The Hunt for Red October

An island with a famous chocolate factory becomes Moscow's newest hot spot.

by Julia Ioffe


In the 230 years since its creation, Moscow’s manmade island of Bolotny has vacillated between the glamorous and the glum, variously housing the British ambassador’s residence, a jumble of warehouses, a posh yacht club, and, most famously, the Red October Chocolate Factory, a fragrant landmark for much of the 20th century. In 2008 Red October moved outside the city; later that year, its cavernous headquarters was colonized by heiress Maria Baibakova’s nonprofit exhibition space, Baibakov Art Projects, which established the island as an art-world hot spot. Baibakova has since moved on, but the city’s young and fashionable continue to arrive in droves to dance, dine, gallery-hop, and take in the stellar views of the Moscow skyline. Here, a few of their favorite haunts.


Rai, a gargoyle-bedecked nightclub, can hold up to 2,500 people—and the line outside can seem just as long thanks to its merciless feis kontrol, the process of screening patrons for attractiveness and wealth. Those who do make it inside will find blasting techno, lasers bouncing off mirrored walls, and mermaids and fire-breathers for entertainment (7.495.364.01.01,” target=”new”> Nearby is Rolling Stone Tattoo & Bar , a club where the feis kontrol is a bit more forgiving and the music substantially more eclectic (7.495.504.09.33,


Created to educate the next generation of architects and designers, the Strelka Institute opened this past May in what used to be Red October’s candy store and garage. Its one-year master’s program, which kicks off this month, was designed in part by Rem Koolhaas, who will visit bimonthly to teach. Students and nonstudents alike can watch films and listen to lectures in the outdoor amphitheater. The restaurant (pictured), which overlooks the gold onion domes of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, offers fruit-studded bulgur and Thai shrimp soup. The downstairs bar serves high-end cocktails, still a novelty in this vodka-loving town (7.495.771.74.37,


Located up a flight of dusty stairs in one of Red October’s old factory buildings, the October Boxing Club (pictured) boasts a clientele that includes some of Russia’s most famous TV personalities. Every day after work, a steady stream of Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank traders shows up to beat the stress out of one another (7.499.995.07.97,


Within the walls of Red October (pictured), a number of gallerists are picking up where Baibakova left off. Pobeda Gallery, which helped host this summer’s Biennale for Young Art, shows cutting-edge contemporary photography (7.495.644.03.13, pobeda Mel Space often stages street-art exhibitions in a stark loft (7.499.230.31.09, Known for displaying Soviet art from 1920 to 1960, the newly relocated Art Agency Colony is branching out with an exhibit of lush, blurry works by contemporary artist Igor Kormyshev (7.499.788.62.28, no website).