From the alphabet of taste to the 7th Continent: a guide to Moscow’s supermarkets.
In the past twenty years, Moscow has enjoyed an unprecedented retail boom. A city that was once a culinary wasteland, today boasts hundreds of supermarkets, grocery stores, and corner shops. Below is an overview of the most popular chain stores, which we endeavor to keep updated and fresh. Please use the comment section to share your own impressions, new finds, or an experience you’ve had at Moscow supermarkets!
Azbukha Vkusa (which means the alphabet of taste) is a chain of upscale grocery stores in Moscow, easily recognizable by their bright green branding. There are 40 some stores scattered about the capital, and most provide dedicated parking.
Azbukha offers a full range of dry and baking goods, with an emphasis on higher end imports or hard-to-find items. This is where you want to go if you are looking for wheat pasta, or Arborio rice. The cheese and dairy selection is particularly good, and the sales staff knows what they are talking about. Azbukha offers fresh meat, fish, and poultry as well as excellent fresh produce. In recent years, the chain has begun to offer ready-made boxed meals along the lines of Marks & Spenser’s successful range in the UK.
I steer away from the wines and spirits section of the store for two reasons: they breathe down your neck like you are going to steal a bottle Vouvray or something, and also because the prices are outrageous and the selection isn’t that great.
Azbukha Vkusa is one of the few places where they bag your groceries for you, which is a nice touch.
None of this comes cheap. Azbukha is on the higher end of the scale in terms of prices, even for domestic products. I try to shop at Azbukha Vkusa when I need a few items I know I won’t be able to find anywhere else to keep the cost down, but I confess I never enter their green doors without feeling a little frisson of excitement!
For an up-to-date list of Azbukha Vkusa’s growing number of retail locations, or to find a shop close to you, click here.
I think of Eliseevsky more as a tourist stop rather than a shop, but that’s probably because I don’t live around the corner from it! Eliseevsky is a sumptuous store dating back to the pre-Revolutionary times and more recently lovingly restored. For those who live within walking distance, the shop offers a great range of fresh food and produce, as well as good dried goods and an impressive deli section for semi prepared meats (marinated shashkik, meat balls etc.) as well as a full range of Russian salads and desserts.
Check it out – if only for the interior!
Ulitsa Tverskaya, d. 14
Globus Gourmet is Arkady Novikov’s homage to the Harrod’s Food Halls. At least that is my take on it. Mind bogglingly expensive, this is the place to go if you need a Nepalese Pink Salt or a fresh fin de Claire just off the plane. Globus Gourmet has exquisite meats, fishes, a wonderful bakery section and a selection of cheeses that doesn’t quit. They sell Fortnum & Mason tea, which is a good reason to go, as well as the fact that it is the only place in Moscow that I can consistently get shallots. Rumors abound that GG is going to merge somehow with Azbukha Vkusa, which is like a Vanderbilt marrying a Rockefeller. Stay tuned for updates!
Globus Gourmet has five locations in Moscow:
Ulitsa Petrovka, d. 2 (TSUM)
Ulitsa Pokrovka, d. 2
Kutuzovsky Prospekt, d. 48 (“Vremena Goda Center)
Leningradskoye Shosse, d. 112
Ulitsa Bolshaya Yakimanka, d. 2 (Gemini Center)
Metro Cash & Carry:
Metro Cash & Carry is German in its design and concept and 100% Russian in its execution. These large warehouses ring Moscow and are worth the trip if you are interested saving a lot of money, bulk buying, or after some high-quality meat and fish that doesn’t cost the earth.
Metro takes planning. You have to be in possession of a Metro Card to get in the door and make purchases. People eligible for cards are legal entities, rep offices of Russian or foreign companies, embassies or individual entrepreneurs (by which is meant kiosk owners.) If you don’t qualify, do not be deterred. Someone you know has a metro card. Borrow one. Ask the HR people at work. I use my driver’s card and believe me, we don’t look at all alike.
Metro is great for bulk buying things like toilet paper, dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, aluminum foil, juice, tonic water, baking supplies, rice, and pasta. If your house has the storage space, this is definitely the way to go: you’ll save money and time. Their meat section is a delight – you can score really fantastic lamb from New Zealand beef from the USA. They stock good quality Russian chicken and pork. The fish is good and fresh, though the people who staff the fish section are hard to flag down. You can get a very good range of affordable seafood including oysters, lobsters, smoked salmon, shrimp, caviar, and other bounty from the sea.
