rock crystal and gold chandelier at Turandot.
in the Morning, Manhattan at night. A beautiful
Wednesday morning in Moscow. JH and I had
a 7 a.m. breakfast in the dining room of the Kempinski giving
us one last long look at the Moscow River and the Kremlin.
The hotel breakfast is an enormous buffet which includes
fresh eggs prepared to order before you, meats, fish, fresh
fruits, a variety of fresh juices including carrot, pineapple,
green apple; cheeses, dry cereals, pastries, croissants,
rolls and breads; yogurt, berries and just about anything
you could think of. When JH came back to the table with a
second full plate, he explained with a sly smile that this
was “for the picture.” And lo, so it was. Sort
Right after breakfast we loaded into a small van for the trip to
the Moscow airport which in modern Moscow morning traffic can take
anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours. Or more. Two hours later,
after several clumps of gridlock, we were at the airport.
to r.: JH's last meal in Moscow; Yuri Antonov
bids "Mr. Cholooombia and Mr. Heeersch" farewell.
in Russian airports requires that everyone’s
bags is checked, i.e. gone through. Fortunately there was not
much to check for
me for the five day journey, and so it was quick. Others were
not as fortunate: one tall and lanky young Russian behind us,
carrying a very large suitcase, had all of his belongings removed
and laid out for all to see including some pornography he likes
to take along for the ride. Ahem; he was cleared, red-faced and
At 12:30 pm we boarded Delta Flight 31 for New York. A beautiful, smooth
daytime flight above the clouds, across Finland, Scandinavia, Greenland,
across the North Atlantic to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and the Maine coast.
At 2:45 pm on a warm and sunny day in New York, we landed at JFK.
Goodbye Moscow; Floating above the thick
fold of cumulonimbus clouds;
Hello New York.
Dinner With Andrey. On our last night in Moscow, we had been invited to dine
with Benjamin Steinitz, the Parisian antiquaire who was also exhibiting
at the Moscow World Fine Art Fair.
We met at Turandot which is located on a busy narrow thoroughfare right next
door to Café Pushkin where we’d dined our first night in Moscow.
Turandot, which opened last December 15 is owned by the same man, Andrey
Dellos,who also owns 24 other restaurants in Russia, including six in Moscow.
six years in the building and is a brilliantly 21st century version
of an authentic 18th century European palace. Updated for the modern dweller
of course, and the restaurateur, it is so spectacular from the moment you enter,
so luminescent and sparkling in gilt and candlelight, that you’ll feel
like you’ve stepped into a film from the period, and been transported.
Even the waitstaff is dressed in costume and style of an 18th century servant.
I thought of Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, whose authenticity was all
enveloping and mood-enhancing, as if this is really what it might have felt like
to live (like that) then. If you were very privileged.
arrival last night, we were escorted up a staircase
leading to a large domed and gilded, round balcony of a dining
room which looks down onto the first floor
dining court. This room is the masterpiece of artisanship and design and frankly
all you want to do is stand there and ogle. There isn’t a detail left untouched.
Off of this main space are several private dining rooms, all done
in the same style but differently, with different themes and color
schemes. All but one of
them was occupied by private parties – journalists from Paris Match, businessmen
and their wives, businessmen entertaining visiting businessmen, oligarchs and
their friends. Everybody who’s anybody in Russia or visiting Moscow, since
Turandot’s opening, has dined here. Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and Putin have
set down to table for the Asian fusion cuisine.
to r.: The all-porcelain fireplace in the Porcelain
room; Views of the first and second floors.
another side of the mainroom is the Porcelain room, a large dining
room for private parties with fireplaces decorated in porcelain
well as displaying a huge collection of porcelain vases and plates
displayed throughout. It was later explained to me that in 18th
century, porcelain was rare and its possessors liked displaying
their collections that spoke as much for its acquisitional value
as it did for the owner’s wealth – an excellent combination
for all to see. Porcelain plays a prominent and even novel role
in Turandot where the toilets and urinals are exquisitely made
in porcelain. The effect of all this is an other-worldly luxury,
an imparting of fantasy. All of the porcelain throughout was
created especially for the restaurant from the designs of the
Right after we arrived, we were joined by the owner/creator and his beautiful
young wife Jenie as well as Ben Steinitz and another man and woman.
