Sunday 6 September 2009

Review: New Club Garage (Гараж)

Opening Hours: Restaurant/Cafe- 24/7, Nightclub- Wed/Thu/Sun (from midnight), Fri/Sat (afterparty)
Category: Mid-Range
Feis Kontrol Rating: Bar/Cafe: Low 1/5, Nightclub: Moderate- 3/5
Address: 8 Brodnikov Per.
M: Polyanka
Phone: +7 (495) 238-9745

Garage is Back! (kind of). The new Garage is set to open on September 9, and while retaining some elements from old Garage, it's certainly a far cry from the dank (but loveable) basement of the old Garage.

Garage aims to be a comfortable place where patrons can come for great food, drinks, and kalyans 24/7 at reasonable prices. On club nights patrons can decide whether to chill on the expansive terrace, or kick it up in the downstairs nightclub.

Garage takes the symbiotic relationship of the old Garage+Cafe Pushka that occupied the space above the Garage until 3 years ago and combines it into a single venue.

The club is located just over Kameniy Most, less than a kilometre from the Kremlin (even closer than the old location, although I'm not sure if that is a plus), near Metro Polyanka. Despite my "never south of the River" mentality (Sorry, First, Rai, Fabrique, etc), it's incredibly easy to get there, especially from the burgeoning club region near the White House (another bizarre juxtaposition).

Upon entering Garage, the first room you come to is a bright cafe-style room with several windows, perfect for a quick snack or coffee during the day, but a little awkward at night, when patrons opt for the more comfortable terrace or bar rooms, or head straight to the club.

The second room is the main bar/restaurant room, also called the "graffiti room", in honour of the large grafitti mural of sports cars in a (you guessed it) garage. All seats are couches in the form of car seats, and the tables are carbon fibre. The old Garage radiator fans are backlit and spin in the wall, and the red brickwork of old is now whitewashed. The metal lampshades now hang in a new, clear format, giving the room a strange sense of familiarity to those who knew the old Garage. A long bar with barstools caters to patrons who prefer to watch the bartenders in action making the new repertoire of delicious cocktails.

Passing through an almost-hidden corridor at the back of the bar will bring you to the terrace, which appears almost as another world. A light, airy combination of lounges, curtains, and a truly relaxed atmosphere make this my favourite place to chill with a kalyan in the new Garage.

On club nights the entry staircase will cause old Garage flashbacks- Garage has carefully relocated the original metal staircase and railings from the old Garage, and the only difference is the colour scheme. The deja-vu is enhanced once you reach the dancefloor, the coloured squares on the dancefloor, bar height and lights are all reminiscent of the Garage of yesteryear. The colour scheme is largely metallic, with a solid steel bar and a shattered-glass effect underneath.

Off the dancefloor, a large private room with cosy exposed brick can hold up to 6 table reservations, and another corridor leads to another two rooms with private bar and toilets, perfect for parties. Both are equipped for karaoke. Completing the below-ground offering are additional unisex bathrooms.

The menu is a mix of hits from the old Garage, and some popular offerings from the restaurant in the location that new Garage displaced. Typical Moscow-style Russian/European offerings are plentiful, but notable are some delicious foreign touches, the spicy thai salad, fajitas, empanadas, tom yum soup, burritos, chicken wings and more make for some tasty diversions! Surprisingly, Garage's sushi and other Japanese offerings have received rave reviews from customers.

The biggest difference in the offerings of the new Garage is the focus on new and interesting cocktails, and quality kalyans. The bar manager Sasha is freshly imported from one of Bulgaria's top cocktail bars, and has written a creative mix of specialty cocktails for the club, and injected imagination and fun into the cocktail process- ask for him to come up with something unique for you! Another noteable addition are the cocktail shakers- 1000 rubles for 500ml of a special mix available in five colours, served in your own shaker with shot glasses- try the legendary Garage red shaker!

Pre-opening, it's tough to evaluate how Garage will succeed in attracting both old and new clientele- necessary since the new location is over 3x larger than the old. The club has been open in a test regime for 3 weeks, and initial impressions have been positive. Perhaps the biggest thing in Garage's favour is the wholesale migration of virtually the entire team from the old Garage, so the new venue already seems familiar, and it certainly a comfortable place to pass the time. As a restaurant and 24/7 cafe and place to chill out, Garage certainly seems to have a bright future, and as a nightclub- Stay tuned!

