TBILISI: GEORGIA ON MY MIND IN HOLLOWAY
Supper last night with my good chum, Petra allowed me to tick another box in my quest to eat in London restaurants representing all the countries I visited on my recent trip.
Although, I did not visit Georgia itself, I ate at one of Moscow’s top Georgian restaurants, Tbilisi, which at the time was already feeling the pinch as Putin’s desire to consume the former Soviet states back into a new Russian order meant that many of the key staples of Georgian cuisine were becoming hard or impossible to find. Mind you it did not stop them producing a lovely meal nor indeed did it stop them presenting a bill that was equal to the amount I had spent on food for the last month as I crossed from China via Mongolia. But, it was worth it, even if I had to put up with typically Russian service, which invariably makes the response to each little request seem like you have asked them to take poison or kill their parents.
One year and a few days on, I found myself in the slightly less exotic environs of The Holloway Road at Tbilisi, a restaurant that appeared to have little in common with its namesake except that name.
One of only three Georgian restaurants in the capital that I can think of, Tbilisi, on previous experience, provided a better option to relive the past than Little Georgia on Broadway Market and I persuaded Petra to join me in a shared selection of starters.
Piping hot hachapuri bread came stuffed with a slightly salty cheese and provided the ideal vehicle to transport dips from plate to mouth. Petra particularly zoomed in on a plate of Bhaza, pureed beets with walnuts and local herbs (does local mean they came from the Costcutter next door, I wonder?) while I spent more time protecting a plate of smokey aubergine puree.
These were filling enough and with a bottle of typically semi sweet Georgian wine, we could have stopped there and been quite satisfied. We didn’t, of course and Petra moved on to a plate of Ostri, a stew of beef, which came bubbling to the table in a clay pot and was spiked with pickles and chilli to give a sharp bite. My own Tabaka comprised a jointed baby chicken cooked in a heavy pan with another on top to press it down and then served with Tkemali, a sour plum sauce or a garlic sauce blended with more of those walnuts. They kindly gave me a dish of each to try and I can see why both versions are Georgian family favourites.
We really were stuffed by then, Petra asked for a doggy bag and I requested the bill, which came to £50 including wine and tip, less than the cost of my meal for one in Moscow and the service even came with a smile.
No wonder Putin hates Georgians, enthusiastic, friendly service, how thoroughly un Russian.