Жигули – is it a pub? is it a cafeteria? is it a nightclub?

19 Oct

Well actually, originally, it’s a car… And then a beer, and then a place to sell the beer. And they sell it well!

Жигули… I love this place, but I have an inkling that it is a bit like Marmite, you love it or you hate. I cannot possibly conceive that anyone could be indifferent to it.

Жигули is a famous brand of Russian beer, a nicely priced, nice to drink lager. It wouldn’t knock a parrot of its perch but it certainly might make it wobble a bit. And as it so happens, this beer has a bar. And the only suitable description I could come up with, is that:

“Жигули is the Russian version of a pub”

NO, it does not look like a pub, in any manner shape or form. Once you have managed to get through the large heavy glass doors, you will be confronted with panels of old school soviet style photos of happy old men and families sitting around gutting a fish – but larger that life and very cool.

Go straight ahead and you will end up in the most happening nightclub of the 80’s / 90’s, which plays Soviet and Russian pop (always a winner). If you’re lucky, you may stumble into a wedding and be received by nonplussed families who will ply you with drinks until they realise that no one knows you (and then ask you kindly to leave, no guns no bouncers, I promise).

Go left and, behind the panels, you will find the toilets, relatively clean, nothing to write home about, but obviously something to put in your blog.. Beware of the big chunky, nuclear bomb proof doors. I dare you to pull them open more than 20 centimetres.

Go right and you will find my favourite place in the world. Behind the panels you will see a room split in half. To one side, a cafeteria like set up with all the best culinary delights Russia has to offer, pies, pelmeni, soup, herring in a fur coat, cakes, chicken kiev … oh and the potatoes – a definite must have, they are amazing – just the right measure between buttery, salty and perfectly cooked – now coming from an Irish person, this is high praise! I digress, so move along the queue, don’t forget your tray and things at the beginning, and you will get to a mini sushi bar – can’t give any advice, sushi should be left to the sushi bars is my opinion – and just before the till is the “bar”. Well a small space behind which a young Russian man, who will probably continue to flirt shamelessly with the girl at the till until you make a disapproving tutting sound. Go straight to the till anyway, he won’t take orders until you have paid. Choose your beer along the way, bottled Жигули, Жигулиon tap, light, filtered, vodka, the list goes on… It is not extensive but they serve what is in demand – welcome to Russia my friends. You can also buy a selection of typical beer snacks, dried herring, dried squid (worth trying), nachos, any type of fish which is whole and dried and doesn’t require a knife or fork – it is excellent, well at least to watch people eating them, I am not sure I am that courageous just yet.

Seating – enjoy the communal set out of the area, choose a bench along the large expanse of joined table, make some friends (or not) and enjoy the laid back atmosphere. Sit along the windows (which run along the whole front of the building) to watch the furs go by during the winter.

The staff don’t speak English, but you can get by with a few words, like the name of the beer you want and generally pretending to understand and handing a 500rub note at the end, including main course, beer and desert, and beer snacks. Bear in mind a pint of Жигули is only about 100rub.

So why is this place like a pub? The main inhabitants of Жигули are male, they range from businessmen to builders to students, as well as the occasional FSB agent. They play football and ice hockey on the television, and watching Russians getting riled up about sports is as close as you can come to your local back home!

Жигули keeps it simple, food, drink and ash trays. It’s clean and has an effortless style to it. It’s not classy, it’s a pub, sometimes noisy, sometimes serious but it’s always there. If I lived on the Arbat, I know it would be my local.

Word of warning, this place can get quite smoky in the evening so not for the terminally ill, allergic to smoke or people with high standards. It also gets very busy on Fridays after work, send someone early to stake out some territory!

How to get there?  Nestled between the old arbat and the new arbat. New arbat, looks for the little orthodox church beneath the large cement building. Жигули is down the street on the other side of the road. Look for a large television advertising screen (samsung or seimens), and turn down there. It is the first building on your right. From the Old Arbat, coming from Arbatskaya, it is on your right right, about 7min down the Stari Arbat, you will see a really weird Georgian restaurant on the corner with a huge (I mean massive) wine vase Roman style jug thing embedded in a wall, walk up there and it will be on your left. The street is short, you can’t miss it!

Check out their website: http://zhiguli.net/


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