Thursday, 25 December 2008

Moscow Girls & The Financial Crisis

It's official, the global financial crisis has hit Russia. Never mind the markets tanked six months ago, these days even nightclub dancers are asking me about "nash finansoviy krisis" (our financial crisis)- As far as I'm concerned, if even these illuminated bastions of global commerce have now figured out that something's going on, we're all fucked.

But never mind that commodity prices are in the toilet, and the oil price that keeps Russia afloat on it's ocean of rubles (30 to the USD anyone? Do I hear 40?) is plumbing new depths not seen since 2005, the most important question is yet to be addressed: How is this impacting the richest of Russia's resources- the Devushki? (Russian girls).

As part of MoscowMAXIMUM's mandate to provide hard-hitting journalistic coverage of what matters most to Muscovites, I took it upon myself to see how the patrons of Moscow's hottest venue Soho Rooms is handling the crisis via a sample of photos taken from just a single night (20 December, if you're interested).

"I used to be a broker at Renaissance Capital, but now they call me DJ Krisis."

"Crisis? What Crisis? I'll always have Botox."

These days some girls will even accept an Audi instead of the mandatory Porsche Cayenne from prospective sponsors. Market forces at work!

Or better still, take Nastya and Katya for a 2-for-1 deal, they're apparently happy to share an apartment, wardrobe, and hair stylist.

"Got coke? My dealer is now a Zhiguli taxi driver."

"I know, I know, but he's younger than the last one, and I hear he has US Dollars!"

Thankfully the dancers are still doing their stuff, distracting poor patrons from the harsh realities of everyday Moscow life... Wait a second- this IS everyday Moscow life!

The guy on the left used to be a property oligarch, the guy on the right was his banker.

Feis Kontrol is getting so lax, they're even letting this dude into the club.

"My husband converted all his holdings into gold six months ago, and all I got was this lousy dress with a fake bow!"

The alluring "Sponsor Dance", caught on film.

"Don't mind me, I'm just a tourist, and can pay Euros!"

Apparently Soho converted the cigar bar into a "Passion Room" (since there wasn't enough of that already in the bathrooms).

Thankfully more dancers than ever before, on the mantlepiece, in the windows, under the chairs.

"Please leave me and my accountant in peace, this is our last night before fleeing the country."

He looks more worried than she does about where their next drink is coming from.

Yup, just had to make sure- still plenty of hot girls making funny faces.

And since I know that most of you are just interested in pictures of hot Russian girls (yes, I do track the Google search terms used to find this site), here are some more pictures just for you:

For even more, (not to mention the hysterical soundtrack- Remember: "Soho Rooms Is Good For Your Image") check out

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, 15 December 2008

New Club Opening: Pacha

On December 27th, the "official pre-opening" (don't ask me, I just report this sh$t) party is to be held at the new Pacha Moscow club, located at 10 Nikolskaya Ulitsa, Phone: +7-495-798-5777,

Apparently the "official opening" party isn't until 23 January, however the club will be in "pre-pre-opening" from the 20th Dec (go figure).

This club has been "about to open" since last winter, but a combination of a merry-go-round of investors, delays in approvals, and the unfolding "Krisis" has delayed it until now.

For those of you who live under a rock, Pacha is a global club brand based out of Ibiza, with clubs in around 15 countries. Pacha Moscow will be big, over 1,500sq metres, and capacity for more than 900 people. Apparently, of its 30 boxes, 15 will be "super-VIP"... Hmmm... I think I can see where this is going.

As with anything that's been this hyped for this long, I'm expecting to be disappointed, but look forward to checking it out!


Friday, 12 December 2008

New Domain Name-

MoscowMAXIMUM has jumped on the technological bandwagon and we now have our own domain!

You can update your bookmarks to:

It still redirects to blogspot, but anything to make your lives easier


Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Review: Evento (Эвенто)

Opening Hours: 7 Days 6am-last customer
Category: Mid-Range, Restaurant, Nightclub
Feis Kontrol Rating: Low - 2/5
Address: Varvarka Ul., 3, Gostinniy Dvor
M: Ploschad Revolyutsii, Kitay Gorod
Phone: +7 (495) 234-3322

A delightfully (if somewhat awkwardly) designed restaurant/nightclub space over two floors, with multiple restaurant decors in separate arched alcoves. Cute multiple bars, cosy dancefloor with hot dancers, great chillout area, and low drink prices. The only thing missing is the people. On several visits around 2am, the only patrons were some bored-looking models who were paid to be there.