At best, the new Garage strives to be the old Garage, but updated and made more comfortable. At worst, it's an eclectic mix of styles and environments with an overriding techno/automotive theme that don't quite click together. Time will tell which will prevail!

For the review and pictures of the old Garage, please click here.

Disclaimer: MoscowMAXIMUM is involved with Garage, so while I've tried to make this review as objective as possible, some bias may remain. So there! :)

Thursday 2 July 2009

Lonely Planet, Russian Poets, and MoscowMAXIMUM!

I am delighted to report that MoscowMAXIMUM has received yet another literary accolade! A Pulitzer, you ask? Even better- I have been quoted on the first page of the new Lonely Planet Russia guide!

Not only has Moscow's Nightlife been listed as the 2nd Greatest Highlight of Russia, the first and third spots quote Pushkin and Chekov, respectively! For anyone who may have accused this site of lacking literary depth, take note!

I would, however, like to disclaim responsibility for the selection of venues suggested for "Nightclubs". These are targeted at Lonely Planet readers, who typically represent a slightly different target market than readers of this publication, but all venues listed should offer a fun night out, depending on your tastes!

Saturday 13 June 2009

Review: Forbes Club (Форбс Клуб)

Note: At the time of publishing, Forbes has been "temporarily" closed and management is rumoured to be being replaced by Deluxe Promo (Opera, Soho, etc). Stay tuned.


Opening Hours: Fri/Sat 11pm-last customer
Category: Ultra-Exclusive, Nightclub
Feis Kontrol Rating: High - 4/5 (tempered by size of club)
Address: Maroseyka, 2 (entrance from alley next to Lubyanskiy Proezd, 15)
M: Lubyanka, Kitay Gorod
Phone: +7 (495) 234-3322


In a city packed with Megaclubs, Forbes is an attempt to create an Uberclub. A cavernous underground labyrinth, Forbes is crammed with superlatives, whether it's the 28 VIP tables, 11 bars, 4 levels of VIP, 10sqm bathroom cubicles replete with their own plasma, couch & facing double toilets, for that couple who just can't be apart for even a few minutes.

What Forbes often isn't crammed with, however, is people, and when it is, they all seem to be standing around waiting for something to happen. Because unfortuntely, in these crisis-ridden times, the club designers seemed to have overlooked the need for patrons to have fun and enjoy themselves.

Kind of like its sense of fun, Forbes can be hard to find. An original entrance off Maroseyka was boarded up, and now patrons gain access via a narrow lane off Lubyanskiy Proezd, 15. Other than the obligatory carpark of Cayennes and a cluster of stilletto-clad sparkles, nothing indicates you've arrived at Moscows answer to Hades. A glance inside the vaulted tent, however, shows Feis Kontrol specially imported from Soho, letting would-be patrons know they've bitten off more than a weekly jaunt to Propaganda. 

The Feis's legendary strict door policies are hampered by Forbes sheer size, meaning pretty much all comers are considered, and given Moscow's current financial state, even foreigners are not considered the scum they once were at Moscow's top doors.

Once through the entrance, you find yourself in a black-panelled antechamber, with everyone wondering which of several small corridors head where. The answer is that one heads to bathrooms, one to another coat-check, and the club complex itself lies down the staircase to the left.

I say club complex, because if you get bored (easily), once of the lost rewarding things to do in Forbes is explore the various subterranean tunnels branching off the main room, and seeing how many hidden bars you can find, and how many various levels of VIP security you can elude.

The club itself though, as you enter down the staircase, is visually impactful. A sizeable dancefloor/stage area is ringed by several layers of VIP tables, each more VIP than the next. The decor is best described as "shiny black", as the overall black & silver interior and abundance of steel & chrome reflect all that glitters (which is plenty). It's as if the designers of Famous had a tonne of interior fittings left over, and decided to use them on a place 5x the size.

The sound system is impressive, and it pumps out a steady mix of Russkiy pop house, or whatever one-hit-wonder happens to have been lured to the club that evening.

