This is the city of eternal mold, the city of fossilized vodka color, city of gray stone, dirty bricks, flooded with rains that bring no freshness, surrounded by endless embankments, connected by melancholic bridges. Surprisingly, there’s a place in this city for a very sunny, childishly joyful, vibrant, dazzlingly happy Portuguese charm. I’m talking about a small bar – Tawny Bar – that occupies a modest, but lovely tiny space in-between two buildings on the Fontanka, on the left of the Golitsyn loft, close to Sakhinkle Kazbegi with the similar hospitable attitude.

From the outside, Tawny Bar appears totally inconspicuous and stands out only by its elegant wooden door and distinctive motley tile in-between the short flight of stairs. When you step over the threshold you find a scattering of everything that you know about Portugal, except that the yellow funicular tram does not take you to the second floor. Tile, the play of light refracted from the Sun through yellow matte glass blocks, the walls covered in azulege-like frescoes (it is easy as pie to take it for a real tile on the photo), the inner garden and such simplicity and sincerity – and again that feeling that no one had ever planned to build something here and didn’t build it, and everything grew by itself.

There’s a welcoming bar, a part of the kitchen and an access to the inner yard garden, where there’s a lot of greenery, my favorite light bulbs hanging above the head and just three (or four) tables. The old-fashioned staircase leads to the second floor where there is another bar, this time overlooking the Fontanka river through a triangular window, a small hall and a pass way to the balcony. I remembered the hostel in which I stayed in Lisbon: the inner yard, where breakfast was served in the morning with carved balconies above.

The menu is still the same sparkling Portugal, unless there are no sardines on the grill. But there’s fish, seafood and meat, which Roma Redman is in charge of, and an obligatory Pastel de nata cake (100 rubles and it’s yours). The choice of port wine is surprisingly limited, but there is traditional Portuguese cherry liquor ginja. It’s sweeter than sweet, like my memories of this country.

It seemed that it was slightly overpriced, but it did not spoil the impression. Apparently, we chose the right strategy and showed up early at the opening hours: they gave us a tour around and allowed us to choose seats, and then we moved to another seats back-and-forth: from the inner yard to the bar counter, from the bar counter to the balcony. Later on, so many devotees and aficionados flow in, so that there is not enough room to swing a cat. Definitely one of the must-visit places of this season, particularly in the prospect of the coming fall; I wonder what’s gonna happen to the inner yard and balconies. I strongly recommend catching up with the warm days if there’s any left for this city.


Fontanka river embankment 20, St. Petersburg

Mon-Sun 3:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.

+7 (969) 709-13-13