I wasn’t going to go. It was chilly and it would be depressing. There would be a big crowd of people there to say goodbye and to reminisce about better times.
But then I went. It was the last night that the restaurant Scandinavia — “Scandi” — was going to be open, and I just had to go and say goodbye. For more than 20 years, it was a vital fixture in Moscow’s foreign community. Owned and operated by Swedish management, the food and service and atmosphere were dependably excellent, though remarkably (for Moscow) unpretentious. It felt very…..European.
And in summers, there was the Scandi terrace. If you didn’t know it, you won’t know it now. But for all of us who did, its opening each year meant that summer had arrived. Snuggled in a courtyard just off of Tverskaya, there was nothing particularly special about it, except it was so comfortable and inviting. You were certain to run into people you knew any time you went. And long, long before Moscow became gripped in the hamburger craze, Scandi easily had the best burger in town. I mean it really was something spectacular, and almost worth its absurd cost.
The awnings, chairs and tables were dark green and had a Nordic simplicity and comfort. Each summer, the legendary manager Sandra would fly down from Sweden to run things. She was wonderful — warm, hardworking, and friendly. Her staff was wonderful — warm, hardworking, and friendly — and a tribute to her skill as a manager. We all felt at home on the Scandi terrace. And in a way, we were.
And sometimes we were too at home. A friend of mine somehow procured — as a wedding or birthday present, I think — a giant official “KGB” pump thermos, with the initials, insignia, shield and all emblazoned on it. Each year, we would meet for our annual “Thermos Night” at Scandi. My friend would plop the thing in the center of the terrace table and we would order several bottles of chardonnay to fill it.