“Грех жаловаться,” the Russians say, or “it’s a sin to complain.” That’s what they say when you start moaning about something that seems trivial, or find a minor tear in what is otherwise a copious silver lining. That’s how I feel about the bread situation in Moscow. I’ve logged enough time here to recall the bad old days when the hunt for fresh bread involved strategic planning, sacrificing a lunch hour, or hours in a traffic jam to crisscross the city in search of a hard-to-find baguette. Now, all that stands between me and an embarrassment of bread riches is the perekhod under the Garden Ring and a queue of snooty Patriarchy Ponds inhabitants (and I get the sense this is the only line they ever wait in.) In fact, I don’t even have to cross the street, since a rival to my bakery of choice is located on my side of the Ring, but I’m choosy about my bread, so I go the extra 200 meters. And, so should you.
I was struck this month by the rabid enthusiasm with which a group of expat women fell upon a basket of crusty “Seyl’ski” bread from Volkhonsky I served at an event.
“Where did you get this bread?” They demanded to know, and this sparked off a lively debate as to where the best bread in Moscow is to be found. I decided to put the scientific method to work to determine the answer. For my control group, I chose a plain white baguette, purchased within 15 minutes of each other on a working day between 11-12. I brought them home and blind tasted the bread plain, then compared the texture, consistency and how it stood up to various things being smeared, spread, or piled on it. I toasted slices and observed how butter reacted to the warm bread. This is a rough job, but somebody has to do it.
Here’s The Moscovore’s verdict:
Hands-down winner: Volkhonsky
Volkhonsky wins on all counts. The baguette has the superior texture, taste, and balance of crunchy and chewy. It’s also the most expensive and you often have to stand three deep and hold your own with the minigarchs and their molls to score it from the run-off-their feet staff, but it’s worth it. Try their delightful “Dantel’” loaf with olives and the afore-mentioned “Seyl’skiy” loaf.
For more information: http://www.wolkonsky.com
Bol. Sadovaya, 2/46 (M. Mayakovsksya)
Maroseyka Str., 4/2
Bol. Yakimanka Str., 19
Tsvetnoy Blvd., 15
The Distant Second: Le Pain Quotidien:
A distant second in the baguette stakes, middle of the range pricewise, but a reasonable contender overall. These reasonably priced bakeries cum cafes are springing up all over Moscow, offering punters the trademark communal tables of its sister franchises throughout Europe and the US. The food isn’t showy and you definitely get what you pay for. Not the worst place to take your laptop and think about starting a novel or updating your Facebook page. So-so service is provided by a youngish staff, I often feel are chomping at the bit to do something else. The baguette has less oomph to it than Volkhonsky’s – more air for your ruble and an indifferent crust than sagged upon the application of a spread. When toasted, the baguette dried out and lost what flavor it had. Their whole grain breads are much better – try the round farmer’s loaf, but make sure it’s as fresh as possible.
For more information: www.lpq.ru
Le Pain Quotidien’s Locations:
Third, with lots of room for improvement: Хлеб & Co
Oh dear. I hate to use the “F” word* about any baguette, but I’m left with no other conclusion. Хлеб & Co’s baguette feels like cotton wool in the mouth with very little flavor and absolutely no texture. Toasted, the bread crumbled into nothing. This is a shame because they have so many outlets around town, they are likely to be your local. They seem to be suffering from a common problem in this town: they have spent a lot of time on form and very little on content: the outlets look and feel as your local bakery should, but the quality lets them down. On the plus side – the service in my local Хлеб & Co has always been impeccable – attentive and cordial and accompanied by the always-appreciated smile, even when I come in lugging bags from a rival. I do go in for their fantastic anchovy and parmesan puff pastry twists, sold in paper cones by the register: these are great as little snacks with drinks to keep your guests’ body and soul together while you are putting the final touches on dinner
Хлеб & Co Locations
Hours of work: 07:00 – 23:00
Leningradsky Pr-t, 24 (M. Belorusskaya)
Sadovaya-Karetnaya, 20/6 (M. Tsvetnoi Blvd)
Malaya Bronnaya, 21/13 st. 2 (M. Tverskaya)
Oseynniy Blvd, 20, k. 1 (M. Krylatskoye)
Chistoprudniy Blvd, 12, k. 4 (M. Chistiye Prudiy)
Ostozhenka, 3 (M. Kropotkinskaya)
Tverskaya, 17 (M. Tverskaya)
Tverskaya-Yamskaya 12-14 bld. 1 (M. Mayakovskaya)
Studencheskaya, 26 (M. Studencheskaya)
Bolshaya Sadovaya, 1 (M. Mayakovskaya)
Адрес: Большая Садовая, 1 м. Маяковкая Телефон: +7 (499) 250-89-07
Metropolis Shopping Mall, Leningradskoye Shosse, 16 (M. Voikovskaya)
Leninsky Prospekt, 22 (M. Leninsky Prospekt)
Krasnopresnenskaya, 36 (M. Ulitsa 1905 Goda)
Do you have a favorite bakery in Moscow? Share it with us by hitting the comment button below!