Andrey Dellos is a man I would guess to be in his early forties. He is not tall,
but slender and wiry with the formidable energy of a promoter, and a forthright,
personality that is quick to laugh. With his beard and
graying hair and well cut dark grey suit and black tee shirt, he looks like a
Hollywood producer. Or a Chelsea art dealer. Although far more charming and full
of joie de vivre: this is a man who loves his work and loves his life.
is first a painter and restorer. He grew up in Russia but lived
for several years in Paris where he met his wife (who is also
Russian). After he’d moved back to Russia, friends visiting
from France always want first to see the
Café Pushkin that had been made famous in the Gilbert Becaud song of the
same name. Of course Andrey had to tell them that there was no Café Pushkin,
that Becaud had made it up.
The phenomenon inspired him, however, and he conceived of a café with
a décor that would reflect that period of history when Pushkin lived and
wrote, the early 19th century. (Today is the 207th anniversary of Alexander
The first problem
for Andrey in making a Café Pushkin was finding the location.
Secondly, Andrey’s plan called for a long period of construction since
intended to replicate the period with artists and artisans. Then when he found
the perfect site, it already had buildings that would have to be razed. Additionally
it was very expensive. His investor saw it and agreed. There was only one
condition: the restaurant had to be constructed in six months.
At first he thought it couldn’t be done for he fully intended to build
a restaurant that not only looked and felt authentic but was authentic. That
required time. No time allotted, however, he gathered together everyone he could
and with a huge work force, six months later Café Pushkin was open for
visit is complete to Turandot without a trip to the bathroom.
was several years ago. It’s been open 24/7 ever since.
Of its kind,
Café Pushkin is without peer – a hip, beautifully appointed, mood-filled
19th century Russian brasserie/tavern. Very popular and considered one of the
top ten restaurants of Europe, the celebrities and the politicians and the international
travelers all book tables. Former President Clinton held forth at table for a
long evening of conversation the last time he was in Moscow.
The idea for
Turandot came immediately after Café Pushkin opened. This
was going to be even greater, more lavish and more elaborate. Andrey now knew
that one of his problems was finding the work force to carry out his dream. Artisans
are a dying breed. The few younger ones also wanted to take advantage of other
projects that came from their work on Pushkin. They wanted to profit too from
the interior decorating business that Pushkin inspired.
To solve this
problem, Andrey, being an artist himself, understood that there
were young people out there, developing artists, who would have the patience
and interest in learning and doing the work. He went to art schools and gathered
a group of about 200 young people – fifteen, sixteen, eighteen, nineteen
old. He offered them jobs and help in getting accreditation for their work with
him. He was offering them the opportunity to learn how to decorate this 18th
century palace he had planned. The only stipulation was that they had to sign
on for ten years; he wasn’t going to squander his investment by having
to train a new group again for the next time.
Benjamin Steinitz, Andrey Dellos, Jenie Dellos, Marina Grigoreva,
and Frank Dekempeneer in the green room, our private dining
room for the evening.
idea was a huge success for everyone. The force was eventually
reduced to 100. Together, over the next six years, they made
this amazing place.
I heard this story from the creator himself when we first sat down to dine in
this private dining room with its green chinoiserie paneling and silver candlelabra
providing our light, and the footman pouring the vodka from a clear crystal carafe
into the chilled crystal stem glass. Andrey Dellos is full of enthusiasm for
business, and obsessed with every detail of every matter of it – from the
design to the building, to the cuisine, the service, the management, the marketing
and the future planning. He sits across the table full of conversation, smoking
his pencil thin Parliaments, occasionally raising his glass of whiskey to his
lips, ordering in Russian with the waiter, tossing some phrases in French to
his friend Ben Steinitz. He loves what he does, every damn round-the-clock minute
of it. You’re with a man possessed and actualizing his dreams. He’s
an artist whose pictures not only sell but are in demand. He loves that. It motivates
him even more.
has been to visit and offers have been made for him to do the same
out in the Nevada desert. He was intrigued, especially intrigued
by Las Vegas,
but decided that he couldn’t run 26 restaurants in Russia and another one
in Las Vegas. Besides, he knew that as much as Las Vegas hotel developers would
pay for his services – and the sums they quoted him were stratospheric
and impressive – Las Vegas businessmen would never tolerate five or seven
years creating the Andrey Dellos version of an 18th-century palace.
Las Vegas businessman might be willing to spend a lot but ultimately
for what Andrey calls “the approximate.” Andrey has a passion for
In recounting this he explained the process of decorating another private dining
room at Turandot. He wanted a room of boiserie that looked 18th century, but
was 19th century. The reason for the 19th century was that he knew he could never
afford actual 18th century boiserie but that they made some very good reproductions
in France in the late 19th. Finally one day a dealer from Paris called to say
he had the boiserie. Andrey went to look. It was 18th century. He knew it was.
