Bringing an enticing fusion of Asian cuisines to the heart of St PetersburgThe iconic Belmond Grand Hotel Europe in St Petersburg has unveiled a stylish new restaurant, its most ambitious and anticipated culinary opening to date. Paying tribute to Asia’s vibrant gastronomic culture and heritage, the 140 seat restaurant, named AZIA, puts a creative twist on classic recipes and cooking techniques expertly combining past and present in new and imaginative ways. AZIA comes at an exciting time for the hotel as it celebrates its 140 year anniversary.
Featuring innovative cuisine inspired by the exotic flavours of East Asia, AZIA’s menu is organised not by geographical region but by how the dishes have been created. Using fire and steam from woks and tandoors, ingredients are combined with oriental spices, of which there are more than 150 varieties. Signature dishes include Singapore style crab with chilli, chicken cooked in the tandoor with carrot and ginger and steamed buns filled with lobster meat and five spices. Dishes are accompanied by traditional homemade Asian breads, Indian marinades and freshly made wasabi. A sushi menu is also available at a dedicated sushi bar.
Great consideration has been given to the wine list which features wines sourced from 20 different countries. A sommelier is on hand to help choose between classic bottles and lesser known varieties including Magrez Aruga, which is created from Koshu grapes from the Japanese city of Isehara.
In a Tokyo-inspired bar area, expert mixologists create the perfect tea infused-cocktails such as the Hazuki, which is a lavish combination of home-made brandy-soaked apricots and jasmine tea puree crowned with Prosecco and lemongrass essence. Classic cocktails, cocktails featuring spirits aged in wood barrels (including a Negroni made with aged gin and a Manhattan created using aged bourbon) and a collection of sake and shochu drinks are also available.
AZIA has been designed by renowned Japanese interior design firm Super Potato, who have drawn inspiration from the Far East and Russia. Featuring a total area of 700m2, the restaurant is divided into different areas including a bar, dining room, semi-private dining room for eight people, sushi and sashimi counter with seating and open kitchen.
The design of the restaurant is based on ‘contrasts’ – old versus new, East versus West – and emphasises Asian materials. Importance is also given to traditional Russian fabrics and architecture, whose influence can be seen in the traditional patterns of the handmade wall tiles, ceiling and rugs. Materials used have been sourced in Asia wherever possible and Castor Aralia wood (native to the Far East) and natural stone combine with glass, iron, sleek stainless steel and handmade brick tiles to create a contemporary but warm feel.
An important aspect of Japanese philosophy is the life extension of old things, and with this in mind, the large doors leading into the restaurant have been created using different sizes of reclaimed metal. Another design feature of AZIA is the sushi bar counter, which is made of Aji stone, also known as ‘diamond granite’. One of three great types of Japanese granite, it is mined in a remote area of the Kagawa Prefecture in Japan. Aji granite is known for its fine grain dotted with flickers of black mica minerals, giving it a sleek and classic feel. Spice jars line the wall, forming the backdrop.
AZIA joins L’Europe and Caviar Bar & Restaurant dining options at Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, which are favoured by guests and locals alike. L’Europe is Russia’s oldest continually serving restaurant, a culinary hotspot brimming with timeless elegance. Caviar Bar & Restaurant is St Petersburg’s only caviar restaurant, in which guests can experience the finest Russian cuisine in a stunning art nouveau setting.
AZIA forms part of a larger phased refurbishment at Belmond Grand Hotel Europe. In 2014 the hotel launched six ultra-luxury suites, including the largest Presidential Suite in St Petersburg and in the same year all conference and event facilities were updated. This came hot on the heels of the careful restoration of the hotel’s neo-baroque façade, which completed in 2013.