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            Back to Open Skies

Travel to Moscow


Red October Factory, Moscow

1 October 2014

Words by Marina Chetner / Images by Olya Ivanova

Muscovites fondly recall the smell of chocolate wafting from the former Red October Factory, its sweetness filling the streets with the scent of Alyonka and Mishka Bear-wrapped candy bars. When production migrated to the Krasnoselsky district of Moscow’s Central Administrative Okrug in 2007, so did the fragrance. Plans to convert the 19th Century complex into residences were stymied in the face of a faltering economy, but given its lucrative location, it wasn’t long before the creative community moved in to transform the area into one of Moscow’s coolest neighbourhoods. 

Today, the red-bricked labyrinth is home to design studios, production houses, restaurants with terraces and artisan boutiques. “Krasny Oktyabr”, as it’s called by locals, is a 4.72-hectare mixed-use complex located on the westernmost part of Bolotny Island, not far from the Kremlin. Surrounded by the Moscow River, its fringes enjoy beautiful views: across from the Bersenevskaya embankment, the golden cupolas of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour shimmer under the afternoon sun; the towering monument of Peter The Great stands stoic by the island’s tip. 

The best way to get there is via the pedestrian Patriarshy Bridge, and on the weekends, the only drivers allowed are those on bikes, rollerblades or skateboards. Krasny Oktyabr hums all day and night with urbanites, foodies, travellers, photographers and couples on their wedding day, who stop to pose against the burnt-sienna backdrop. Spend time exploring its enclaves and hidden corners – you might catch a faint scent of chocolate.

Strelka Institute

The Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design played a major role in the development of the Red October community. Opened in 2009 – Dutch architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas gave the inaugural speech – the institution’s aim to change the cultural and physical landscape of Russian cities is exercised through its comprehensive educational and public programme. 

Strelka leads an annual nine-month postgraduate programme focused on the urban environment (in English), coordinates lectures with industry leaders, including the Institute Of Chicago’s art professor, Pablo Garcia, runs workshops with city developers and hosts regular movie viewings in its courtyard. This summer, the Hitchcock 9 film festival ran in collaboration with the British Council Russia as part of the UK-Russia Year Of Culture 2014. In addition, it has a publishing arm, onsite bookshop, courtyard café and Strelka Bar, which funnels its profits back into the institute. 

Building 5A,
14 Bersenevskaya Nab.
Tel: +7 495 268 0619


Brescia-born Valentino Bontempi opened his eponymous restaurant in October 2010, and has since established a loyal clientele of locals, oligarchs and Russian celebrities, including fashion designer Valentin Yudashkin. Housed in what used to be a customs house, its three levels were gutted and reinterpreted by Russian architect Oleg Shapiro into an inviting, rustic dining space. 

Throughout the summer, guests sit on the shaded terrace where the breeze is cool and the views are spectacular. Chef Bontempi’s menu presents “real Italian food without compromise”. The scrumptious breadbasket, served in a brown paper bag, brims with homemade ciabatta, puffy gnocco fritto and crispy rosemary breadsticks. Standout menu items include the chef’s special seafood soup; salad with fried squid and black olives; and, if you’re lucky, the blackboard-only item linguine con bottarga di muggine, which is made from creamy parmesan sauce tinged with cured tuna roe and swirled into homemade pasta. The seasonal sorbet is a show-stopper – order it for dessert and Bontempi will appear tableside to create magic out of liquid nitrogen, a bowl of fruit purée and a whisk. 

Building 1
12 Bersenevskaya Nab.
Tel: +7 495 669 1387

Mizandari Café

Moscovites love Georgian food, and childhood friends Raul Magrerishiuli and Tigran Kasabyan get to the heart of it with simple and tasty fare inspired by home-cooked meals in their native Tbilisi. Mizandari Café offers a small yet palate-pleasing menu, with dishes prepared in an open kitchen using local, market-fresh ingredients. The delectable oven-baked khachapuri, an airy flatbread filled with melted suluguni cheese (think tangy mozzarella), is a must-try; it pairs well with the cold appetiser of spinach and walnuts blended with a generous dose of garlic. 

