Fish with mixed vegetables at Cafe Laura

Cafe Laura: Cheap Eats Near the Dorms!

Published: August 5, 2011

Cafe Laura / Кафе Лаура
Наличная ул., 14. (See Map)
Business Lunch for ~$7.00

You’d have a hard time ending up here unless you happened to be walking between the loading dock at Morskoi Voksal and the Norman Supermarket – or if you jump off the bus a bit early on your way home to the dorm after classes at SPbGU.

The Atmosphere
Located on the ground floor of a gray Soviet-style apartment building, and marked with a sign outside that reads simply “Кафе,” Cafe Laura’s nondescript exterior belies the inviting and cozy atmosphere inside. The design is cheery and colorful, the seats are cushioned and comfortable, and best of all (especially for a larger group) space is not really an issue.

If you come in for lunch you’ll be presented with the “Business Lunch” option for 200 rubles (~$7), which is not a bad deal at all considering the healthy portions you’ll be getting. When we were there, the woman behind the counter was extremely friendly and patient, waiting for us to wade through each choice of the salad, soup, main course, and side dish options (of which there were 3 or 4 each). She was quick to explain anytime there was any kind of a misunderstanding on our parts as to what the choices were. And there were some interesting choices.

The Food
The business lunches that we settled on included apple compote to drink, the vitamin salad (cold, fresh cabbage with carrot slices), the pelmeni and the fish for main courses, the mixed vegetables as a side, and the kvas okroshka soup. I’ll describe each in order…

  • The compote (apple): Fine. Not the best apple compote I’ve ever had…it tasted more like sugar water than a fruit drink. But it was nice to have a drink included in the business lunch, which I’ve found is not always the case.
  • The vitamin salad: Tasty. I thought it was a bit bland and under-spiced, but certainly it was fresh and crisp. My Swedish friends who had come along with me to my latest hole-in-the-wall thought this was one of the best parts of the meal. For my money, though, the vitamin salad from Cafe Almaz takes the cake. But this one was fine.
  • The okroshka in kvas: “Interesting.” In hindsight, I wish I could chalk this decision up to a simple misreading of the menu, but unfortunately I knew exactly what I was getting. I had never heard of, let alone tried, “kvas-ni” soup of any kind, but I’m always game for something new and different. Our collective assessment was that this was a little too… weird; the kvas broth would have been better served in a glass, without sour cream, green onions, or ham. And we just couldn’t get past the fact that our soup was fizzy.
  • The mixed vegetables side dish: Delicious. Consisted of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and squash, spiced in a mild, savory sauce. Arguably the best part of my meal, even though it was just the side.
  • The main course (Pelmeni): My friend Jesaia gives them the thumbs up. They came neatly arranged in a circle on his plate, boiled and covered lightly in broth and sour cream. (Fish under Cheese and Spiced Sour cream): Tasty. I can’t be sure exactly what the spices were, or what type of fish it was, but it was satisfying. Certainly not spicy, but not bland either – a nice, understated flavor. And a fairly sizable portion, too! My friend Josefin and I both enjoyed ours.

Final Assessment
Despite the fact that it was almost impossible for any of us to make it through our kvas soup, the meal as a whole was solid – and coupled with the unusually friendly service, I would absolutely return to Cafe Laura.

For groups and faculty-led tours, Café Laura has a decent menu and plenty of space. Of course, its location is near nothing in particular and it has little to offer in the way of a real cultural experience. But if it so happens that you are in the neighborhood, this would be a great, affordable place to stop by.

About the author

Chris Chaplin

Chris Chaplin is an undergraduate studying law and conflict resolution at the University of Oregon. He previously worked for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan from 2007-2009. He is currently studying Russian as a Second Language and serving an internship with Peace House in St. Petersburg through SRAS. He really, really loves food.

Program attended: Challenge Grants: Funding for Study Abroad

View all posts by: Chris Chaplin

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