Chainaya Tea & Cocktails – Big delights in little China
Which bar comes to mind first if you think about Moscow’s bar scene? Off the top of my head, it would be Chainaya. A bar about which much has already been written but I must agree with the many bartenders who claim that this is one of the best bars in the world.
Another signless bar, another unmarked door, hidden in a courtyard, down in the basement. Chainaya opened its secret doors in 2011. It is the brainchild of the well-known and famous bartender Roman Milostivy. He has recently moved to Tiflis, Georgia, to work on a new project. Visit www.barlikealighthouse.com
Located in a labyrinth of backstreets in Moscow’s Chinatown, I was lucky to be guided there by the local cocktail enthusiast I met at Korobok. Finding the place is a creepy experience, passing bins and rats and I am not sure if I could ever find it again. I would recommend making a reservation because only a small number of guests is allowed. The door opened after ringing the bell and we were welcomed by a lovely barmaid. Through a small corridor wallpapered with old newspapers, we passed the tiny open-plan kitchen situated in a corner, just fitting the Chinese couple busy preparing some food. The soft and warm lightning surrounded us like a warm blanket. The unmistakable scent of Chinese food and green tea was in the air. Suddenly you can’t stop noticing more and more details.
Step down into a slightly wicked underground venue with top notch cocktails paired with authentic Chinese cuisine and become part of a clandestine drinking adventure.
Moscow is full of the kind of bars I dream about. I love these tiny dark drinking dens where the senses are more sharpened. Could it be that the smaller the bar the greater the drink experience? The mystic atmosphere, the interior, the subdued lighting, the pagoda-style roof over the bar, the lovely details, everything is harmoniously combined. Even the toilets are special and a little sensation in themselves. Originally, Chainaya was a Chinese tea house and they have kept the interior. You will find some cosy corners with cushions to lounge on, or you can take a seat at the wooden tables or on sofas to enjoy some home-made dumplings, soups or other Chinese-inspired dishes. There is also a secret room where the walls are papered with erotic motives. I was suddenly reminded of the movie The Lover. A forbidden love affair between a teenage girl and an older wealthy Chinese man set in Vietnam in the ’30s. They could have met here for a secret rendezvous. There is a tiny bell for the bartender to inform the guests before entering this tiny room. They showed me the rare coasters they had before with some positions of the Kamasutra. Now they use innocent napkins.
The bar team is experienced, attentive and very friendly. Due to the limited number of guests the focus is on you and your drink.
As the full name Chainaya Tea & Cocktails suggests, both tea and cocktails are served as well as tea-infused cocktails. There are a few stools at the tiny bar counter. There you will find a fine selection of spirits and especially vermouth. The bar counter is covered with glass and beneath the glass you can see a nice collection of postcards, tea and spices. My description simply doesn’t do the concept justice.
The cocktail menu lists sixteen cocktails. All of them sounded more than good and I liked the information about the ABV of the drinks. It was my last night in Moscow and I finished my trip with some Chinese titbits and excellent cocktails heavy on vermouth. A place to fall in love with and a must visit.