Adrian Quetglas (the AQ of AQ Kitchen) is a busy man. As well as running one of Moscow’s most exciting new restaurants, he moonlights as the chef at Grand Cru, a nearby wine bar, and has another eponymously named restaurant in his native Mallorca. Quetglas has been in Russia for ten years, but his cooking owes more to Catalonia than it does to caviar or cabbage soup. The menu at AQ Kitchen is one of the most inventive in the city, featuring sharp combinations of ingredients, such as marinated salmon and baked beetroot or sea-bass carpaccio with “citrus tears” and a soy mousse.
The wine list of this casual, bustling space is appropriately cosmopolitan, too. Put together by the wine director Vlada Lesnichenko, who also selects the wines at Grand Cru, it features well-chosen bottles from Argentina, Austria, Chile, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain, as well as Russia’s burgeoning vineyards. Around a quarter of the 80 bins are available by the glass and prices are very reasonable, in part because of the weak rouble. But what to drink with the range of tapas-style starters? AQ Kitchen’s food can be pretty flavoursome, so it makes sense to choose wines that don’t compete with it. Lesnichenko paired three dishes – poultry pâté, beef tartare with mustard cream, and marinated salmon – with a minerally, bone-dry 2013 Finca Viladellops Xarel-lo (350 roubles by the glass) from the Penedés in Catalonia, which worked a treat.
My main course – braised veal cheek with potato ragout and “air herbs” – called for a toothsome red. Feeling adventurous, I tried a glass of the 2013 Alma Valley Merlot from the Crimea (1,980 roubles per bottle), which was dense and structured, if a little over-oaked, before moving back to something Spanish. The 2013 Raul Pérez El Castro de Valtuille Joven (330 roubles per glass) is everything a youthful Mencía should be: juicy, unoaked, refreshing and brimming with cassis and blueberry fruit. Its acidity contrasted nicely with the succulent veal.
It was time to try another Russian wine with dessert. The flamboyant coconut ice dome and pineapple sorbet married nicely with the sweet, fragrant, orange-peel and peach-like 2013 Gai Kodzor Muscat (360 roubles) from Anapa. It was a fitting end to a great meal, mingling Mediterranean flair with a wine from a small estate on the Black Sea. Who needs caviar when you’ve got a combination like that?
aq.kitchen; 6,000 roubles ($94) for two plus wine
Where else to go and what to drink
Traditional, white-tablecloth cuisine with an excellent if occasionally pricey list.
Best white: 2014 Simonsig Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch One of the bargains on the Pushkin list, this is a medium-bodied style of Chenin Blanc from one of the Cape’s most consistent performers. Made for early drinking, it’s all about fruit, with pear and nectarine set off by the grape’s classic vibrancy and acidity. 2,850 roubles
Best red: 2012 Terrazas de los Andes Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, Mendoza An elegantly framed Argentine wine that combines fruit from traditional Luján and the trendy, high-altitude Uco Valley, it smacks of black fruit and fig and whispers of green herbs, subtle oak and fine-grained tannins. 4,950 roubles
A fashionable, wine-focused “gastrobar” that’s worth the trek to the suburbs.
Best white: 2014 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough Kevin Judd used to be the winemaker at Cloudy Bay, but now he’s making even better Sauvignons under his own label. This is refreshingly dry and pithy for a Marlborough white, with notes of grapefruit and elderflower, tangy acidity and undertones of stone fruit and blackcurrant leaf. 3,300 roubles
Best Red: 2011 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico Paolo de Marchi consistently produces some of the best-value reds in Tuscany. This blends mostly Sangiovese, with 15% Canaiolo and (unusually for a Chianti) 5% Syrah, is savoury and refined with subtle red-cherry and rose-petal aromas, understated oak, a nip of tannin and a fine, tapering finish. 2,900 roubles