It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that during our stay in St Petersburg, we hardly ventured outside of a 2km radius of our incredibly centrally-located apartment, a mere five minutes from the Hermitage Museum and two minutes from the main thoroughfare Nevsky Prospekt. To be fair, there was so much to see and do (and eat!) close to home that we hardly needed to go much further than our doorstep.
One of the restaurants that we dropped into after a heavy snowstorm was Stolle. Though it’s technically a ‘chain’ restaurant with multiple branches throughout the city, our free walking tour guide suggested it as a fantastic place to go to try authentic Russian pies. A recommendation for a good pie always gets me excited, so to Stolle for lunch!
We went to the Stolle branch on Nevsky Prospekt on a cold and wet wintry day in St Petersburg, where we experienced our first real snowstorm. Since then we’ve experienced the soft feathery snowfall that makes you feel like you’re in a winter wonderland – but this was no magical wonderland, it was a torrential downpour of cold wet snow that trickles down your neck! I was in dire need of a warm, cosy cafe to help me dry off, and Stolle was the perfect place to go.
The system at Stolle is simple – you can either eat in, or order your pie to go at the counter. It seems to be a popular choice for feeding large groups as well, as I saw a number of people walking out with large boxes filled with enough slices of pie to feed a dozen people or more.
While they have other items available on the menu for eat-in diners including other Russian specialities such as borscht soup, we decided to stick with what was recommended by our guide – their large varieties of pies. We started off with three half-serves of savoury pies. You can order in either half or full serves, depending how hungry you’re feeling. A full serve with a half serve of dessert pie is just right for lunch for one person!
We started with a half serve of the Salmon Pie for 130 Rubles, or around $2.50 AUD. I was extremely surprised when I had my first mouthful of Russian pie – I didn’t expect a sweet, almost bread-like doughy pastry that managed to caramelise on top with a sweet glaze. It almost reminded me in taste, though not texture, of the Asian Breadtop-esque bread. A sweet surprise, as it goes well with both savoury fillings like the salmon, and sweet pies as well.
The second pie was a Green Onion and Egg Pie (70 Rubles, or $1.40 AUD) – a mistaken order on my part as I peered at all the pies at the counter, as I’d been hoping for a more common combination like spinach and ricotta. For that reason I was a little disappointed in the onion and egg combination as it didn’t have much flavour to it, deriving most of its flavour from the pastry itself.
The third savoury pie we ordered was the Kulyebyaka with Meat (90 Rubles to $1.80 AUD), filled with a surprisingly dry and gristly mince mix, very unlike the gravy-filled meat pies you become used to as an Aussie. That’s not to say that it wasn’t a nice pie as the mince was well-spiced however as it was quite dry, it was quite difficult to eat with a knife and fork as the mince mix just fell out all over the plate.
We sat for a while after we had our first three slices of pie, trying to decide if we wanted more or not. Gluttony soon won out, and we chose one more savoury pie – a Cabbage Pie With Egg (50 Rubles, or $1 AUD). Interestingly the cabbage and the egg weren’t integrated in the mix and was layered inside instead. It could have been very plain pie, but it worked surprisingly well with the fresh, flavourful dill.
You can’t go into a pie shop and not order a dessert pie. I had a half serve of the Apple Pie (50 Rubles, $1 AUD). As deliciously cinnamony as the apple mix was (though the base was a bit too crispy and well-cooked), I found myself wishing for something more….a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on the side maybe? It’s not a very Russian thing to wish for unfortunately, and I think the staff would have frowned at me if I’d requested it!
K opted for a slice of the Blackberry Pie (75 Rubles, $1.50 AUD), which is a seasonal offering. At other times of the year, they’ll offer a strawberry pie, or perhaps a lingonberry pie. The blackberry mix tasted extremely sweet, as though they’d added a lot of sugar to counteract the natural tartness of the blackberries. It made the filling taste like blackberry jam – not a bad thing!
Russian pies are interestingly and certainly not like the Aussie meat pie – instead they’re baked in large rectangular or square pie tins, and slices are cut out of them on request. The fillings are a lot more interesting than meat and gravy or chicken and vegetable, and there’s a lot of variety to choose from. There are over a dozen at Stolle including an interesting rabbit pie or a herring pie. There’s something for everyone at Stolle…and don’t forget to finish your meal with a slice of dessert pie!
Stolle is located at 11 Nevsky Prospect in Saint Petersburg, Russia.