This hybrid place breaks stereotypes.
If you believe that clubs and restaurants should be all about pathos, glamour and money, with airport security-style face control and a long line at the entrance, try out Divan and see how wrong you are.
Located in the famous Bessarabka market building in the very heart of Kyiv, this place has a line inside: the shortsighted visitors who had not booked their table in advance crowd the bar counter, waiting for a free table with comfy sofas (“divan” in Ukrainian – hence the name of the club).
The handy red faux-leather sofas, along with the policy of moderate prices adhered to by the mangers, as well as mostly free live concerts and carefree atmosphere, have turned this place into a popular hangout in the capital.
Sprawled on a sofa, one of my friends recently confessed: “I ran away from Arena [Dance Club]. I wasn’t feeling very female there as I lacked silicone for that. But then in Divan I found my sort of place for hanging out.”
“The concept of Divan can be described by the phrase ‘culture to the masses,’” says Anna Golovko, deputy head of marketing of the Fozzy Group restaurant chain, quoting a famous Soviet phrase. The group also owns several supermarket chains and plenty of other restaurants.
Divan looks like a comfortable restaurant. But don’t be fooled: it’s a popular club with live music playing virtually every night.
The principal owner of Fozzy Group is Vladimir Kostelman, a successful Kyiv businessman and leader of the rock band Remont Vody. Owning a nightclub that features live music seems like a logical business for him.
Nevertheless, a year after its opening, the business is such a hit that the company decided to duplicate it in another city, says Golovko, but refuses to elaborate.
Coming into the basement of Bessarabka, where the club is located, you’re surrounded by mirror walls, which makes you feel like Alice passing through the looking glass.
The venue itself it no wonderland: it’s more like a wide corridor with two rows of tables and sofas, with a bar counter on one end and a stage on the other. But an elaborate design that fills the place with eye-pleasing details gives it an original air.
The walls are adorned with pictures of ancient cities that were never built, plants that never grew and words that were never spoken. Whether it’s a prank, a parody or a scene from an artist’s imagination – the idea works: it turns Divan into a place of fusion and illusion.
It’s hard to decide whether the place is a cafe, a restaurant, a bar or a night club. But does it really matter?
The built-in, antique-looking bookcases along the walls nest used books with authorship varying from Vladimir Lenin to Joanne Rowling. You can take books home and then bring them back. You can exchange them as a part of an informal book-crossing process here. Or you can just bring your own book you no longer want in exchange for a lollipop.
But this is not why people come here. On many evenings, Divan hosts live music concerts, and they are often free of charge. Tunes range from rock to folk and jazz, to a mixture of the styles – anything but hard rock and covers. Both well-known bands and newcomers play here. Sometimes, music gives way to poetry readings and theater plays.
The schedule is displayed on their website, and it’s highly recommended to see it in advance and reserve a table on your preferred date. There is often a shortage of them. Keep in mind that there is a catch: you would have to order Hr 234 worth of food and drinks if you book a table.
The money will go quite a long way, though, as prices here are moderate. The menu, which looks like a four-page tiny old newspaper, might pleasantly surprise you with its variety and good prices, but the down side will be the taste of some of the items.
Salad with duck and grapes (Hr 63) ordered on one occasion was too greasy, while the beef tongue ragout (Hr 73) looked more like a soup.
Simple dishes clearly were the winners. A Russian salad (Hr 27) was in fact a nice set of pickled vegetables and rasstegai (open-topped pastry) for Hr 33 was pretty decent. A big company will appreciate a kilo of pelmeni (meat dumplings) going for Hr 150. Service is quite fast.
The place is one of the few in Kyiv that offers a cork fee: if you bring your own bottle of wine, you can pay Hr 95 and drink it in Divan. That will work nicely if you’re not happy with a few dozen of wines on the menu, ranging from Hr 150-300.
The audience ranges from bohemian artists to brightly dressed glamorous ladies. But for most part, it’s somewhere in the middle – this is clearly the place ruled by young professionals.
People of different backgrounds, incomes, jobs and lifestyles frequent Divan. So, if you feel you would appreciate a smelter pot of ideas, spiced with a bit of self-irony, you will enjoy this place.
2 Besarabska Square
Tel: 235 73 66, 067 232 64 00
Entry: Hr 0-90
Jan. 20 Oleg Kadanov and Misha Kabanov (Orkestr Che) Hr 60
Jan. 21 IVA NOVA band (St.Petersbugh) Hr 60
Jan. 22 Poetry night, free entry, 5 p.m.
Jan. 22 Kimnata Grethen (Dnipropetrovsk), free entry, 8 p.m.
Kyiv Post staff writer Oksana Grytsenko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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