Drink prices are high, but not excessive given the nature of the club, and overall, on a good night with the right attitude, Forbes can indeed be fun. 

As Moscow's newest "it" place, Forbes is still busy with Moscows "in" crowd, but a lot of them have already reverted to Pacha or Soho.

If you're intent to head to a huge club and pay that much for drinks, I'd rather be at Rai, since the visuals are so much richer and they don't take themselves as seriously. Unfortunately, I don't think many of Moscow's glitterati would agree with me.

Friday 22 May 2009

Garage to Rise Again

For those of you who (like me) have been mourning the passing of Garage, there's great news for you- Garage will be re-opening in a new (undisclosed) location in June!

The new multi-level Garage will be, like its predecessor, aimed at a fun crowd who want a fun, comfortable location with great food and cocktails 24 hours a day. There will be a spacious and comfortable summer terrace in a courtyard shaded by trees and remote from the road, a large DJ Cafe/Restaurant with lounges, a long bar, and an updated design, while still staying faithful to some elements of the old Garage. Garage has imported specialty cocktail bartenders to serve all your favourite cocktails, and many more, and will have a Kalyan attendant 24 hours a day.

For those longing for the cosy underground haven that was the old Garage, you can venture downstairs Wednesday through Sunday to the nightclub, where once again, the owners have sought to update the design, while staying faithful to the original Garage. Here another bar will ring the dancefloor, and there are several rooms for private (or not-so-private) parties.

MoscowMAXIMUM will post more closer to the opening, but if you'd like to be kept informed of the pre-parties, official opening, and other events, please send an email with your full name, phone number, and email address to

(Yes, I know I've been hopelessly behind on posting updates for other club openings/closings, but MoscowMAXIMUM has been busy, I promise some comprehensive updates soon).

Friday 3 April 2009

Spring 2009: A New Dawn, or Worse To Come?

From the slew of new club openings in the last couple of months (and more to come), you'd think that Moscow is oblivious to the financial crisis ravaging the globe. Yet even sunken into the depths of the softest plush sofa, high as a kite, nestled between the breasts of some of your favourite Tyolki, you can't help but notice that the crowds are thinner, people are drinking less, the aggression levels are higher, and girls are preening closer and closer to get noticed and bought a drink. As a (male) friend recently commented, "It's amazing how much better-looking I've become since the crisis hit".

Other than far more girls willing to talk to you without the promise of a new Bentley, there are other benefits to the crisis for those still looking (and who can afford) to hit the Moscow scene:
  • Far more high-end venues and fewer patrons mean that Feis Kontrol is at an all-time low
  • For those saving in dollars or Euros, everything is 40% cheaper
  • Cheaper and available club tables
  • Fewer traffic jams in front of the hot spots
  • Promoters have even become polite
Recent club openings include the megaclub Pacha, the even bigger Forbes, bar/clubs such as Bar 8, Dukhless, and Gusatnikoff (a Novikov club!?), bars such as Bonnie & Clyde, and re-openings like Grafit. The trend of ever more specialised locations such as LaMur (after-hours club opening at 6am) continues, and there's never been a more diverse selection of music styles and venues. The only issue is, there just aren't enough dollars or people to make use of all these new venues, leaving weekends somewhat hit & miss, as people sometimes stumble(but more often not) into the venue that happens to be the hotspot of the night.

In an environment such as this, things can get nasty. Soho Rooms was hit by three drug raids and a power outage in three weeks, rumoured to be the work of somebody determined to put them out of business.

There have also been a handful of closings. Aside from Garage (rumoured to be reopening in a new location by June- watch this space!), Arma 17 suffered an blaze eerily close to the anniversary of Dyagilev, and Simachev lost its summer terrace (in February).

In this rapidly changing environment, where are the hot spots?

On the off-nights, Technika Molodezh has been the recipient of Garage's legendary R'n'B nights, kicking a good scene from about 2am on Wednesdays and Sundays. Karma Bar still pulls a good crowd on Sunday evenings for their R'n'B event. Thursday nights are still packed at Opera, although the format has shifted from their traditional R'n'B party to a more creative house mix by some of the top Moscow & imported DJ's, and Ninja is still rocking it for those cool enough to have cards.

