Another Saturday, and another meal planned with my fellow English teachers. Peter couldn’t make it this week so it was just myself, Alessandro, Brianna and Janelle. The plan was to eat Mexican at a restaurant called Guacamole, however when we arrived there they told us they were booked up for the evening, we could not eat there without a reservation.
With everyone wondering where we should eat instead, I suggested the Bar and Grill steakhouse which I had passed several times and was keen to try out (I am a recent convert to the pleasure of eating steak). Like Harats last week, I couldn’t say anything about it other than I had passed it and knew it existed, but that was good enough for everyone else, so there we headed.
On the way we were joined by Dima, a thick-bearded Volgograd native who had befriended Alessandro the previous weekend at Harats. As four English-speakers (Italian/Spanish too) three of who had pretty much given up on Russian lessons, it was convenient for us to have a Russian speaker with us. And Dima was a very interesting character. He had recently returned to Volgograd after living in the Czech Republic, and he had some interesting, and dubious stories to tell us about his life history!
We arrived at the Bar and Grill to find a group of well dressed people in the foyer, we presumed they were the staff but it turned out they were the band! We handed in our coats at the cloakroom and were guided through to the dining room by a hostess, wearing a traditional waitress uniform. It was a classy place (I thought) – a long bar with some kitchen area, and a door leading through to the main kitchen, tables in the main floor and in booths around the wall, there were many photos around the wall which looked like black-and-white Americana style but could well have been rich Russians from the 50s and 60s. When the band returned, they played jazz-style classics like Sunny and Nina Simone – Alessandro recognised more of the tracks than I did. At one point they did a song just for us “Our guests” – James Brown’s I Feel Good.
They gave us 2 copies of the menu in English and 3 in Russian (I presume they only had 2 English copies!) but between us we all managed to order. For some reason they had no chicken (I could have sold them a whole load in my freezer!) but the girls were able to order turkey instead. Alessandro had a salmon steak, and I decided to try one of the beef steaks. I thought tenderloin sounded the most promising so I ordered the Chateaubriand steak. We also ordered bread, garlic bread, cheese sticks, potato wedges and drinks. Interestingly Dima didn’t order any food, he was just drinking beer.
It is probably just as well that I didn’t know what Chateaubriand sauce was, when my steak arrived the most alarming thing was that it was taller than it was wide, all the steaks I have eaten have been flat! It was coated in a red, sticky sauce, and had some tiny berries stuck to it. When I cut it open it was red inside – a year or two ago that would have been enough to stop me eating it but I know now that it is still edible and actually can taste better. The waitress assured me (well, assured Dima) that the red was not blood but juice, but Dima didn’t think the steak was well done as I requested, and the waitress offered to cook it a little more – it would be another 3 minutes. I agreed, and when it came back, I started cutting into it and eating it, and it tasted perfectly fine. I must say I preferred the inside parts without the sauce to the outside parts, but I ate the whole thing.
All in all it was a very nice restaurant, a pleasant meal with some pleasant company, very good service, good music, and reasonable prices – for 5 of us the whole bill came to 6500 roubles, which in my hopelessly-outdated mental conversion is about 65 pounds. It is probably the fanciest dish that I have finished. I look forward to having an opportunity to go back there, I think I can officially call this my favourite restaurant in Volgograd!