FOOD&DRINK

ARAGVI:

Want to become part of a legend?

The main culinary event of this spring was the opening of the restaurant Aragvi in Moscow. The restaurant re-opened its doors after restoration. It is no surprise that Sergey Sobyanin, the Mayor of Moscow himself, talked about the opening. After visiting the restaurant, the mayor noted: “Aragvi should become a very popular place!”. To what does Aragvi owe the honor?

It’s tough to find a restaurant that is more famous than Aragvi in the capital. In fact, calling Aragvi a famous restaurant is an understatement. It is a truly legendary place that opened in Moscow all the way back in 1938. It encapsulates the history of our country. Back in the Soviet era, there was a joke about the restaurant: “Two friends walk out of Aragvi, and one says to the other: ‘Yuri Dolgoruky has truly built a remarkable city around this restaurant!’”.

Yes, Aragvi has always truly been the center of bohemian life in Moscow – public and political, literary, artistic. It is impossible to list the names of every celebrity that liked to spend time within its walls, eating khachapuri, khinkali and other delicious Georgian dishes. Today, a huge mirror hangs at the entrance to the restaurant – the only thing that has been left over after the restoration. Next to the mirror, there is a plaque with the following text: “This mirror has been at Aragvi since the restaurant was founded. Famous visitors have looked at their own reflections here – Valeria Chkalova, Vladimir Vysotsky, Yves Montand, Lilya Brik…Now that you’ve seen your own reflection in it, you have become part of a legend.”

 Legends about Aragvi and its visitors continued up until 2001, when the famous restaurant had to be closed. This was a necessary step because the building in which the restaurant was located was in serious need of reconstruction. However, nobody had the funds for the restoration project back then. In 2009, the company Tashir, one of the biggest builders and developers in the country, decided to take on the project. “When we opened the doors to the restaurant,” says Karen Nahapetyan, the General Manager of Aragvi, “we were horrified. There was terrible devastation everywhere. There was dirt, dust, a real swamp in the basement. In short, there was a lot of work to do.” Interestingly, when all the necessary permits were obtained and the work began, the restorers came across a 17th century building from the era of Alexis of Russia. A decision was made to restore the building instead of carrying our repairs in order to preserve the unique architectural monument.

Of course, today’s Aragvi has little in common with the restaurant of the Soviet era. However, even if you are struck by a sad nostalgia, it will immediately disappear once you visit the restored restaurant for the first time. Everything is done elegantly, with impeccable taste. The two thousand square meter area now houses 9 halls! One of them, called the White Hall, has preserved the historical aura of the Soviet era. This hall used to be a favorite for members of the Politburo, headed by the all-powerful Lavrentiy Beria, head of the Soviet secret service. Incidentally, legend has it that Beria himself initiated the construction of Aragvi. In any case, there is a guide who will tell you all about the other interesting legends and rumors about the restaurant. The tour of Aragvi’s gorgeous halls lasts 30 minutes. What other restaurant on Earth has its own guide giving tours to new clients?!

But, as they say, you can’t feed an empty stomach with fairy tales. Regardless of how gorgeous the interior is, the most important thing that people come for is the food. Today, the restaurant offers top-notch Caucasian and Black Sea cuisine. “During the Soviet era, a lot of the products were shipped to Aragvi from Georgia,” says Karen Nahapetyan, “The Moscow-Tbilisi train had a special car with all sorts of food and spices. There is no need for this now. All of the products – vegetables, fruits, herbs, meat, fish – are purchased at the markets or from farms. We have known all the providers for a long time, which is why all of the products here are the best and the most fresh!”

When asked what the restaurant’s philosophy is, Karen responded with the following: “In short, Aragvi is an atmosphere of warmth and taste.” Then, after pausing for a smile, he added: “Aragvi keeps its old legends and creates new ones.”

CAPITAL IDEAS

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