Review: Escobar (Эскобар)

Opening Hours: Tue-Thu 5pm-5am, Fri/Sat 5pm-9am
Category: Mid-Range, Restaurant, Pre-Party, Post-Party
Feis Kontrol Rating: Low - 2/5
Address: KrymskiyVal, 3/2
M: Oktyabrskaya
Phone: +7 (495) 727-5551
Website: N/A

A brand-new venue that styled itself to be a restaurant, club, pre-party, post-party venue, but doesn't succeed at any of them.

Unimaginative design, bad service, poor food, badly designed entrance and coat check, non-existent crowd. About the only bright spot is that the drinks are pretty cheap.

Review: Club XIII (Клуб 13)

Opening Hours: Thu-Sat 11pm-6am
Category: Mid-Range
Feis Kontrol Rating: Moderate - 3/5
Address: Myasnitskaya Ul., 13
M: Chistiye Prudy, Lubyanka
Phone: +7 (495) 628-4747

A venerable Moscow institution re-opened in 2006, Club XIII continues to rock Moscow with a fun-loving, mid-range crowd housed in a stunning multistorey converted mansion, with interior marble staircases replete with dancers on overhead swings. Legendary Halloween parties.

Review: Chapurin (Чапурин)

Opening Hours: Sun-Thu, 10am-1am, Fri/Sat 10am-last customer
Category: Lounge, Bar, Pre-Party
Feis Kontrol Rating: Moderate - 3/5
Address: Kuznetskiy Most Ul., 6/3, Bldg. 3
M: Teatralnaya/Kuznetskiy Most
Phone: +7 (495) 660-5075

Exclusive fashion designer Chapurin offers his refined view of nightlife in an exclusive but comfortable two-storey, gay-friendly bar next door to Club Most.

Review: Barkhat (Бархат)

Opening Hours: Fri/Sat 11pm-last customer.
Category: Mid-Range, Megaclub
Feis Kontrol Rating:
Moderate - 3/5
Druzhinnikovskaya Ul., 15
+7 (495) 998-2838

Readers know that I will often review a club on its opening night. Some of you have pointed out that this can be unfair, as a club won't reach it's true potential (high or low) until at least a few weeks after it opened. Barkhat is such a club. After its opening, the first couple of weekends were so deserted, and the crowd that was there such a confused mix, that I felt it needed some time to find its niche. The club's design (despite its unfortunate location) had such potential, it would have to come good sooner or later.

Barkhat has now found its stride. A recent visit found it packed to the rafters with a mid-range, fun-loving younger crowd of students, putting it firmly in the league of peers such as Fabrique and Sabotage. Some further leveling is probably required (drink prices are still too high, and there were too many guys), but it has a great buzz and an increasingly dedicated group of patrons which will be essential in the thinning party crowd as the economic crisis starts to really bite.

Barkhat is located in an old movie theatre (still operational) in the location that used to house Club Infiniti. Potential patrons are shuffled into a makeshift pen for selection by (female) Feis Kontrol, reputedly members of the all-girl (think American Idol) group "Barkhat" for whom the club is named. Once through Feis Kontrol, you shuffle awkwardly through security, to the movie theatre entrance, ditch your coat, then angle left, past a lower floor chillout-style bar ("Karamel"), then up some stairs, and into the foyer for the club.

This navigation conveys a contrived feeling, movie posters are stashed in a corner, and folding stands are used to corral traffic. It has a similar feeling to high-school prom, when teachers converted the school gymnasium into an "evening venue" (please ignore the basketball hoops covered by a blanket), awkwardly concealing the building's true purpose.

Thankfully once you ascend the staircase, you enter the club proper- and the lights, smoke, DJ, and drunken people cavorting enable you to start to feel at home. A DJ booth hangs over the bend in the stairs, like a glowing gremlin gesturing you into a House of Horrors (but in the nicest possible way). At the top of the stairs, you can continue forward through this strange lobby-like area where couches, a bar, and bathrooms are located, as well as a branch off into a VIP-area, or proceed right, into the club proper.

