Dostoevesky deserves six stars for effort! A review of Dostoevsky Hotel

I stayed for 4 nights at the Dostoevsky this month (September 2004) and would unhesitatingly return.

Negatives? Well, nothing's perfect. Yes, the shower switched from hot to cold too viciously and a hairdryer in the room would have been good. There was no safety deposit box in the hotel, although the reception clerk assured us it was safe to leave things in the rooms. Of course, it was - but I think international travellers would appreciate the security of in-room safes. It would have been good to have had postcards and stamps available at reception, although tourist information leaflets were available on demand. Oh yes, and the coathangers were slightly too big for the wardrobe, so that hanging up one item late at night meant a lot of loud rattling for the room next door!

Positives? How long have you got?

Unfailingly polite and attentive staff. Special mention to Elena and Anna on reception, Boris the Concierge, the two red-uniformed doormen/bellhops, the Maitre d' in the Dostoevsky restaurant and the whole waiting staff, both in the evening and at breakfast, in particular, Ayo.

Breakfast was 'lively' with a real polyglot mixture of visitors in, sometime none too patient or polite. It calmed down around 9 as tourgroups left. As independent travellers, we had the opportunity to take a bit more time over it. It was the same menu everyday and very typical of any good, European hotel: breads, cold meats & cheeses, fruit, cereals, sausages, eggs, small sweet cakes; russian additions of bliny, smoked salmon, pickled herrings and kasha (porridge) to die for were very welcome too. Unlimited coffee too, of course. In a country where, in my understanding, it is still not easy to get a wide variety of foodstuffs, we were embarrassingly well provided for. Staff restocked the buffet constantly and were very efficient at moving dirty crockery from our tables.

The one evening meal we had in the restaurant was excellent, a shame we were the only ones there. A 3-course meal for two, with Russian beer, came in at the equivalent of under 50USD. The food was excellently cooked and beautifully presented, the waiters clearly getting a good training.

The air-conditioning was a little fierce and the patio door open, I was cold: the air-conditioning they couldn't alter but they closed the door; it opened again; they tried again, ditto. One of the waiters stood in the gap as a windbreak. The tried to wedge it closed. They fetched the engineer, who repaired the door in minutes, all this without fuss or complaint. We could not fault any of the staff for their sheer willingness to oblige.

To have the minibar opened, you have to register your credit card at reception. Within 2 minutes a uniformed lady came to the room, asked permission to enter and opened up. Bottled water cost 30 RUR (around 0.75UKP), exactly the same price as in the shopping mall cafes.

The room was cleaned thoroughly every day and new towels left, whether asked for or not. The room and bathroom were both spotless.

Boris the Concierge ordered theatre tickets for us (great seats) for two evenings; these were automatically charged to my credit card by room number. The bill was viewable on the hotel info pages on the room TV.

The hotel is very conveniently located at the Vladimirskaya/Dostoevskaya metro stations. The St. Petersburg metro system hasn't the best coverage in the world but being on 2 lines means everything that could be accessed by metro was available to us. A single journey anywhere costs 8 RUR (0.20 GBP) and a 10-trip card 66 RUR (1.62). The hotel is happy to order taxis, and their rates seem reasonable enough for a big city, but the metro was much more fun!

The hotel fronts on to Vladimirskaya Square and the Vladimir church - next time I'll ask for a room facing the church, a beautiful building and a real, worshipping church, not a museum. The area behind the church is fine but there were lots of groups of gypsy women and children there, for whom St. Petersburg is notorious. On our last afternoon we were also hotly pursued by someone demanding money from anyone they could lay hands on but we were able to slip into the harbour of the Dostoevsky's reception area unharmed. We actually saw very little 'untoward' behaviour throughout the city and certainly not by the hotel (although we were sometimes a little embarrassed by the way other English-speakers spoke to the staff AS - THOUGH - THEY - WERE - STUPID) and we were very comfortable with the hotel's security: 2 doormen, a concierge, 2 reception clerks and a security man on permanent duty.

The hotel's publicity says it is the new standard for 3 star hotels and I have to agree. It is vastly different from the big Soviet hotels I last stayed in in Russia, some 30 years ago; there may be other hotels like it in the city but we didn't see any. Maybe Dostoevsky is something of a trail-blazer: the staff certainly deserve a lot of credit for their hard work and cheeful commitment to service.

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Dostoevsky Hotel
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