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Hic Bibitur
By Jennifer Chater
Issue 12
December 2, 2004 - February 10, 2005

Nathan Toohey
gothic: Hic Bibitur
Given Hic Bibitur’s Middle Ages theme, one might expect it to be something like Tallinn’s wonderful Olde Hansa restaurant: atmospheric darkness and candlelight, a well-researched menu of authentic historical cuisine, tranquil medieval music, waitstaff in period costume. So it came as quite a shock to find Hic Bibitur brightly lit — almost glaringly so — with an ice hockey game being broadcast on a huge television screen and cheesy pop music blasting away. In contrast with the vaulted ceilings, Gothic-style stained glass windows and Bruegel prints on the walls, it made for an incongruous, even incoherent, combination. One thing was clear, however: Someone had sunk a fair chunk of cash into this place.

We sat at an elegant wrought iron and glass table and perused the menu: high-priced, conservative European and Russian fare. But our nerves were jarred not only by the music but also by the staff, who clearly had not been expecting any dinner guests at 5:30pm on a Sunday. They were fussing about, busily setting up for a party, and continued like this for our entire meal. The manager did offer an apology of sorts and invited us to stay for the celebration. But given the lack of fine dining ambience, we felt disinclined to spend up big and selected from among the cheapest things on the menu.

We started with draft Krusovice (130 rubles a half-liter) and chose from a breadbasket; at least the bread was fresh and tasty. Out came the broccoli cream soup (180 rubles) and the red bean soup with bacon (180 rubles) — both hearty and delicious, especially the latter. Reinforcing our impression that the cook was trying even if nobody else was, our mains were also good, and actually appeared simultaneously. The rabbit with bacon (390 rubles) consisted of a herb-stuffed bunny leg alongside three mounds of mashed potato with bacon and some leaf-shaped carrot and zucchini slices, on one of those trendy oversized plates with artistically splattered sauce swirls. In contrast, the Hic Bibitur pelmeni (450 rubles) came in a peasanty clay pot topped by a dough lid emblazoned with the restaurant’s name. The veal pelmeni were in a flavorsome bullion with white mushrooms, carrot and onion — delicious, and at that price, they should be.

The side of baked potato (120 rubles) turned out to be three crispy-skinned taters with chopped tomato and olives — tasty, but unnecessary given the size of the servings.

Nathan Toohey
Hic Bibitur: pelmenI pot
Visiting the toilets, we discovered terracotta reliefs of jolly peasants copulating and relieving themselves without the convenience of modern plumbing. Olde Hansa has similar frescoes, but while Olde Hansa’s are humorous, Hic Bibitur’s seemed pretentious, if that’s possible given the subject matter.

We gave Hic Bibitur a second chance, returning for beers on a Friday evening. And although a pair of formally attired musicians were playing peaceful jazz, the bright lighting and sports games on screen once again destroyed what could have been a romantic ambience.

When eating good, pricey food in an expensively furnished restaurant, surely a diner can expect a certain atmosphere — but we didn’t find it here.

Hic Bibitur
6 2nd Brestskaya Ul. (M. Mayakovskaya)
234-3048, noon-midnight

Today's Gigs
19:00 - DJ Existence: Intelligent psychedelic electronic
21:00 - Disco nightly, free entry. DJ Alex Sun.-Tue., DJ Suliko Wed. & Thu., DJ Kostya Kleshch Fri. & Sat
DJ Sanches: Musical Landscapes program
Boris Grebenshchikov and Akvarium: presentation of new album
Vosvrashcheniye: plus Medvezhy Ugol (Kazan)
DJ ZigZag and Epik Soundsystem: Afrobeat, Brazilian, groove, funk and soul


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