Maga Umkhaev is something of a digital native, having started his fashion blog back in 2010 (which is an eon in terms of the internet). He is now a creative and marketing all-rounder who happily resides in New York City, however his home-town of Moscow will always have his heart.
Starting the day right is integral to this stylish Russian, so if you're after a reliable breakfast recommendation Maga is the man for you. Read on and discover an insider's guide to this historical, culturally-rich and cosmopolitan European capital city.
What are your favourite restaurants, café’s and bars?
I enjoy exploring new places in Moscow. But there is a saying in Russia – "An old friend is better than two new friends", so I have favourite places that I rarely cheat on.
The number one place in my personal list is Denis Simachev Shop & Bar (Stoleshnikov per., 12/2). It is a place where you’ll enjoy your breakfast, a business lunch, dinner, cocktails and after-midnight dances. Fun, cosiness and delicious food are guaranteed. I spend most of my time here.
Mornings are my favourite time of the day to eat. That’s why I pay maximum attention to my breakfast. If you’d like to spend your morning appreciating not only great view, but also delicious food surrounded by Soviet-chic, my advice is to go to the Grand-Café Dr. Zhivago (Mokhovaya st., 15/1с1).
For a late dinner with friends or a business lunch, Moloko (Bolshaya Dmitrovka st., 7/5) is an ideal option. For various seafood and shrimps I go to Boston Seafood & Bar (Lesnaya, 7) restaurant. Summer is the best season in Moscow, that’s why we are spending it on the terraces. The best one in town with a fantastic view of Jesus the Saviour Church and Moscow River is Strelka Bar (14 Bersenevskaya embankment, building 5).
For the Chinese food I go to Kitayskaya Gramota restaurant (Sretenka St., 1). In Moscow there are many places with a fabulous view of the city. But as a rule, the view is the only fabulous thing. At sunset I recommend going for an aperitif at the Time Out Bar (Pekin Hotel). On the weekends I wake up close to noon and go to Upside Down Cake (Bolshaya Gruzinskaya st., 76) for filter coffee and syrniki (a sort of round Russian cheesecake).
Sometimes the body needs a detox and this is when you go to Café Fresh (Bolshaya Dmitrovka St., 11) with the most delicious vegetable cocktails and vegan cuisine. A legendary place where you can go for lunch and dance any day of the week is Propaganda (Bolshoy Kozikhinsky per., 13). A must taste is their Cesar salad; people have been coming here for this salad for more than 18 years.
Aperitif cocktail lovers should visit Noor Bar (Tverskaya St., 23/12). The design of the whole area of the Moskva Cinema was developed by my friend and a very talented decorator Marina Bessonova, which is why it is extremely joyful to come to Prekrasnoe Obshestvo restaurant for business meetings. One more place I frequent for the pumpkin soup with shrimps and bruschetta is Zupperia.
List your ultimate fashion, design, and lifestyle shopping destinations?
In Moscow there are three main department stores where fashionistas can find all relevant brands. TSUM department store (Petrovka St., 2), GUM (Red Squire, 1), Tsvetnoy Central Market (Tsvetnoy Bulv., 15). There is also a farmer’s market and a big food court on the fifth floor.
In the city centre there are a couple of streets full of mono-brand stores such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Louboutin or Hermès, as well as jewellery stores such as Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier and others. These streets are Stoleshnikov Lane, Petrovka and Kuznetsky. For conceptual fashion and interior design you should go to Le Forme (Dmitrovsky per, 7). Another must visit is KM 20 store (Kuznetsky Most, 20) and Azel (Stoleshnikov, 10/3), here you can shop local designer clothes.
If you look for something unique made by Russian or CIS designers I recommend Kursovoy showroom (Kursovoy per., 8/2B). Another must visit is Rehab Shop (B. Kozikhinsky per., 19/6). Here you can find best selections from Rochas, MSGM, Band of Outsiders, N21 etc. For beauty products and perfumes visit Cosmotheca (4th Syromyatnichesky per., 1/8, стр. 6).
For the real gentlemen...
Barba Mosca (Palikha st., 10) barber and tailor shop. Besides hairdressing, shaving and Acqua di Parma products, they offer suits to order. The tailor shop exclusively works with famous Neapolitan brands using bespoke technology for suit production. Ostozhenka Bespoke Atelier (Barykosvky per., 2) is a tailor shop for individual production of suits and shoes. Besides custom-made and ready to wear clothing they are an official dealer of Maison Corthay shoes in Russia.
The first thing a new visitor should do when touching down in Moscow?
Walk the Red Square with an ice-cream purchased from GUM, as well as Moscow’s historical part, Kitay gorod. Spend a couple of hours at the Muzeon Park, then walk the embankments. For example the Taras Shevchenko embankment close to the Ukraine Hotel has a beautiful view of the Moscow city business centre. Take a night ride over the Garden Ring, through the BK route of the trolley-bus.
Must-see cultural landmarks?
I recommend the ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre. The best drama theatre is Petr Fomenko’s workshop. On their website you can check availability of subtitles for various languages. For contemporary art visit Garage Museum and the adjacent café Garage for a lunch afterwards. Visiting Tretyakov Gallery is a must, just like visiting Tretyakov gallery on Krymski val for some avant-garde art.
Best accommodation in Moscow?
My favourite Moscow hotel is Baltschug Kempinski, located in historical district with best view of the Red Square. Other notable hotels are Ararat Park Hyatt or the Four Seasons. If you plan to rent an apartment I recommend the Patriarshi Ponds area, to feel the relaxed mood of the city.
Any other local insider tips?
I really like the Patriarshi Ponds area, where we all hang out in the evenings and weekends. There is a myriad of nice places for breakfast (for example, Nude Café), lunch (restaurants Brix or Pinch) or dinner (restaurants Uilliam’s or Twins). For evenings, visit the Kianu bar or Ess-Theеtick for a sausage; a place where crowds gather and hang out 'till the sunrise. To search for more of the best places in the city, I recommend you download the app called Local Way.
What do you love about the lifestyle in Moscow?
I like the plethora of absolutely simple and non-expensive places where you can go and have delicious food. I also enjoy the relaxed weekend mood, when people meet with their friends for breakfast, go shopping in stores or at markets, go to gigs, or party from one place to another and then have an early morning have breakfast. The nice thing about Moscow, in comparison to other European cities, is that almost all services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Best time of year to visit?
Abso-fuckin-lutely, summer! We wait for summer for too long, that’s why we live each day as if it is the last one.
You can find Maga Umkhaev on Instagram at @magamgd