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“Kapital,” “Argumenty I fakty,” “Ogonek,”Ekspert,” “Vechernyaya Kazan’.”
Sites - fashionlook.ru, NewsPepper.ru, hroniki.obozrenie.ru, vesti.ru, etc.


… The road to the famous basement on Chisty Prudy is known to half a Moscow, both to Muscovites by birth and visitors (mostly foreigners). TV stars and PR sharks, newsmakers and bankers, bohemian groups and representatives of unidentified social layers, everybody can be seen there drinking vodka from faceted thick-wall glasses, eating herring with onions on weekdays, and dancing like mad on weekends ...

… Not less known in Moscow is the “Petrovich” club located on Chisty Prudy. It has been visited by Evgeny Primakov (you can find a corresponding snapshot on the wall), by Kakha Bendukidze, and even by Boris Berezovsky accompanied by an unidentified girl. According to the eye-witnesses, the couple had some wine and quickly retreated. The club is extremely popular among the State Duma deputies, major PR persons, and famed TV personalities. One of the owners of “Petrovich” is a well-known cartoonist Bilzho …

… Andrey Bilzho was drawing cartoons. The central image of his drawing was a typical Soviet-era comrade, Petrovich by name. But Bilzho had no place to exhibit his “Petrovich” cartoons. That way a new and cozy restaurant, “Petrovich,” came into being, just to offer all its surfaces, walls and plates, to Bilzho’s masterpieces. Besides Bilzho’s cartoons, the interior is enlivened with certain artefacts dear to the heart of every Soviet-period citizen, like record-players, sewing machines, chests of drawers, hangers with clothes produced during that glorious period, variegated chairs. The menu is trying to catch the general spirit: fruit salad called “Michurin’s gifts,” potatoes served with mushrooms termed “Summer in the countryside,” or sturgeon kebab entitled “It is never to be forgotten” …

… The best about the “Petrovich” club is its design. Here, for instance, one cannot find two similar chairs – they all are different and seem to be collected from country houses and old-style apartments. The walls are decorated with the Young Communist League cardboard passes and brochures of the type “How to cure a running nose,” as well as with busts of Pushkin Alexander Petrovich, Kobson Iosif Petrovich, princess Diana Petrovna … Every bartender and a waitress is also either a Petrovich or a Petrovna, correspondingly. The same concerns the cult images of the cartoons of Andrey Bilzho, an artist and a psychiatrist, the spiritual leader of the club. His cartoons seem to adorn here everything, including salt pots …

… When people see an old radio set their grandmothers used to have, or an old pack of the “Soyuz-Apollo” cigarettes, they realize that they are partly made of such old-style things and of reminiscences thereof. Here they good-humouredly giggle at the kitch propaganda of that epoch, which is the irony in the spirit of the kitchen-based Soviet intelligentsia, when the kitchen was often the only place where people could feel free to speak out …

… “Petrovich” is suitable not for everybody but rather for those with the “impregnable” sense of humor. You can, for instance, get a table under the sign “Klizmennaya” [Clyster-room], or next to a wooden leg labeled “Valya’s leg.” The signs on the toilets’ doors – “Petrovich, you’re such a big M” (men’s room) and “Petrovna, you’re yourself a Zh” (women’s room) – exclude small children from club customers. Such dish names as “Paul Robson” (black caviar) and “General Secretary” (tongue served with horseradishes) would annoy politically correct and ideologically regular customers. Gourmets would not be in rapture to see on the menu fried sausage served with buckwheat porridge (“Petrovich on a business trip”). But everybody should be content with the fact that “Petrovich” has not brought about, together with the objects so dear to out hearts, the culture of our ill-fated “sovkovy” service …

… One can sometimes read that “Petrovich” boasts Russian-Soviet cuisine, but this can be easily disproved. The general atmosphere is, naturally, neither Polyneazean nor French, but still, the cuisine is mixed, and there are a lot of European dishes on the menu, like, for instance, fondue. In the menu, offered in an old-fashioned office folder tied with shoe strings, one can find such cuisine ‘hits’ of the Soviet era, giving rise to nostalgia, as cutlet a la Kievsky, smothered herring, and many others …

… Let me cite some dish names by memory. Thus, a regular Stolichny salad is called “The Kremlin chimes.” A beefsteak rolled in a slice of brisket of pork is referred to, God knows why, as “Lunokhod” [Moonwalker]. Or, for instance, how about the name of a dish of salted and pickled vegetables, “Freshly salted Deputy of the Soviet …“ Or pancakes served with caviar termed “No to racism!” Even fondue is supplied with an instruction concocted in the spirit of bureaucratic directives, with one of its items getting stuck in one’s memory forever: “fondue is not served to people in the state of alcoholic intoxication,” or, further on, that “one cannot measure the temperature of boiling oil by immersing one’s finger into it” …

… On every page of the menu one can find the words “Petrovich loves you.” Many customers, I know, respond to the club with a requited love, and do not wish to go somewhere else. Some like live music in the evening (jazz, as a rule). Where else can one find such an unconventional interior, others would ask. The interior is indeed unusual, with a lot of things collected here from old-style apartments. An ancient accordion, old newspapers sewn together on a sling, a white-and-black TV set, an odd-looking old-fashioned telephone, numerous signs, old snapshots, documents …

… Everybody is free to take down from a shelf and read to one’s pleasure “The virgin lands” by Leonid Brezhnev, “The Materials of the XXII Congress of the CPSU,” or the magazine “Ogonek” of that period …

… Those who have neither been to “Petrovich” nor heard about it, should be aware of an intrinsic peculiarity of this establishment. The anomaly is that everybody who crosses the threshold of the basement becomes a Petrovich/Petrovna. Incidentally, the procedure can be performed in the absence of a customer: thus, the sculpture pantheon of the famed “Petrovichiz” includes Vladimir Petrovich Mayakovsky, Yury Petrovich Gagarin, and other persons who, by well-understood reasons, had no chance of attending the club in person, but have nevertheless been assigned to the number of Petrovichiz …

… Snapshots of Brezhnev and Gagarin on the walls, radio sets as big as computer card boxes, songs by Alexandra Pakhmutova and Yan Frenkel, he-pioneers in red ties and she-pioneers in school uniforms, all these are not stills from an old documentary but the interior of “Petrovich”. No wonder that the “Radio Retro” chose the club as the place to celebrate its resumed operation. “Young Lenin followers” were brisk to greet all the famous people present at the event hosted by Svetlana Konegen, Igor Irtenev, the truth-cutting poet, Andrey Bilzho and others. Young she-pioneers were serving the guests with the delicacies familiar from the Soviet times – smothered herring, salted pork fat on rye bread, potatoes with cutlets …
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Gallery of famed “Petrovichiz”
 
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