Belka

Address: Bolotnaya embankment 3, building 2, Moscow, Russia
Style: Cocktail bar

Review

Also in the Chocolate Factory District, burrowed away in one of the ground-floor sites on the western side of the island, and in the shadow of the imposing and surreal statue of Peter the Great, lies a bar and nightclub called Belka. Meaning 'Squirrel' in Russian, it conjures up a strong image of Victorian lunacy with a splash of Tsarist grandeur.

Get past the entry ropes, a pair of conservatories and a highly decorative passageway and you'll find the main bar room to your left behind a heavy, Persian-coloured sash curtain. The room is small and laden with an array of Persian rugs, ocean-liner trunks and suitcases, soft velvet-lined furniture and is thick with the comforting smell of chestnuts and cigar tobacco: ironic as this is Moscow's first non-smoking bar.

Immediately on your right is a small corner bar with brick walls, cream tiled panelling and a couple of cast iron bar stools. Immaculately moustached and elaborately mannered bar staff all make sitting at the bar an exceptionally intriguing experience. The drinks are constructed with care and craft: we went off-menu and were given a simple and delicious drink known as the Lucky Ticket (nothing to do with the Chocolate Factory connection!) constructed of muddled pineapple, lemon and a sweetener which appeared often on our travels, namely Fructose syrup with Bacardi Superior and a couple of dashes of a cardamom and vanilla bitters.

Belka, despite looking like the Mad Hatter's front room, gets very lively and is seen by quite a few as one of Moscow's hippest small clubs, following nicely along the intimate vein of what the Player, in London's Soho, achieved so well in the early noughties.