No, said the dealer, as much as he would have wanted it to be. It was just very
good 19th century. And so for $100,000 it would go into Turandot.
And with that, we got up from the table and he took us into the kitchen, all
of which is state of the art modern, white tiled, stainless steeled, out through
another door, up some stairs passed the changing rooms for the staff and into
another huge room with its freshly placed mahogany and gilted boiserie. Voila!
Back down to our dinner which was being placed on the table; all things Asian
and delicious and irresistible. The best Asian food I’ve ever had anywhere.
From there conversation ventured into the new Russia, the ten year marriage of
Jenie, a very welcoming and friendly woman who looks like a very young Candice
Dellos's live amongst a world of artists, antiquaries, artisans and businessmen.
come from far and wide to dine at Andrey’s restaurants and they bring the
world with them. And then they want to entertain the Dellos's. It is a world
of friendships and seeing and discussing. It is the world of the epicure, the
connoisseur, the entrepreneur and the artist, for Andrey Dellos is revealed to
be all of those things in one man. And the pleasure ultimately is all ours also.
giving Benjamin and DPC a sneak peak of the VIP Room in progress.
Tuesday afternoon, leaving the Moscow World Fine Art Fair, JH and
I walked through the gardens behind Red Square, up past the Kremlin
Wall and Lenin’s Tomb to St. Basil’s which we discovered
was open to the public. Built in the 14th century and restored
for public perusal in the last century, it is dark and lugubrious
with passageways that wend and wind almost to distraction and
confusion, while in a nearby ancient room a woman behind a counter
souvenirs and tsatskes and post cards.
last look inside St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square
with its small dimly lit chapels and maze-like corridors
covered in floral designs dating from the 17th century.
The Chapel of the Intercession's priceless iconostasis
dates back to the 16th century.
had the privilege of covering a number of Art Fairs in the world in the past few years. I’m neither
connoisseur or collector, but merely an appreciator. By which I
mean I don’t
have the resources to be anything more. International art fairs
cater to the weathy, the very rich and the institutions. Prices
often run into the millions or numbers comparable to us working
The Moscow World Fine Art Fair which is now in its third year,
is a relative newcomer to the booming business of the international
art fair. Its presence is the result of the growing interest spawned
by the new wealth and prosperity of the new Russia.
This year they
attracted 70 exhibitors from France, Switzerland and Russia. The
elements were the same as those we see in New York
at the opening of the art fairs – the vernissage which brings
out the curious and serious, the fashion plates, the pretty young
girls and young men of various stripe and intentions, along with
the bankers, the businessmen and their wives.
The art fair, to these eyes, is a modern meeting place for all
of the abovementioned elements of post-modern society. The modern
collector/consumer (depending on the longevity of their commitment)
likes the upscale marketplace/social meeting place of the art fair.
It draws people of power and influence. Its growing popularity
is a recent phenomenon which has caused dealers to focus on these
exhibitions rather than gallery business.
third annual Moscow World Fine Art Fair offered
up a serious and occasional glitzy fare for the many well-fixed
visiting its halls and stalls.
For example, there was a grand piano made for the Queen of Portugal at
the end of the 19th century and later bequeathed to her daughter, the Queen
of Italy, covered or inlaid with Sevres porcelain and of course
in perfect tune for 2.5 million euros or about $3.2 million. Down at Christie’s
there was the jewelry from the estate of Princess Margaret being
put up for auction along with a great many pieces of furniture and objets
her collections. The sale includes a great deal of what the late sister
of the Queen left to her two children, not unlike the sales we’ve
seen of Jacqueline Onassis, Pamela Harriman, the Duke and Duchess
of Windsor and promises to be of major interest to even those
of us who are not potential buyers.
The piano, priced at 2.5 million Euros, was originally
made for the Queen of Portugal. Late 19th century bed (below),
2 million Euros.
Jérôme de Noirmont.
Rive Fine Arts.
Thomas-Scheler, Bernard and Stephane Clavreuil.
Far right:Galerie Albert Benamou.
- Mimmo Rotella Foundation.
Downtown - François Laffanour.
Agency Colony Gallery.
and below: B. & B. Steinitz.
from the estate of Princess Margaret being put up for auction
along with a great many pieces of furniture and objets
from her collections at Christie's.