The Dining Room is the largest interior on the ground floor of the palace. The interior owes much of its special beauty to the powerful arch linking the east and west walls and supporting the balcony of the first floor. It divides the hall into two parts, the north, smaller one, and the south, adjoining the vestibule.
Originally the main entrance to the palace was situated at the north, Peterhof Road side - the two windows and the French door of the Dining Room overlook the highway. During the Petrine period a large part of the Dining Room was occupied by a kitchen with a stove - such a rational arrangement was characteristic of Dutch architecture.
The contemporaries of Peter the Great recall that the Tsar "liked everything served hot". There is an entry in the Travel Journal, describing a dinner of Peter the Great and members of his small suite at the Strelna farmstead on their way from St Petersburg to Peterhof. The Tsar showed a preference for the Russian cuisine - his dinner included shchi of sauerkraut, kasha or a cereal, meat jelly and cold, baked suckling-pig with sour cream, cucumbers or salted lemons. He also demanded that they have salted beef, ham and Limbourg cheese on the table. The Tsar never ate fish because of his health. The monarch used to drink anise vodka and a good red wine before his meals.
In the periods of traditional St Petersburg boating parties Peter the Great liked to reach Strelna by sea, with a whole flotilla of vessels. To the accompaniment of French horn, trumpets and kettledrum, the yacht of Admiral Apraxin was heading the group at full speed, followed by a boat with Peter the Great and his family. The Emperor, wearing white sailor's uniform, usually steered the boat himself. The courtiers' boats were at the end of the procession. Tables lavishly laid with all sorts of snacks, drinks and sweets awaited the merry company in the wooden palace. Jan Velten, Peter the Great's chef, had an superb command of his speciality.
On 16 June 1720 the wooden Strelna palace became the venue for a formal dinner in honour of the Polish ambassador Chomentowski who came with his suite to celebrate the foundation of the stone palace at Strelna. The tables were laid not only in the Dining Room, but in the other rooms of the palace too. During this feast a toast to the most quick completion of the construction was proposed.
The descendants of Peter the Great, on coming to Strelna for hunting or a walk, would stay in the wooden palace and dine there or might have a snack in the garden, under trees, eating cold dishes and drinking tea, coffee or hot chocolate.
Displayed on the large table in the Dining Room is a porcelain tea service for six diners executed in the 1750s at the Meissen Royal Factory. It includes a set of cups and saucers, a teapot, a sugar-bowl and other items with an overglaze painted decoration featuring ladies and gentlemen in a landscape setting. These designs were free copies in the Rococo spirit from engravings based on Warreau's paintings. The representations are placed in reserves encircled with golden frames.
In the seventeenth century tea was used in Russia as a medicine when the Tsar had "stomach problems". The custom to drink tea as a daily beverage which became a feature of Russian everyday life in the middle of the eighteenth century led to a rapidly growing use of a Russian variety of tea-urns known as samovars. In the course of tea-drinking samovars were commonly placed on small separate tables. Represented in the Dining Room is a unique brass samovar with a silver coating produced in the second half of the eighteenth century by Russian master craftsmen. It has an ornate band of pierced representations of playing cards and is provided with two taps, over which an engraved monogram ot Catherine the Great in an oval medallion can be seen. Tradition has it that this samovar was served to Catherine the Great when she was engaged in card playing.
Placed along the walls are comfortable and soft items of mahogany furniture, English work from the first half of the eighteenth century, the so-called "winged" armchairs and sofas with overall upholstery of the seats, backs and armrests.
The walls of the Dining Room are embellished with the paintings Still Life with Fruit and Still Life with Flowers and Fruit by unknown Italian masters of the late seventeenth century.
The Dining Room. Samovar with the monogram of Catherine the Great. Russia. Second half of the 18th century.
The Dining Room. Items from the Service with "Watteau's scenes". Royal Porcelain Factory, Meissen. 1750s.
Tremblaise (travel cup for chocolate). Personal cup of Empress Catherine II. Royal Porcelain Factory, Meissen. Mid-18th century.