There are landmarks that become so strongly associated with the appearance of the place they are situated in that they are perceived as its symbol. This is the case with the "Gagripsh" restaurant in Gagra, Abkhazia, located on the coast of the Black Sea. To visit Gagra without stopping by "Gagripsh" means missing out on the opportunity to experience a truly iconic establishment in this resort town.
View of the hotel and restaurant Gagripsh
The establishment's history dates back to 1902 when Prince Alexander of Oldenburg, the founder of the Gagra resort, attended the World's Fair in Paris. Among many unique structures, he purchased a wooden construction. The disassembled building was transported from Scandinavia to Gagra. A distinctive feature of the structure was that it consisted entirely of non-metallic fittings.
Following a lengthy assembly process, the building was ready for use, and a restaurant was established on its premises. Thanks to its architectural design, the complex seamlessly blended with the landscape, becoming a beautiful addition to the palace of Princess Eugenia of Oldenburg. On January 9, 1903, a grand event took place here to celebrate the opening of the Gagra resort.
The "Gagripsh" restaurant is located in the Old part of the city, which is why its interior and overall appearance speak of its rich past. The main decoration of the façade is an antique mechanical clock that is hand-wound. The mechanism is installed inside the building.
The interior exudes elegance and grandeur reminiscent of a bygone era. High ceilings and closely spaced tables characterise the space, yet conversations from neighbouring tables are inaudible, allowing you to relax comfortably. A unique feature is the stage where Fyodor Chaliapin once performed. Today, live concerts by violinists, saxophonists, and performers of other musical genres take place here.
A spacious balcony stretches along the perimeter of the hall on the second floor. Here, you can take a stroll and enjoy the picturesque view. There are separate smoking areas. From this vantage point, you can observe the workings of the clock mechanism. Additionally, there are two smaller balconies on the third floor, accessible by stairs.
Art and Culture in "Gagripsh"
The "Gagripsh" restaurant boasts a rich and fascinating history, having welcomed various creative personalities throughout the years. Some discovered their muse within its walls, while others simply enjoyed the serenity and beauty of the location.
Emperor Nicholas II, Joseph Stalin, writers Anton Chekhov, Ivan Bunin, Maxim Gorky, and singer Fyodor Chaliapin are just a few of the esteemed individuals who have graced the hall. Later on, Leonid Leonov and Bruno Yasensky met with Nestor Lakoba, the Chairman of the Central Election Commission of Abkhazia, at the "Gagripsh" hotel.
Emperor Nicholas II was among the first distinguished guests to visit the new resort. He came to Abkhazia in May 1912 to visit his relative Alexander of Oldenburg.
Receiving Nikolay II
"Emperor Nicholas II was greeted with bread and salt by representatives of the Abkhazian aristocracy, led by Alexander Grigorievich Chachba, the head of Sukhum. Chachba actively participated in organising the celebratory event. The guests gathered at the house (now the "Gagripsh" restaurant), where they enjoyed tea and conversation with the prince and Abkhazian nobility in an intimate setting. Later, they embarked on a car ride and explored the park."
During its heyday, the restaurant was popular among government and political circles. Joseph Stalin had a penchant for the local cuisine and frequently visited to savour his favourite dishes while relaxing amidst the picturesque landscape and rejuvenating climate.
Cultural and artistic figures, such as Fyodor Chaliapin, Anton Chekhov, Maxim Gorky, and Ivan Bunin, were regular patrons. Director Karen Shakhnazarov referenced the restaurant multiple times in his work "Winter Evening in Gagra." Scenes featuring actors Yevgeny Yevstigneev and Natalya Gundareva were filmed on site.
Furthermore, the "Gagripsh" restaurant is mentioned in Vasily Aksyonov's story "A Change of Lifestyle" and in Petr Vail's essays. The antique clocks adorning the restaurant's façade were featured in Alla Pugacheva's music video for the song "Old Clocks."
Despite numerous renovations, the exterior and interiors of the restaurant have remained virtually unchanged, preserving the ambiance of the early 20th century. "Gagripsh" is a functioning historical monument, with its mechanical clocks still in working order and hand-wound to this day.
Menu and Pricing
While vacationing in Gagra, don't miss the opportunity to dine at this restaurant. The menu offers a delightful variety of Abkhazian and European dishes. A wide selection of wines and other alcoholic beverages are available on the bar menu. Though the menu changes regularly, certain dishes have been prepared for decades. The "Garipsh" restaurant takes particular pride in its "Olivier" salad, prepared according to a 1895 recipe with red caviar as a special ingredient.
The restaurant also offers dishes for children, desserts, and culinary masterpieces made from fresh fish, with lavash served instead of bread. The menu's composition evolves over time, but some dishes, like the "Olivier" salad, remain constant. As of 2023, the average check at the restaurant is 2,100 rubles ($27), with an additional 10% for the traditional service charge.
Gagra offers a diverse range of accommodations, including hostels, guesthouses, and hotels close to the restaurant. Many guests choose to stay at the nearby boarding house with the same name for easy access to the restaurant. Moreover, the Eucalyptus Alley, Seaside Park, and other city attractions are located nearby.
The "Gagripsh" restaurant is situated in the Old Gagra district within the Seaside Park. A public transport stop is conveniently located near the complex, with buses No. 2, No. 5, and No. 3 servicing the area. Alternatively, you can reach the restaurant by private transportation, as free parking is available nearby. The road runs along the coastline; use a map or GPS for navigation, if needed.
Operating Hours and Address
The restaurant is located at Microdistrict Staraya Gagra, Ardzinba Ave. It opens at 11:00 AM and remains operational until midnight.