The club itself opens out into a cavernous domain, a large stage on the right hosts shows and cavorting dancers, higher podiums house more dancers, a VIP upper level rings a long, narrow dancefloor, which contains (you guessed it) yet another podium for go-go dancers smack bang in the middle. Bars are located on either side of the stage, and VIP tables are crammed into any spare space around the edge of the room.

The club's elitny positioning, design, and drink prices betrays its mid-range clientele, but thankfully they don't seem to care. Cheaper mixed drinks than Opera mean that it's as much fun for a cheaper price, and who cares if the girls (and especially the guys) aren't as good-looking. Barkhat is all about over-the-top fun, and that's what it seems people are here to have.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Review: Black Star Club (Блэк Стар)

Opening Hours: Fri/Sat 11pm-last customer.
Category: R'n'B, Exclusive
Feis Kontrol Rating:
Moderate - 3/5 (depending on your fit with the R'n'B crowd).
Top Floor, Kievsky Vokzal Pl., 2 (Evropeisky Shopping Centre)
+7 (495) 220-5510

Moscow rap icon Timati finally opened his own club (after acquiring a taste from his promotional role in the now-defunct Zhara) in late September adjacent to La Terrasse. Having already bitched enough about the access to La Terrasse in previous postings I am delighted to report that access to Black Star is much better with a clearly signposted entrance from street level, a direct elevator ride, and a dedicated lobby.

The Good news: Arriving after having already had a few drinks, you're now going to be actually able to find the place.
The Bad news: Unless you're a (Moscow-style) R'n'B fetishist, you're going to need to have already had more than a few drinks to actually enjoy the place.

My biggest issue with Black Star is that it oozes "shopping mall", with it's rigid design features, uniform height, pre-fabricated walls and roof, despite everything they've done to make it look like a club. But more of that later.

Once you emerge from the elevators, run the gauntlet of Feis Kontrol (new controller these days since summer), and then snake your way left past the (closed) La Terrasse structure, you can head into the small door labelled "Black Star", unless you happen to feel ultra-VIP, in which case you can enter straight into the "White" lounge VIP table area. The main entrance will dump you into the beginning of the long "L"-shaped club, conceptually shaped with a stage in the middle and VIP areas at both ends.

The club is surprisingly big, although the low roof makes it feel much smaller and more cramped than the floor space suggests. A glance across the room as you turn the corner of the bar and the nearby oddly-located but convenient couch reveals what could very well be a mirror (especially given the large mirrored scrolling message boards), but actually turns out to be a deep VIP table lounge.

The decor is a prime example of what I've dubbed "Moscow's Blue Period", where a largely black (or maybe just dimly-lit) interior is accented with polished metal, some type of beaded curtain, and far more blue hue's than previously present in clubs like Dyagilev, Opera or Rai (or maybe it's just my rose-tinted glasses). Blue Period venues often feature a repetitive logo motif, usually with something resembling an out-of-control chevron from the court of France, circa 1740. (the best example of this is Famous, although it looks like Black Star & even Soho have adopted a crest & motto, of all things- "In Good We Trust"- WTF?).

Elements of this type of design (or lack thereof) are prevalent in almost every new venue that's opened in the last six months (eg Famous, Escobar, Kitchkok, Barkhat (although these last two without the blue)), and of course Black Star. That said, it's not particularly objectionable, it's just not unique- and therefore the other elements of the club have to work that much harder to stand out.

This is where Black Star falls down. With mediocre design, moderate-highly priced drinks, and a crowd of little other than young paid models hanging around until about 3am, the only somewhat unique aspect is its music. Black Star is billed as an R'n'B club for Moscow's burgeoning R'n'B scene, and so the music pays some homage to (mostly American) R'n'B artists, mixed with a healthy wallop of the usual Moscow house. If you like it- then Black Star is going to be an attractive venue for you. If you don't, there's no reason to be here.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Fake Currency & General Awareness Warning

Effects of the rapidly deteriorating economic situation in Russia are starting to be felt on the street. In the last two weeks I've seen and heard of more fake ruble notes than I have for the past few years.

The most commonly counterfeited notes are the 500 and 1000 ruble bills. Fakes I have seen range from basic colour photocopies, to highly sophisticated notes with raised printing and watermarks. The cheaper ones are a favourite of taxi drivers, but the better ones are good enough to have been handed back as change in some of Moscow's top nightclubs and bars (can't comment on intentionally or not) .