Fri/Sat is harder to call. At the top-end, Soho Rooms has lost some of its crowd, but still hosts a fun party and will be the space to watch as summer approaches and its roof deck opens. It also has the hottest afterparty in town following Garage's demise, and the party kicks on till well after 10am. Krysha is still packed, but the crowd has long ago lost its edge. However, it should recover with increasing daylight on its legendary roof. Opera is still the most fun place to party on Saturdays, Rai has lost its buzz, Barkhat is packed with the under-20 crowd, and Famous continues to languish if you're not on a VIP table. Most is pretty much dead in the water despite a change of Feis.

Of the new venues, against all odds Pacha seems to have hit its stride and fills its considerable capacity Fri/Sat. Forbes' cavernous space and 28 VIP tables have a glass-half-empy feel, but it will be worth seeing how it evolves. Bar 8 ably fills the big shoes Bar 7 left, but it's remote location means its considerable pre-party appeal is muted.

On the pre-party circuit, for the dinner crowd Kalina Bar is always packed, as is Shatush and Blackberry. For bars, Bar 8, Kitchkok, Simachev and Chapurin all have a great vibe, although the close proximity of the last three mean that none are as packed as before.

Overall, Moscow's nightlife scene offers more variety than ever before, but unfortunately a lot of new options hit the market at an unfortunate moment. Venues will need to innovate to stay alive, and with more new clubs set to open, things are going to get interesting.

Other interesting innovations will be the introduction of a high-quality, reasonably-priced NY-style brunch at Kitchkok in coming weeks.

Stay tuned for more news and reviews to hit your screens soon!


Tuesday 20 January 2009

Garage Closes: The End of an Era

After 10 years of 24/7 existence, Club Garage finally closed it's doors last Sunday following a debaucherous party that was more akin to the final days of Rome than anything regularly staged in a Moscow club.

Love it or hate it, Garage has been a staple of Moscow club life for almost as long as there have been clubs in Moscow. It's legendary R'n'B nights on Wed and Sun drew a cross-section of Moscow's denizens: from billionaires to students, prostitutes to tourists, the regulars sometimes united only in one thing- their universal "Garage Love".

This small packed basement had been under constant threat of closure for the prior three years, since the building above it had been vacated and slated for redevelopment. The fact that this has finally come to pass in the midst of our "Krizis" and when all other development in Moscow has been halted almost comes as a cruel joke. Reportedly, the site will house a new 5-star hotel, which as much as MoscowMAXIMUM loves Garage, in all honesty is probably a better use for this prime Pushkinskaya location.

And what now for beloved Garage? Stay tuned, as rumours abound of a move to Polyanka, Kuznetsky Most, or yet another location, and a hopeful reopening in the months to come.

Until then, the battle-cry of "Garage Love Forever" will live only on in those infernal red shaker shots, available wherever the Garage tusovka congregate throughout Moscow.

For the original Garage posting and review, please see here.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Aquapark Kva-Kva: And Now For Something Completely Different

It's Christmas Eve, after midnight, snowing, and approximately -15C. How do we find some fun? Did someone say "waterslide"?

The logical answer, of course, is to head several km outside of Moscow to an (indoor) waterslide park, where there is a wild party with DJ's, dancing girls, and of course hundreds of people enjoying the waterslides, tubes, jacuzzis, wave pool, waterfalls, and of course- the music and alcohol.

Those looking for a example of the delightful randomness of Moscow could do worse than to lie back in the wave pool letting a fountain wash over you and observe the undulations of the dancers clad in club lingerie surrounded by shrieking young quasi-Muscovites hurtling down the python-like multicoloured tubes and consider how this all came to pass. Parties at waterslide parks are not exactly a new concept, but to do so beyond the city limits from 1am on Xmas morning, having transported the essence of a Moscow club to this godforsaken location, in the middle of a Russian winter? That's true Moscow innovation.

