Most mornings we'd stagger downstairs somewhere around 9:30 or 10--don't worry, I'd fortified myself with my in-room espresso maker long before--and we'd go to this cafe/bar they had in the building's courtyard. Actually the whole thing was very comfortable and clever. They'd glassed in the opening over the courtyard to make this usable year-round, but they set up the chairs and decoration like a high-end cafe, albeit one with much more space than most outdoor cafes I've ever been to.
I couldn't tell if the balconies were actually real, but my impression is that they were not; it seemed to me like most of the GHE rooms looked out over one of the neighboring streets. Then again, it might be nice to have the light the courtyard provided but with less noise than some of the busier streets.
Whatever the layout, it was a great place to get good breakfast, snacks, other lighter food, drinks and desserts for what was a reasonable price by GHE standards. In fact, my impression was that most of the restaurants in the hotel, or at least in our end and floor of it, used the same kitchen, so Jaime and I were pretty pleased we found this one on the second day. $70 a day for fancy breakfast just wasn't what either of us wanted.
That being said, we did somehow find time to drink. In fact, one night we made our dinner out of drinks and bar food, pretty funny for two people who aren't generally heavy drinkers (Jaime especially). It wasn't hard to do when the setting was like this, though, and they brought us multi-tiered trays of nuts, olives, and high-end party mix with every round of drinks. For some reason, we just didn't feel like moving, especially when there was an extensive cocktail list to try!
First of all, the main dining room at the GHE really is one of those 19th-c. dining palaces, and it's been beautifully restored. Most of the seating is on the ground floor; it's possible to go up into the balcony, but I don't think there are any dining tables there. As you can see here, the stained glass truly is extraordinary, and musicians on the stage played both beautifully and discreetly. Given how much I generally hate live music at a restaurant, that last point was important to me!
Well, vodka at the GHE is not served in any ordinary shotglass; it's served in this miniature wineglass that must hold the equivalent of 2-3 shots per pour. (Jaime's IPhone is next to it for comparison.) Then, there was the vodka itself. It was smooth. It was warmish. It was oh so easy to drink. Unlike Jaime, I just couldn't do the "down in one" the waiter recommended, but even then it was completely pleasant--and completely unexpected. I now understood the Russian obsession with vodka, even though I switched from there to the yummy Ukrainian champagne. Jaime continued to show his respect for Russia by alternating vodka and champagne throughout our 4-hour meal.
Not surprisingly, a $100 breakfast in a city and country with the economic issues of modern Russia brings out a certain group of people. While Jaime was fascinated with some of the elderly folks behind me and the "we're too cool for school" French speakers next to us, eventually we both focused on a group sitting slightly behind Jaime. They were two Russian couples; one had two impeccably dressed little girls, while with the other the wife (who was stunning) was probably 7-8 months pregnant. We both got a kick out of the mixture of celebration and nonchalance the women showed, while the guys were clearly getting a kick out of taking their wives for a big birthday celebration. The high point was when our waiter brought out the birthday cake, complete with sparklers. Everyone was suitably pleased and embarrassed at the reaction of everyone around (smiles & applause), while our waiter handled it with charm and aplomb.
After cake and sparklers, Jaime and I were inspired to, once again, sample from the dessert buffet, while of course, washing things down with champagne or, in my case, spiked cappuccinos. Is it any wonder that we had to go wander around for an hour or two after this and just didn't have any appetite for dinner that night? (although there the chocolates and drinks in the room, enjoyed on the sun porch, surely helped).
Yep, it was a meal to end all meals.