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The Hermitage Restaurant
According to one of Moscow’s legends, the famous Hermitage restaurant was in fact a product of the French chef Lucien Olivier’s and the Russian merchant Yakov Pegov’s shared addiction to snuff tobacco. And the best snuff tobacco, as anyone would tell you, could only be obtained from a certain police sentry who was usually on duty on Trubnaya Square. So, the two men actually met while visiting the said sentry, and eventually started a business — a new tavern in Moscow.
In the early 1860’s the constructed building at the corner of Petrovsky Boulevard and Neglinny Driveway (currently Neglinnaya St.) was refurbished to contain a tavern that included a restaurant, an inn and baths.
The new tavern soon acquired a good reputation in Moscow, and its two founders started to turn huge profits. Despite being called a ‘tavern’, this establishment was in fact more like a Parisian restaurant, albeit the waiters were called polovoys (an old-timey Russian term for a male waitperson) and wore fine white Dutch linen shirts with silk sashes instead of tailcoats.
The restaurant quickly established itself as a hotspot among the members of Moscow’s intelligentsia. In April 1879 the Muscovites gathered in the Hermitage to honor the author Ivan Turgenev. The ‘Taneyev’s lunches’ , which is regular gatherings of intellectuals held by the lawyer V.A.Taneyev, where various pressing issues of the era were discussed , also took place here, as did the wedding of the famous Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky and his former student Antonina Miliukova. The 1902 dinner event to celebrate the premiere of Maksim Gorky’s stage play The Lower Depths was held in the Hermitage, too.
On Tatiana’s Day (a semi-religious holiday dedicated to Russian students and celebrated on the 25th of January), the restaurant was invaded by university students and their professors. On this day, the floors were covered with hay, the expensive dinnerware was taken away, the exquisite dishes were substituted with simpler food and the students, drinking beer and vodka, socialized with their favorite professors and yelled with all the power of their young lungs: ‘Down with the Tsar!’ The police were instructed to be as politically correct as possible during the holiday.
The famous ‘Olivier’ salad (better known internationally as ‘the Russian salad’), copious amounts of which are cooked by the Russians for the New Year’s Eve, was invented within these walls. Its recipe, and even its origin story, is an enigma. It is known, though, that it was initially called ‘Fowl Mayonnaise’, and it wasn’t even a salad per se, designed more as a chaser to be consumed with vodka. Somewhere along the line, people took to mixing the components together, adding some remoulade sauce for flavor. The new dish was received enthusiastically by the public, and, as it turned out, outlived its own creator.
Lucien Olivier passed away in 1883 and was buried in Moscow at Vvedenskoye Cemetery.
As for the Hermitage, the restaurant was reacquired by an eponymous company in the late 19th century and went through two major renovations — one in 1885, another in 1902, supervised by the architects M.N.Chichagov and I.I.Bonya respectively.
The Hermitage’s history ended in 1917. During the first years after the revolution, a part of the building was occupied by the offices of the American Relief Administration (ARA), a US charitable organization.
In 1923 the building was taken over by the so-called ‘House of the Peasant’ — essentially, a dormitory with a 450-seats cinema. The cinema was named Trud (‘labor’).
After the war, the house was given to the Vysshaya Shkola (‘Higher School’) publishing house, and it remained there until the late 1980’s. In 1989, the Shkola Sovremennoy Piessy (‘The School of Modern Theater’) moved into the building.
Today, the former building of the Hermitage is protected by the government as a ‘cultural heritage object of regional significance’.
Novoekaterininskaya hospital15/29 Strastnoy blvd
Two and a half centuries-long history of this house began in 1786, when the famous architect Matvei Fedorovich Kazakov received an order for the construction of an urban estate for Princes Gagarins. Subsequently English club located there. Headquarters of Napoleon's cavalry located in the estate During the War of 1812. Intendant Henri-Marie Beyle, better known by his stage name – Stendhal served there.