Moscow nightclubbers, please beware. Check all bills you receive, and if it doesn't look or feel right, raise your concern immediately BEFORE putting the bills in your wallet.

Also, the weekend saw the first drug raid of a major club (Rai) that I'd seen or heard of in some time. I don't know if this presages an increase across the city, or whether the economic situation means that someone didn't get paid off in time, but please be careful. Penalties for narcotic use (or a reasonable excuse for them to be planted on you) are severe in Russia.

Those of you who are regular readers know that I'm not prone to making public service announcements, but please understand that the Moscow nightlife scene is changing rapidly in response to the new economic environment- expect an increase in crime, fraud, shortchanging, underpoured drinks, police checks, unscrupulous devushki, etc.

On the bright side, if you can show evidence you'll be spending money at the bar, Feis Kontrol might go easier on you!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Review: Arma 17 (Арма 17)

Opening Hours: Fri/Sat 11pm-6am
Category: Mid-Range
Feis Kontrol Rating: Low - 2/5
Address: Nizhniy Susalniy Per., 5, Building 17 (deep in the complex, through the guardhouse)
M: Kurskaya
Phone: +7 (495) 767-7832, +7 (915) 404-0044 (table reservations)
Website: N/A

Massive Techno-heavy party space located deep in the same complex that houses Gazgolder & Gazgallery. Cover charge.

Review: 1171

Opening Hours: Tue-Thu 3pm-midnight, Fri/Sat 6pm-6am
Category: Mid-Range
Feis Kontrol Rating: Moderate - 3/5
Address: Bolshoy Savvinskiy Per., 12, Building 7
M: Kievskaya
Phone: +7 (495) 764-9275
Website: N/A

A Large, fun club on Savvinskaya (next door to Soho Rooms) which is a fun time on weekends (and a great backup if you get Feised from Soho).

Review: Blackberry (Блэкберри/Черника)

Opening Hours: 7 days, 11am-last customer.
Category: Restaurant, Lounge, Pre-Party, Exclusive
Feis Kontrol Rating:
Moderate - 3/5.
Akademika Sakharova Pr., 10
Chistiye Prudy
+7 (495) 926-1640

Moscow's newest (and most popular) experiment with high quality food and service at reasonable prices is drawing high-end crowds at all hours of the day. Great pre-party venue.

Venue Contact Information

Dear MoscowMAXIMUM readers,

In response to the ever-increasing popularity of this publication, and the requests I receive for various club details that I haven't got around to reviewing yet (apologies, I like to keep my reviews in-depth, so spend more time partying than writing, as long as that's OK with you), I'm going to include contact information for venues listed, even if I haven't managed to put a full review online yet.

In the list of clubs to the right, they will still be listed as "TBU" if I haven't reviewed them yet, but hopefully, most will soon have contact information.


Monday, 20 October 2008

Clublife Autumn 2008: Insanity Before the Storm?

As the temperatures drop, the rain starts to fall (did it ever stop?), and those wonderful summer terraces close across Moscow (Krysha, Soho- we'll miss you), it's time to reflect what awaits Moscow's party bunnies in the colder months ahead.

There has been a frenetic pace of good, bad, and half-assed club openings across Moscow in recent months (I promise to pick up the pace of reviews). Barkhat has opened in the old Infinity space near Famous, Arma 17 is rocking the techno-loving crowd in a huge space behind Gazgolder, Black Star Club is now grooving to R'n'B on top of Evropeiskiy, Blackberry restaurant/bar has made a pre-party splash, and many more that I haven't got around to cataloguing yet.

Yet other clubs have been renovated or repositioned to appeal to new audiences. Paparazzi seems to be replacing Mix as the venue of choice to find dealers late night, while Teatro (a sometimes strip club) has also attracted a strong late-night following. Most has had some light remodelling, but doesn't attract the glamourous crowd it once did, i Fiori has lost its pre-party vibe and Royal Bar is probably just too far out of the centre to hold the crowds now summer is gone.

For the rest of the hotspots, it tends to be business as usual. Soho retains its crown as the hottest megaclub in town, Krysha is still the best afterparty, even without the rooftop. Against all odds, Opera maintains its sense of fun on Thu & Sat nights, and Rai seems to have stabilised (although at more of a "delightful trashiness" level than glamour club). Famous is faltering, and Ninja is the toughest door in town on a Thursday. Simachev is packing in the bar crowd, and the increasingly vibrant alternatives for the non-glamour set are expanding with Black Star, Solyanka, and Sabotage doing brisk business.

