THE RESTAURANTIn July 1970 five students from Bradford Technical College landed at Sheremetyevo Airport to study Russian in depth on a language course in a village called Abramtsevo, forty miles north east of Moscow.

I became embroiled with a Russian girl called Valya Kuzyakhina who worked for the Ministry of Agriculture in Moscow.

As the course came to an end, I had acquired a wealth of roubles from selling jeans etc and wanted to treat my beloved to a spectacular night out.

She suggested the Hotel Metropol.

Lenin had made speeches there, Shalypin had sung there, JFK had stayed there, Dr Zhivago was filmed there and the food was phenomenal.

"No problem" says I "I'll pay."

Strangely, though, Valya asked if she could bring her friend.
STUDENT DOUGAlthough I thought it a bit strange, a last romantic dinner shared with someone else, I agreed.

On seeing Valya's friend, though, I wasn't too sorry. She was a beauty, dressed very much in western style clothes with black leather boots and long auburn hair.

With the two of them on my arm, we set off by train to Moscow and the Hotel Metropol.

As you can see from the above, the restaurant at the Metropol is a stunning piece of architecture but what is doesn't show is the fountain by the stage where an eight peice band was playing Russian folk songs - Midnight in Moscow, Song of the Plains etc. It also doesn't show the glass panelling around the room. More of this later.

The meal began with two silver salvers of black and red caviar. The size of blackcurrants. Washed down with Georgian wine and Russian champagne. This was followed by sturgeon and the main course of hazel grouse.

During the meal, Valya's friend insisted on speaking French which Valya herself could not understand. She told me she was a dissident. She hated Russia. She hated Russian men. She had plans to leave and had friends in West Germany and could I take a letter out for her.

We had been warned about taking anything out for other people. Almost the same as 'did you pack this bag yourself?' these days. I explained to her that I couldn't because they would check everything when I left Moscow.

As the meal progressed Russian men kept coming up to the table and asking the girls if they would like to dance. Both declined and Valya's friend asked me to tell the Russians that she was my sister and didn't want to dance.

Eventually an older man with gold teeth sitting at a table nearby sent a bottle of champagne over. He came over himself and asked Valya's friend to dance. As I got up to explain that she wouldn't, she interrrupted me to say that it was OK. She would dance.

When she came back I said "Why him? He's old, short, fat and has no teeth."

He's the Peruvian Ambassador" she replied.

How did she know, that I wondered...

DODGY GLASS PANELSWe continued to talk about things all night, every topic under the sun.

With Valya it was in Russian and English, with her friend in French and Russian. Our table was next to a glass panel as you can see in the picture.

At the end of the night, I got out my 'stash' of roubles.

"I'm paying."

"No" they said "We will pay our share, equally."

There was no way I could dissuade them and the bill arrived. For the feast that we had enjoyed, the total bill came to the equivalent of 5.

We caught the train back and I couldn't help thinking what a strange evening it had been.

The following day I spoke to a Russian friend and said what a fantastic night I'd had at the restaurant in the Metropol with the two girls.

"Did you sit by the glass panels?" he enquired.

"Yes, why?"

"They're not panels. They are all two way mirrors and there are microphones in the flower arrangements." He laughed and wandered off chuckling to himself.Return to Doug Hudson