Aquapark Kva-Kva is located 2km past the MKAD on Yaroslavskoe Shosse, inside the XL shopping centre. It's a multi-story indoor waterpark housing no end of entertainment, with multiple caves, tubing pools, fountains, jacuzzis, and of course the requisite multi-story waterslides. My personal favourite was the wave pool surrounded by various fountains and jacuzzi's, which was the perfect location to dance, (attempt to) surf, or just observe or socialise with the hordes of enraptured water-clubgoers.

From this vantage point, the whole scene looked something like a Full Moon Party in Thailand that had somehow been kidnapped by giant orange and green snakes, and dumped in a snowy wasteland, the tropical location, cheap drinks, and lack of full moon at least somewhat offset by the abundance of scantily-clad devushki, the likes of which would inspire riots on Ko Phi Phi Beach.

The parties here are held fairly regularly, look for upcoming events on a site such as nightparty. The logistics of finding the place, getting tickets, entry, and sorting out lockers, deposits, etc, mean that I would strongly recommend having a competent Russian-speaker with you.

The crowd tends to be very young, and doesn't quite match the aesthetics of central Moscow, and the line at the bar means getting drinks is an absolute pain. However, it's a delightfully random night out, and if you're bored of the regular scene and are looking for something to remind you why you live in this wonderfully crazy country, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Review: Kitchkoсk (КичКок)

Opening Hours: 7 Days, 11am-12am (Sun-Wed), 12pm-last customer (Thu-Sat)
Category: Bar, Lounge, Restaurant, Nightclub
Feis Kontrol Rating: Moderate - 3/5
Address: Petrovka Ulitsa, 21.
M: Tverskaya, Teatralnaya, Trubnaya
Phone: +7 (495) 642-0358

This difficult-to-spell location is one of the best openings of late 2008 and has already proved itself a massive success in its opening couple of months, especially as a weekend pre-party, with a creative DJ spinning original and creative variants to a packed house of a moneyed, older crew, who seem at home in the Petrovka triumphirate of Kitchkock, Simachev, and Chapurin (or even the hapless Most). Despite some name similarity to the famous filmmaker Hitchcock, the only similarity that I can see they share is a British (in Kitchkock's case: punk) theme that weaves its way throughout the bar.

Kitchkok's discreet entrance on Petrovka, next door to karaoke bar Dzhelsamino belies the expansive interior that awaits at the top of the stairs, itself promising much through a combination of exposed brick, chain handrail, and sparkling floor. The interior of the main level of this lounge/cafe/club is an attractive blend of comfortable couches in a faux-antique style, intriguing artwork (think large stuffed red vinyl bears), and the modern black-and-metal touches that seem to be required of all Moscow locations (think "Escobar" done right). The main room is bisected by a staircase that leads to an all-white VIP table & couches upstairs, and another small golden VIP room for private "events" and narcotics usage.

The room opens out after the staircase, avoiding the low-ceiling claustrophobic feel that afflicts many new venues in Moscow. The two-storey space is hemmed by a bar on one side (and another under the staircase), the DJ booth on another, and another staircase leading to another VIP table balcony. Adjacent to the staircase are the bathrooms, the small size of which is offset by the tasteful (and occasionally hardcore) lesbian porn on show above the men's stalls- making your aim into the stall a little difficult if you linger here too long.

It's not entirely clear yet what Kitchkock wants to be when it grows up. The restaurant is certainly tasty and reasonably well-priced, but this isn't a place that comes to mind simply for dining. It's the weekend evenings that really take off, with a crowd that comes after 10 to dine, dance, and drink to creative remixes (of anything from classical music, to 80's (U2?), to funk and modern house), and then move on to other locations after the clubs open, meaning Kitchkock is the perfect option to fill those times once you've finished dinner and before the clubs really start kicking in.

Kitchkok is managed and promoted by Zeppelin, meaning several of the managers (and Feis Kontrol) will be familiar from Most. The (kilt-clad) staff is friendly, the service (especially on off-nights) is efficient, and the prices are reasonable. My main criticism of the place is the tiny entryway at the top of the stairs and inefficient coat-check, making it a pain to get in or out of Kitchkock with any sort of efficiency.

Overall, Kitchkock is an excellent new addition to Moscow's nightlife, filling a needed niche with great design, ambiance, service and pricing, proving that even in these "Krizis" times, a great new place will find a welcome in Moscow.

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!