Tbilisi is a wild city – crazy surreal architecture, wine bars everywhere, Thai prostitutes running dodgy massage parlours – this city has it all.
And no surprises – Georgian food is incredible. Walnuts, pomegranate, fresh tarragon, plums, spinach, aubergine, sour cream – these are staple flavours that Georgians love and know how to use. We fell instantly and hopelessly in love with the cuisine.
Of course, we had to find those hidden gems that served up the best, home-cooked food!
The first night we did some recon and ate at 2 restaurants in Erekle II st, I don’t remember the names – expensive, but delicious and with the full range of Georgian cuisine. This is a good place to start if you’ve just arrived in the country and have no idea what’s what – all of yhe menus in this street have English translations, and most of them have pictures.
Breakfast was the usual yoghurt and cherries in a park somewhere, but lunch was special – we discovered a very cute little “vegetarian” place called Café Leila opposite the Anchiskhati Basilica – reasonable mid-range café with really good quality food, ultra fresh salads, homemade lemonade with fresh herbs, cheap wine and delicious bean stews and pickles.
Supper however – this is where we really found the hidden gem. Café Nikolozi – the perfect family run joint, complete with hand written menus and a wine cellar in the resturant. The directions on Google are correct, but don’t accidentally go into the restaurant next door – this one is underground down some stairs, and only open for dinner.
No English menus though (suits us just fine) but the family could all speak passable English and damn, could they cook. And they could also fill a glass of wine until overflowing, which was awesome.
We started out with aubergines stuffed with walnuts and topped with pomegranate seeds. Moved onto a herb soup with plums and beef. Smashed some meat dumplings along the way, then tucked into a fresh salad with a delicious walnut dressing, before gobbling some chicken cooked in milk and garlic that literally melted off the bone. Topped all of this off with a glass of aged grappa (chacha), and the whole meal (and drinks) cost us about 45 gel (R250).
Georgia you beauty – we love you!