On the Bagration Bridge, the five-year-old Vensky Dvor (Wienerhof) cafe-restaurant has a great outlook over the Moscow River. This is especially true of the restaurant, which is situated in a long, triangular wigwam of glass with views available on both sides. However, I whirled the wife off to the cafe part, which is less formal than the rather austere restaurant with its chessboard-tiled floor. The menus are the same, but the cafe has the advantage of live instrumental music in a calming, more intimate atmosphere with bucket chairs and laminated surfaces. The walls boast Gustav Klimt prints and lots of mirrors, and the professional waiters have photos on their name badges. This all reminded me of a high-class hotel dining room with its element of soothing pretentiousness. Not the sort of place you're going to visit in tattered jeans and a T-shirt.
The food on offer is largely central European, with an accent on Austrian dishes. There is also a fine wine list and a separate sushi menu. We sifted through all this over cocktails - a rum- and Galliano-based Yellow Devil ($5) and a well-made Tequila Jazz ($5). When we had made the crucial decisions, our shared starters turned out to be superb, and definitely the pick of the meal as a whole. A cold, pastryless vegetable pie ($9) featured compact layers of eggplant, zucchini, spinach, tomatoes and various herbs; a delicious spinach strudel ($6) had a lovely side sauce of feta cheese and garlic; two large pork and bacon pancakes ($7) were amply stuffed with meat and presented with thick sour cream. After this, the main courses were somewhat disappointing - the wife went for a fairly standard spaghetti bolognese ($10), while I feasted on an enormous, but monotonous, slab of Vienna schnitzel ($17) which came with a small green salad. I should have gone for the venison in a peach sauce, but life is full of regrets, and I had the consolation of Anschluss with the spaghetti, as the love of my life was already full from the starters.
To put the final touches on the meal, we shared a pot of Japanese Kokeicha green tea ($4), but I thought I would compensate for this health-conscious approach by pigging out on a plate of biscuits and pastries from the dessert buffet ($8). My plans were almost foiled when I waltzed over to the sweets, took the item of crockery which seemed to have a diameter fractionally bigger than the rest ... only to have the plate snatched (at least in a metaphorical sense) from my hands by a waiter, who appeared out of the blue with the news that he was responsible for loading up the desserts. This came as a blow to my very core, but luckily therein lies my gluttony, which was able to assert itself by my giving the good man appropriate instructions without feeling in the least self-conscious, despite a fixed, angry stare from the spouse. After threading my way back to our table, careful not to lose any of the mini morsels jammed onto the plate, I soon realized the error of my ways, as the desserts were somewhat dry and tasteless. It was obvious I should have chosen something specific from the vast sweets menu that Vensky Dvor offers, rather than just going for as much as possible. The moral of this story is that if it's a question of quality or quantity, do not accept the question - always go for both.
Vensky Dvor is worth checking out if you're well dressed and in the area - unlikely because it's in a shopping center, on a bridge. That said, the food was generally good. In addition, the view is excellent and the musical trio playing piano, double bass and banjo (!) provided another refreshing backdrop to our meal.