The homely dining room extends into a quaint cabin-like terrace, where the windows are thrown open in summer; the space is kept warm by the new shashlik (kebab) grill in winter. Stopping for a business lunch is very affordable: the combination of a soup or salad, hot dish, and a drink is a reasonably priced 300 rubles (US$8). The food is so good, and the service so attentive and friendly that you won’t even notice the lack of water views. 

Building 1
5 Bolotnaya Nab.
Tel: +7 903 263 9990


Paper is dedicated to all things paper. The sixth retail location for 20-year-old print systems integrator Double V opened in August 2013, and serves not only as a showroom but a multifunctional space where artists, designers, printers and advertising agencies get together to exchange creative ideas, host seminars and lead workshops for children and adults. 

The ground floor of the concrete loft space stocks 250 different types of paper, as well as foils, films, book binding materials, inks and adhesives. Shelves displaying Faber-Castell pencils and crayons conjure up school memories, while the racks of neon-coloured ALFABOOK notebooks reignite journaling aspirations. The second level consists of a wrap-around internal balcony looking onto the store below, and features exhibits from local and international artists. 

2/1, Bersenevskaya Lane
Tel: +7 495 725 0885

The Lumiere Brothers Center For Photography

The sleek, white-walled 1,000-square-metre gallery located under the Rolling Stone Bar wouldn’t look out of place in New York or London. Lumiere Brothers first opened its doors more than a decade ago, in the nearby Central House Of Artists, and decided to add another space to showcase collections from its vast repository of photo acquisitions. Thus, the Center For Photography was established in 2010 on the ground level of the former manual packaging area for confectionery, which is divided into three exhibition halls that can display about 400 photos. 

The centre’s vast archive of works by Russian, European and American photographers is a curator’s dream. In addition to the halls, there is a lecture space, library, Scandinavian-inspired café and bookshop that is stacked with photography books, lined with posters, and scattered with black and white postcards. 

Building 1
3 Bolotnaya Nab.
Tel: +7 495 228 9878


Suitsupply is making waves across Europe and the US with its handsomely priced apparel, tailored to “the contemporary guy who’s serious about style, but likes to have fun with it too”, according to head designer Murray Coetzee. In pursuit of the hip Muscovite, the Amsterdam-based purveyor opened this first Russian outpost in May 2014. Sprawled over 4,500 square feet of space in a former chocolate production building, store designer Floor Enneking says, “The real estate speaks to me, and we build around that. Suitsupply is truly a company where creativity plays first fiddle...” 

Located on the waterfront, windows usher in river views as shoppers peruse racks of smart-casual separates including plaid shirts, cable-knit sweaters and quilted vests. On the other side, plain, pinstripe, and check suit jackets made from pure wool, linen blend, or cotton fabrics hang adjacent to a wall of ties artfully displayed in gradating colours. A central shelving unit, its cubicles inset with mesh-steel, showcases weekender bags, leather document carriers, and Italian-made dress boots. There’s an area dedicated to made-to-measure services, and the brand’s signature tailoring bar allows customers to alter their new suits in minutes. 

Building 1
8 Bersenevskaya Nab.
Tel:+7 495 532 4270

Reka Restaurant

Reka, perched on the rooftop of Red October’s former administration offices, enjoys never-ending water views. It’s fitting that “reka” means “river” in Russian. Frenchman Michel Lombardi transitioned from the world of super yachts – he cooked for Bill Gates, Beyoncé and Jay Z – to running this hybrid hot spot, which draws politicians, Russia’s glitterati and the odd celebrity such as Australian Hugh Jackman. 

It’s a quick elevator ride up to the restaurant, where this head chef/owner shows off his Marseille-inspired culinary expertise with dishes such as seafood risotto and the popular tuna tartar. A row of velvet-covered booths delineate the lounge area, where the bar recently served the world’s most expensive cocktail; sold for US$50,000 to local entrepreneur Andrey Melnikov, it included a mix of Richard Hennessy Cognac, pricey essence of Fujiyama sakura and three four-carat diamonds. 

Come winter, there are plans to transform the upstairs Mediterranean terrace into a beach; the theatre below will host Natalie Cole’s upcoming jazz performance in November. Framed collages of Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro created by artist Sasha Boom make for great eye-candy. 

Building 2
6 Bersenevskaya Nab.
Tel: +7 495 669 9969



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