Hermitage Restaurant/Moscow School of Modern Drama Theatre

Nikolai Galkin / TASS
In the 1860s, chef Lucien Olivier, the creator of the famous Olivier salad and Moscow's best-known chef, bought a large piece of a waste lot, where Neglinnaya River used to flow before it was hidden in the underground tunnel, from merchant Yakov Pegov. Afonka's Tavern, which stood at the corner of Neglinnaya Ulitsa (Neglinnaya Street) and Petrovsky Bulvar (Petrovsky Boulevard), was famous for its busboys, who hid between the flowerpots and whistled in imitation of nightingales, and in the wastelands in front of the tavern "the frogs croaked at night, and the tavern's regulars yelled after being robbed." Olivier paved the square and the adjacent streets, and replaced the tavern with a restaurant, designed by architect Dmitry Chichagov.

Up until the revolution of 1917, Hermitage Olivier (later simply known as the Hermitage) was the most famous restaurant in Moscow. Vladimir Gilyarovsky even dedicated a separate chapter of his Moscow and Muscovites book to this place, describing the decades of its fame with a certain degree of snobbery:

"The white column hall of Hermitage is magnificent, and organizing anniversary celebrations has become an established practice here. In 1899, during the Pushkin days, it held the Pushkin dinner, attended by all the famous writers of that time.
Usually, it was the location of the rich merchant weddings with hundreds of guests.
The "commoners" used their hands to eat the food laid out on Dresden china plates: the Roune ducks imported from France, the red-legged partridges from Switzerland, and the sole fish from the Mediterranean Sea…
Calville apples, each one of them with a coat of arms, costing five rubles a piece… And the merchant guests would hide the duchess pears and calville apples in the back pockets of their long frocks, to bring them back to Taganka, to their old-fashioned houses that smelled of lamp oil and sour crout…"

In truth, the restaurant was equally popular with merchants and Moscow intelligentsia: composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky celebrated his wedding here, formal dinners in honour of Ivan Turgenev and Fyodor Dostoyevsky were hosted in its halls, Maxim Gorky celebrated the premiere of his The Lower Depths play, regular "professorial dinners" were held, and each year the restaurant held a great celebration in honour of Tatiana's Day, the founding date of the Moscow University.

After the revolution of 1917, the building was turned into the House of Peasants, and in 1989 it was given to the School of Modern Drama Theatre. Unfortunately, there was a big fire in 2013, and today the building still awaits its restoration.