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From the palace to the restaurant

Mysterious paths of history connect the shadows of the court culture to the creative space of a modern restaurant. Haute cuisine originated in the days of the kings’ courts when power asserted itself by means of magnificent performances. The king’s dinner at Versailles was a ceremony that could be attended by any well-dressed man – but only as a spectator.

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Any nobleman could be admitted to the so called ‘open table’ at the manor house, even if he was hardly familiar to the host. Luxurious room interiors, lavish table serving, elegant taste and diversity of cuisine, the latest culinary novelties, virtuosity of the orchestra playing during the dining time, fine manners and costumes of butlers – all these aspects of dining were regarded with great importance.

In the Middle Ages the word ‘restaurant’ was used in reference to a curative broth. It was prepared for the noblemen from a capon on a heated bath with addition of golden coins, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, jasper and other good and miraculous precious stones.

In France the word ‘restaurant’ originally signified a substantial restorative broth; in the Middle Ages when medicine was indivisible from alchemistry and magic, it was brewed with addition of gold, diamonds, rubies and other precious stones that were believed to possess magic properties. First restaurateurs in the contemporary sense of this word were shaped by the aristocratic culture. Many of them used to serve as chefs in the houses of the royalties and other noblemen. On the eve of the Great French Revolution, owners of the fashionable Parisian establishments, who offered the curative broth, introduced several important innovations: an extended menu with fixed prices, separate tables and individual service. From that time forth, everyone could dine as a king – provided he had money, of course.

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In the 19th century the court life gradually lost its former significance, and restaurant dining became the main type of festal eating. Thanks to it, specialized cutlery and modern dining etiquette emerged. The restaurants acquired the role of a new centre of gravity for high society. In the 1920s this phenomenon was coined into the term ‘café society’, the predecessor of the contemporary jet set.

Vision of a Palace

Turandot Palace was designed by the owner of Maison Dellos holding, the Russian entrepreneur, restaurateur, professional architect and fine art restorer Andrey K. Dellos and the Honoured Artist of Russia, decorator Alexander Popov. In 2014 their design-projects of restaurants, including Turandot, were recognized among the most remarkable award-winning works and brought A. K. Dellos the title of the Honoured Academician of the Russian Academy of Arts.

Specially for the project Andrey Dellos set up his own workshops, where during six years several hundred of artists and artisans were crafting wooden panels, bronze décor, moldings, decorative paintings, crystal chandeliers, furniture and tableware.

At the moment of the construction works commencement, façade was the only surviving element of the mansion that once belonged to Catherine’s the Great favourive Rimsky-Korsakov (Tverskoy Boulevard, 26), with the Soviet frame of brick and concrete hiding beneath. Design and construction works took 6 and a half years. Specially for the project Andrey Dellos created his own workshops where artists, sculptors and artisans – several hundred overall – were designing and crafting wooden panels, bronze décor elements and lighting units, stucco (mixture of alabaster with plaster) moldings, mosaic parquet, decorative paintings, crystal chandelier pendants, carved furniture and porcelain tableware.

As it is often the case in palace construction, assignments could change a few times until perfect results were not achieved. It took three months to design the bindweed motif, swirling around the columns of the main hall. In order to achieve the right effect of noble patina on wooden elements, the gilders completed a training course in Florence. The rest of the interior items were produced by the Russian, French, English and Italian manufactures specially for Turandot by original sketches. Numerous antique items contribute to the setting. Turandot Restaurant was opened for public in 2005.

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“The spirit of fine and whimsical trifles”

A lthough Turnador halls feature a wide range of palace styles from the Renaissance to Neoclassicism , late baroque and chinoiserie dominate which is stressed in its name.

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Connections between the West and the East played a tremendous role in the world of the European luxury. For many centuries, the world trade was fed by the European long-dream of the exotic Orient, the birth-place of the most extravagant and sought after goods such as spices, porcelain and Chinese silk. This brought marvelous fruits in art and literature as well. The Westernised Chinese-like style with bent roofs, stylized ornaments and conventional costumes served as a universal language means of the festival. In 17–18 centuries, collecting authentic Far-Eastern items turned into a new fashion. Especially popular goods – lacquer and porcelain – were produced in China exclusively for export to Europe and adapted to Western tastes and demands.

Princes Turandot’s native land, China, was viewed as a mythical land in the eyes of the Europeans in the baroque era. Western public first discovered Turandot’s story thanks to Petit de La Croix’s collection of stories, “1001 days”, published in 1711.

Oriental tales of the European writes are penetrated with the same mood of a sophisticated game. One of the most renowned of them, Turandot, is a story of a Chinese princess who proposed her grooms unguessable riddles. First published in French in 1711 by the orientalist Petit de La Croix in the collection of stories “1001 days” and turned to a comic opera by the famous man of letters Lesage, it soon attracted Count Gozzi’s attention. Thus, one of the most widely-known enchanting shows of the Venetian fairy-teller was created.