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Hermitage Restaurant


Hermitage Restaurant

Hermitage Restaurant (Click for larger)


The Hermitage Restaurant was a famous restaurant in Moscow, operating in Moscow for 53 years, from 1864 to 1917.

It was located in a building, which is still extant, at the corner of Petrovsky Boulevard and Neglinnoj Street on Trubnaya Square (Trubnaya Ploshchad.) The building now (as of 2009) houses the Moscow School of Modern Drama Theatre.

The restaurant was opened by Yakov Pegov (aka J. A. Pegovym), and Lucien Olivier. The partnership appeared to work well. Yakov was a merchant; Lucien was a French-trained chef. The two had been casual acquaintances before, reputedly meeting by chance at a tobacconist in Trubnaya Square where they bought got their supplies of Bergamot tobacco. [1]

They decided to open a fine-dining restaurant together, purchasing a building right on Trubnaya Square. They had the existing building on the site remodelled for them by the architect named M. N. Chichagovym (aka Chichagov.)

The restaurant opened in 1864. [2] The specialty was French cuisine, though adaptations were made of course to local customs. Waiters, for example, dressed in Moscow style -- shirts with silk sashes tied at the waist. And as was also Moscow custom, the waiters were not paid. Instead, their tips were their wages. [3] Tips were to be pooled together each day, then divvied up. If anyone held back on the tips, they were dismissed.

The signature dish of the restaurant was, reputedly, Salade Olivier, or as it is called in the West, Russian Salad.

Notable Events

In the 1870s, a tradition started at the restaurant of letting students celebrate Tatyana's Day there every 12th January. For a day, the fine furnishings, carpets and good dishes were whisked away and replaced with wooden tables and benches, and sawdust on the floor, for a drinking bash.

18 July 1877 - The composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893) married Antonina Miliukova, and held here his wedding celebrations [Ed. The celebration part of the wedding short-lived.]

6 March 1879 - A celebration dinner was held for the novelist Ivan Turgenev (1818 - 1883) at the Hermitage [Ed: perhaps to celebrate the news that Oxford was awarding him an Honorary Doctorate]

1880 - Celebratory dinner held for Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821 - 1881)

1902 - Maxim Gorky (1868 - 1936) held a party here on opening night for the cast of his play "The Lower Depths"

1905 - A famous speech denouncing the current Russo-Japanese war is given [4]


The Russian Revolution

The restaurant survived the death of Olivier, its founding chef, in 1883, but it did not survive the Russian Revolution. It closed in 1917, and never re-opened.

In 1921, the building was taken over by the American Relief Administration (A.R.A) to feed people during a two-year relief programme when Russia slid into famine. [5]

"In the A.R.A. Moscow. Women of noble families, shopkeepers wives, manufacturers wives and peasant women sewed side by side for weeks in the warm rooms of the Hermitage Restaurant, formerly Moscow's gayest and fastest cafe, now central children's feeding depot for the A.R.A., making little knitted things for the children..." [6]

"Moscow's Most Noted Restaurant Now American Kitchen for Children: The crystal chandeliers are still hanging. The exquisite murals of 1885 still adorn the ceilings. The green and gold walls have not changed. Even the huge stoves in the kitchen are the same. But the guests are entirely different.

To world travelers familiar with the gay Hermitage Restaurant of Moscow and the brilliant parties that were once held in that lively Russian city, the present diners at the Hermitage would present an incongruous picture. Instead of men and women in evening dress and satin, velvet and ermine entering the great doorways, each night after the opera or ballet, he would see a noon-day procession of small boys and girls, carrying pails, cups, coffee-pots, or bowls." [7]


Other Hermitage Restaurants

Restaurants named Hermitage have been in Monte Carlo (opened 1899) [8], Cairo [9], and now are all over America.

The Hermitage Restaurant now (2009) open in St Petersburg, Russia, shares only the name.



Literature & Lore

"The three famous chefs who left their mark in Russia were Carême, Urban Dubois, and Olivier. The last of these three opened a restaurant called the Hermitage in Moscow in the 1880s [Ed: date which Davidson got from Chamberlain is incorrect], described by Lesley Chamberlain as 'one of the great historic restaurants of the world', and it was there that French-Russian cuisine was most fully elaborated." -- Davidson, Alan. The Penguin Companion to Food. London: The Penguin Group, 2002. Page 810.

Sources

[1] Timokhina, Elena. Petrovsky Boulevard. Retrieved December 2009 from http://www.guideinmoscow.com/site.xp/051050048.html


[2] Mikhailova, Olga. Who Needs a House Like This? Retrieved December 2009 from http://www.passportmagazine.ru/article/1559/

[3] "But it would only be after five years of obscure labour that he received the insignia of his profession: a silk sash and a purse of black patent leather for his counters. He always kept the purse in his sash; as for the counters, he was given them at the cash-desk every morning, to the value of twenty-five roubles, and they served to pay for the dishes ordered at the 'buffet'. Thereafter he would exchange the money he received from customers for further counters. Tips were put into a pool and at the end of the day were shared by the staff. They were paid no wages and even had to pay their employer up to 20 per cent of their earnings..." -- Troyat, Henri. Daily life in Russia under the last Tsar. Stanford University Press, 1979. Page 55.

[4] The War Futile -- 22 February 1905. St Petersburg. M. Dantchenko, a famous Russian war correspondent and a friend of Gen. Kuropatkin,
has made a sensational speech in the Hermitage Restaurant in Moscow. He denounces the war as futile, benefiting the Aristocracy only, and says it means ruin to Russia." -- The Gleaner. Kingston, Jamaica. 24 February 1905. Page 13.

[5] Patenaude, Betrand M. The Big Show in Bololand. Stanford University: Hoover Digest. No 4. 2002.

[6] Hullenger, Edwin W. America Santa to Russia's Children. Moberly Evening Democrat. Moberly, Missouri. 1 February 1922. Page 3.

[7] Mexia Evening News. Mexia, Texas. 1 May 1922. Page 8.

[8] "Then there is the fashionable Grand, where no fewer than seven kings or princes of the blood have been seen dining at one time at different tables; and the Hermitage, which is the newest and quite the prettiest restaurant, and which is always full. There is a rumour that M. Ritz, who organised the Grand, and M. Benoist, who started the Hermitage, mean amalgamation, which would be a most popular move, as they adjoin each other." -- "Onlooker. Society on the Riviera. Favourite Haunts in Monte Carlo. Middlesex, London: London Daily Mail. 21 March 1899. Page 4.

[9] "Rioting Egyptian mobs ran wild through Cairo today... as the mobs move on, they smashed plate glass windows, including those in the popular Hermitage restaurant, and in the Immobilia building, where the Associated Press has its offices." -- The Canadian Press. Irate Egyptians cry for revenge as troops move in, quell mobs. Lethbridge, Alberta: The Lethbridge Herald. 26 January 1952. Page 1


Kuper, Andy. Moscow - Trubnaya Street. November 2009. Retrieved December 2009 from http://rebnau.blogspot.com/2009/11/moscow-trubnaya-street.html

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Citation

Oulton, Randal. "Hermitage Restaurant." CooksInfo.com. Published 14 December 2009; revised 08 December 2010. Web. Accessed 12/17/2017. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/hermitage-restaurant>.

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