idea. Cream is added to the tomato sauce whether you ask for it or not. On another visit they managed to serve 2 similar appearing dishes to the wrong people (only identified when the person who ordered the ‘without chilli’ option had their mouth feeling like an inferno).
Various restaurants: Minsk restaurants - best choices?
Out of places I have visited in Europe I haven't been anywhere nearly as frustratingly challenging to eat in restaurants as Minsk (and I've been to Minsk more than once).
Firstly, there is the difficulty of reading menus in Cyrillic if like me you are a beginner in speaking Russian. This can be overcome by taking a native speaker with you if you don't know Russian but Cyrillic is only the beginning of the difficulties. And with the standards of waiting service if you make a complaint about something rather than expect some customer care the waiting staff may well get upset and argue (and I mean argue) with you.
Further there is the frustrating widespread practice of ingredients being included that aren't listed on the menu (e.g. cheese, butter, cream, margarine). A number of the eateries (e.g. Saloon, Bar 05, Il Patio) struggle to entertain the concept of modifying a dish from the standard way that they prepare it. The concept is as alien to them as a landing from planet Zob.
Favorite Dish: If you are going to Minsk you may wish to try the following:-
A Nepalese / Tibetan restaurant with a very polite and helpful manager who speaks good English. If you or someone in your group is any of lacto, ovo or vegan vegetarian then this is the best as the manager will help very much. A place of tranquillity when compared with the seeming vortex of madness that is ordering in so many of the other eateries in this town. Quality service. Located about a 5 min walk from Ploshad Yakuba Kolasa metro.
This place is part of a chain with branches sprinkled through ex-Soviet Europe. If you or someone in your group is vegetarian there are a few vegetarian dishes on offer but beware the fish extract in the boullion used to make the miso soup. There's 1 on the main drag (Nezavisimosti Prospekt) and another on Ulitsa Lenina. Both are close to Oktyabrskaya metro. A big winner in terms of mega central location.
An all together more pleasant Italian eating experience than Il Patio. Cheeseless pizzas available on request if you are on a dairy free diet. I’m not able to advise about the content of the pizza bases I am afraid. Located centrally about 10 mins walk from Oktyabrskaya metro just past the Dinamo football stadium. They seem able to get their head around the idea of customer focus.
A Caucasian restaurant with very helpful staff if you fancy something a little different from what is offered on the menu. An extraordinary display of out of the box innovative free thinking in comparison with some of the other establishments – a commendable philosophy that I endorse whole heartedly
Talaka: Traditional Belarussian Cuisine
I`ve been there twice and while my first experience was AWESOME, the second one was not so great - 5 of us waited for 40 minutes to be served and finally just walked out because we were running late for a music show.
The food is really good, the interior is great (some tables are actually metal beds, lamps are big glass jars..).
Just don`t go there with a lot of friends or you`ll probably end up like us. :-)
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Rakovskij Brovar: Brewery restaurant
I`ve been once in this place and while I really enjoyed their beer I can`t say the same about their food. It was over priced, we had to wait for 50 minutes for the FIRST course (which was soup), then my rabbit dish sucked big time. Oh, well.. It`s very touristy and always busy..
I`d recommend to go their only to try the beer and go eat some place else.
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Taj: Indian cuisine
I`ve been here 3 times within 3 years and all three times my experience with the service, food quality was a great one!
They offer quite good Indian dishes here.
The restaurant itself looks a little neglected (old dirty sofas) but you don`t really care about it when the food smells just delicious, do you? ;-)
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London: Cozy cafe 'London'
When I lived in Minsk, I used to go to this place every day. It`s a small cafe (there is also a second floor with a sofa and comfortable armchairs) but they have some good coffee, good music there and I don`t know... atmosphere probably.. I just always loved coming there.. and so did my friends (foreing and local). There is no big variety of food (hardly any) but nice cocktails (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and pretty good variety of teas and coffees.
I would recommend this place to everybody.
Favorite Dish: Chech beer 'Krushovitse' (dark one, not lager) and chicken lepeshka.
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Something to drink cool in hot weather
Surely, for a man from Mediterranean Minsk cannever be identified as a hot place, but you may sometimes need something to drienk apart from coke, etc.
I do not remember the name of the restaurant where I have drank that, nor I remember its name. It costs about 600 Belarus rubles (about 0.25 Euros)
It is made of vegetables and cream added and served cold. It is tasty and maybe an exact supper for vegetarians.
The fast food restaurant where I have tried this was on the corner of al. Masherov and Ul. Nemiga
Cafes in Minsk
First of all, you have to realize that Minsk is not a tourist attraction city. You can feel the smell of buracracy. However, there are some nice cafes.
The one which I had been was on Al. Skorina just at the opposite side of the GUM, close to KGB building. I do not remember the name of the cafe but the staff working there were freindly and it was nice to have something to drink at the pavillon in front of the cafe.
This is the photo of the cafe inside.
Favorite Dish: I have drand Sprite with mint leaves and almond. Try it, it was delicious. (see 2nd photo)
Tet-a-tet: Why not to drop in for a hot snack?
Despite this cafe has a french name, the mane dish on the menu there is "bliny" (pancakes), wich is very tipical for eastern european cusine. They offer a big variety of filling and souces, so you just have to choose what you prefer.
They also make fresh croissant (this is where the french name comes from) and a good expresso - a nice combination for a breakfast :)
Favorite Dish: Thise ones on the picture were filled with ham and mushrooms. Was pretty good. Though I prefer a sweet variation of "bliny" with sour creem.Skaryny Av., near to Jakuba Kolasa square
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Pan Khmilu: Great food...but it helps to speak Russian
Bring your dictionary: the only person who spoke anything other than Russian was the kid in the coat check room. Some of the menu was translated into English but most of it was not in anything except Russian. However, don't let that keep you away. The ambiance is wonderful (although see my comment below) and the food was great. The menu appears to be a combination of Belarussian and Continental cuisines. In any case, I would not hesitate to return.
One comment is required: the dancing girls. The restaurant had a little house 'band' that played very pleasant music to accompany dinner. Until 9:00 pm. Then, all of a sudden, it turned (temporarily) into a nightclub of sorts. Loud music and dancing girls. About three of them. First one 'skit' or dance. Brief pause followed by another with different costumes. Then another. After about five or ten minutes, it went back to being a quiet sedate restaurant. Very, very strange.
Gurman (as in 'gourmet'). A...
Gurman (as in 'gourmet'). A French cafe. Very reasonable prices and excellent food. The menu was quite extensive and I didn't have time to study it (yes, it's in English, too). The decor is quite pleasing and it was, perhaps, my best dining experience while in Minsk, though it's not haute cuisine.
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