Artskaf is a small coffee house in Arbatskaya, right on the main thoroughfare of Old Arbat. Inside it’s all cosy kitsch, deep colours and soft shadows, its wide length of doors opened outwards to spill seating into the street. Comfortable stuffed chairs round the tables, angled towards the street entertainment, and all its cutlery and cups are mish-mash. It looks odd from the street, but that’s kind of the point.

Painting by Thalia Milton, hanging in Artskaf

Only one wall, the back wall, is painted stark white in blatant contrast to what is basically an emulation of someone’s front room; designed to catch the eye of passers-by if the scent of home-cooking and coffee doesn’t. On it is a mini-gallery of local pieces, including one by Thalia Milton: a neo-classical style portrait skewed with fantastical embellishments. The woman, her chin tilted defiantly, has burnished gold eyes and flowers for hair. It was a parting gift for the proprietor (and Thalia’s old boss) and is the only piece displayed not labelled for sale.

Artskaf’s gruff owner is called is Alek.




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