The question on everybody's lips is: What happens next? There are storm clouds brewing, rumours abound of oligarch's who have lost fortunes, real estate projects are at a standstill, and luxury retail trade has plummeted almost as rapidly as the RTS Index. Despite media reports that the clubs are empty (show's how much reporters know about what night's & times to actually turn up at a nightclub), so far Moscow excess seems to show no signs of slowing. Not only is the media not permitted to discuss the financial crisis, it's unclear whether many of the devushki at Moscow's nightclubs would be able to read it anyhow.

So, for those of us keen to party away our last few rubles before the party stops (although we hope it won't), here's MoscowMAXIMUM's Fall list of venues:

Pre-Party: Kalina, Blackberry, Simachev

Major Clubs: Soho (bar Thu, club Fri/Sat), Opera (best Thu/Sat), Rai (best Fri), Solyanka (Fri/Sat non-glamour), Black Star (R'n'B), Sabotage (younger).

After Party: Krysha (glamour), Paparazzi (non-glamour), Teatro (younger), Garage (mix of all), Neo (super late-night (post 8am))

Wed: Blackberry, Garage (post 2am).
Thu: Kalina, Blackberry, Soho bar, Vanilla Ninja, Opera, Propaganda.
Sun: Garage (post 2am)

Friday, 22 August 2008

Review: Black Star / La Terrasse (Блэк Стар)

Opening Hours: 7 days, 3pm-last customer. Feis Kontrol from 10pm Fri/Sat.
Lounge, Pre-Party, Exclusive
Feis Kontrol Rating:
High - 4/5.
Top Floor, Kievsky Vokzal Pl., 2 (Evropeisky Shopping Centre)
+7 (495) 229-8428, 229-8429

Following the closing of Zhara, Moscow rap icon Timati has opened the first of several bars in a complex located on the top of Evropeisky shopping mall in Kievskaya.

La Terrasse is the first bar to open, to shortly be followed by Black Star Club. Similar to venues like Royal Bar or Kalina, it seems to be positioned as a great warm-up bar or a place for a more chill evening listening to cool beats while reclining on couches.

This place is painful to get to. Once you know the right entrance ramp from the street, you drive up for what seems like forever, asking directions and passing through at least two more entrance gateways (vehicle Feis Kontrol) before you even get to club parking. After that it’s into Evropeisky, to an elevator to the top level. I’m exhausted and in need of a Red Bull before I even get to the bar.

Once through Feis Kontrol (ex-Dyagilev VIP), the venue opens into a comfortable lounge, with a long rectangular shape, cozy cream sofas everywhere, a central bar, and a DJ spinning chilled beats with just a hint of R’n’B to promote the relaxed vibe. To get patrons in the mood to party, the music tempo increases through the evening on weekend nights, sounding more like Opera’s Thursday offerings (Russkie Pop mixed with enough R’n’B to convincingly claim it’s an R’n’B party (think “Umbrella” remix)).

Despite the recent opening, the bar staff seem capable and relaxed, and will show off their flair skills at the sight of a cute girl at the bar. Drink prices are reasonable, but then again, you are on the roof of a shopping mall. The menu is typical Evro, but dishes are well-prepared, tasty, and surprisingly reasonably priced too.

The crowd on the nights I have been there have been a little sparse, but high quality. There are plenty of stunning women lounging around, and it’s much more tusovka than trashy (a relief after Zhara- but then again, I’m not their target market).

Based on La Terrasse, I would expect Black Star to be something like Zhara meets Soho. Timati & his partners are likely to capitalise on the increasing maturity of R’n’B to move the defunct Zhara upscale, and I’ll be curious to see how it goes. If you like Timati or R’n’B, it should certainly fit your bill.

Overall, La Terrasse is a great place for a snack or pre-party drink, but unlike Royal Bar (also a pain to get to), there’s not enough there to keep you there for a whole evening, so I don’t know if the odyssey to get to it is worth it. If it was on the street someplace, I’d love it, but I’ll reserve judgment until it’s fully operational.

To be continued...