Metro supplies a lot of restaurants, so if you are equipping your kitchen, or expanding your range of kitchen supplies, check out Metro’s offerings. I had an epiphany a few years ago and threw away all my mismatched cheesy plastic containers, and replaced them with Metro’s very affordable range of see-through hard plastic tubs with stainless steel tops. These come in all kinds of sizes, stack in the refrigerator and have made life much easier. Metro has good stainless steel mixing bowls, canning supplies, bake ware, and serviceable stockpots. I don’t buy any appliances from Metro since the one thing I did broke down almost immediately.
While the produce at Metro can be lackluster, the fresh greens, lettuces, and herbs imported from Israel are anything but. If you aren’t planning to hit the farmers’ market that week, Metro is the Mecca for salad fixings as well as hard-to-find items such as fresh sage and marjoram.
Metro is a great place to stock up on hard liquor – the prices are competitive and most of the premium brands of vodka, gin, bourbon, whiskey, cognac, liqueurs, and tequila are consistently on offer. Less reliable is the wine selection. You can hit a mother lode of cheap-and-cheerful New World wines in the 600-1000 ruble range, or you can be stuck with Moldovan paint stripper or a $900 bottle of Chablis and nothing in between. You never know – you have to go. And be sure to put your alcohol purchases on the belt separate from your non-alcoholic ones: these are considered different categories and are rung up separately.
Metro is not for the faint of heart. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so be sure to prepare for your visit accordingly. Assume that this is all you will do that morning or afternoon, get a good night’s sleep, wear comfortable clothing, bring a bottle of water and be sure to watch out for overzealous forklift drivers!
Metro recently began accepting VISA and MASTERCARD!
Metro Cash & Carry’s Moscow Locations:
Leningradskoye Shosse, 71
Ulitsa Shosseynaya, 2 B
Ulitsa Ryabinovaya, d. 59
Prospekt Mira, 211 k. 1
Dmitrovskoye Shosse, d. 165 B
Ulitsa Dorozhnaya d. 1 k. 1
Perekrestok and Perekrestok Zelyoniy
These two may look alike, but only until you begin to trawl their aisles.
Perekrestok with the blue branding is a mainstream supermarket for your average Vanya. They have a reliable supply of basic kitchen staples, most of which are either Russian or from the near abroad. If you need a loaf of bread and a tin of instant coffee – pop into Perekrestok and you’ll leave happy. If you are looking for a fresh peach, a well-priced bottle of merlot, and a lovely rump roast, you’re out of luck. The produce section is dominated by depressing looking root vegetables and the fruit is not at all tempting. The meat section yields basic cuts, though the quality isn’t top notch. The staff is appallingly rude and you have to pay for the plastic bags that fall apart once you get out of the store. For a complete list of Perekrestoks in Moscow click here.
Perekrestok Zelyoni, on the other hand, is giving Azbukha Vkusa and Globus Gourmet a run for their money, and if I were a betting blogger, my chips would be on Perekrestok Zelyoni coming out the winner. Since 2009, these upscale sister shops to the ubiquitous Perekrestocks have delighted shoppers with top quality fresh produce, premium meats, hard-to-find imports and an impressive selection of organic food. I stumbled in to the one at Smolensky Passazh and was really blown away. I found some excellent tarragon mustard, a very passable goat cheese, and clocked some key limes and a great range of bagged and washed lettuce (The Holy Grail for Moscow cooks). I wish my plain old neighborhood Perekrestok would go green!
Perekrestok Zelyonis can be found in Moscow at:
Shmitovsky Proezd, Dom 16
Smolenskaya Ploshad’, dom 3 “Smolensky Passazh”
Ulitsa Ydal’tsova, d 42
Ulitsa Zemlyanoi Val, d. 33 (at Atrium)
Nab. Presneynskaya, d. 2 (at Afimoll-CITI)
Bul. Admirala Yshakova, d. 7
Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Shosse., d. 15 (15 km from the MKAD at “Univermag Nash”)
Sedmoi Kontinent occupies the middle of the range – it’s got an okay range of products, but it seems to be sliding more towards the domestic range of foodstuffs, which may be a deliberate reaction to current economic conditions, or may just be that thing that happens in Russia where everything goes downhill after the “khoziyan” or master stops dealing with the day-to-day running of the shop. The flagship shop on Smolenskaya is well stocked, the produce is fresh, and the range of fresh meat is impressive than some of their smaller retail locations. I find the staff very surly. I give it a C+.