Monisha Rajesh reaches Moscow and welcomes a luxurious respite between arduous train journeys
You know you've reached absurd levels of indulgence when you get into a heated argument with your fianc’ and the nearest thing to grab and throw at his head is a handful of caviar. Admittedly it was ikura, or salmon caviar, rather than beluga, but still.
At The Ritz-Carlton caviar is in abundance: served with mousse-light scrambled eggs at breakfast; as an in-room welcome gift paired with a miniature sugared-ice sculpture; and served with any drink. But when a hotel overlooks Red Square, features a bathtub of Mo’t in the lobby and a fleet of blacked-out Mercedes AMG C-class outside, it's a safe bet that luxury is the default setting.
And luxury was pretty damn nice after an eighteen-hour train ride from Riga to Moscow the night before, where immigration officials had boarded with a panting German Shepherd, shone a torch in our faces and yanked off our mattresses to check we weren't hiding stowaways.
After the experience I wholly appreciated having a pillow menu with seven choices of shape, size and ergonomics to rest my head, and a bed so huge I could hide between the four rows of eight pillows and be invisible to my partner. (Much fun was had by all.)
Classic in design, suites featured a number of details that put them above and beyond other luxury names: Bowers & Wilkins sound docks contained the new iPhone 6 socket which almost no other hotel group has adapted to; and there was an ironing board - unusual for most high-end hotels that seem to think it's all right to charge guests upwards of ’8 to iron a pair of underwear.
Traditional in one sense, the hotel also houses the glass-walled penthouse-style O2 Bar which draws in a super-elite young crowd, including a British rock band who were winding down after a show. Bonding over our mutual inability to speak Russian, we stayed up until 2am with them eating fabulous sea bass in miso glaze, burgundy-coloured tuna sashimi with radish grated into little heaps of snow.
Two of the band had never tried Moscow Mules and there seemed no better place to break them in. Served in traditional frozen copper tankards, the tang of ginger beer, vodka and lime was enjoyed overlooking the fairytale kingdom that is St Basil's cathedral basking in the light of the Kremlin.
Retreating into the loving arms of the ESPA spa was my final indulgence before boarding the Trans-Mongolian train to Beijing the next day. As Svetlana covered me with a towel that felt like a hug, I lay there on my heated bed in a state of inertia and considered the absurdity of having the webbing between my third and fourth fingers massaged. Especially when asked how it felt and whether or not more pressure should be applied. (For the record it feels quite nice and no, I can't think of a word better than 'webbing' to describe that bit of skin.)
Breathing in lavender oil and feeling Svetlana's fingertips on the base of my scalp, I tried to block out the prospect of five days on board a train without a shower and gave silent thanks for what had been a timely, excellent stay.