The Moscow of today is a far cry from the soviet state capital of the mid-twentieth century; the influence of communism is most present in the hammer and sickles occasionally adorning its architecture rather than the lifestyles and pastimes of its inhabitants, who now lead the same cosmopolitan lives as their European counterparts. However, scattered across the street map of this modern metropolis, a few vestiges of the soviet era remain in the form of eateries opened from the 1960s onwards to provide cheap traditional food to Russian workers.
One of these eateries, Blinnaya, can be found on a side road a short walk from Taganskaya metro station. It is located only a few minutes from the centre of town, but crossing the threshold of its heavy duty metal door feels like stepping back behind the iron curtain. In 1962, the year Blinnaya was established, the floor, walls and even ceiling of this one roomed restaurant were clad in brown polyester tiling painted to resemble crazy paving, and haven’t been touched since. Facing the entrance, an alcove fronted with a chest height counter provides an operating theatre for the two identical Russian waitresses who bustle around each other in mismatched blue polyester aprons. The menu, two A4 sheets of handwritten Cyrillic, lopsidedly selotaped to the side of the counter, consists entirely of classic Russian foods and nothing over the price mark of one hundred rubles, roughly two pounds. The waitresses take orders and send their clients away at top speed to wait for their meals, which will need to be retrieved once they have been prepared, served up on dubiously speckled brown plates, and unceremoniously deposited on the counter by one of these stern babushkas. Those who have ordered tea or coffee are issued with plastic cups and directed to the large samovar perched on the end of the counter, next to the metal tub from which customers help themselves to disfigured aluminium cutlery. In true soviet style, there are no seating arrangements, punters stand at chest height tables, to encourage them to eat quickly and get back to work. Ranged at these tables all walks of Muscovite life stand shoulder to shoulder, still in their coats and hats, and wolf down their bowls of plov and plates of sausages whilst sneakily sipping vodka from the bottles concealed in their inside pockets. After finishing this veritable feast, said Muscovites scrape any leftovers into the bin and return their plates to the counter to be rinsed and restacked, ready for the next hungry workers that troop in from the cold.
This rare breed of eatery may seem curiously out of place in a modern day Moscow so awash with Starbucks and Subways. But they live on, although diminished in number, serving the same dishes as the first days they opened, and judging from the satisfied clients who still stand in groups around their high tables discussing the news of the day; they looks set to remain that way.