On a walk through Highbury a while back, I passed a Georgian restaurant. When I googled it later, I was surprised to find there’s a nest of Georgian places around the Islington area, including Little Georgia, Iberia and Tbilisi.
We went to Little Georgia in Barnsbury on Saturday and loved it. The menu was perfectly designed to welcome newbies into unfamiliar territory. I can’t say how authentic our dishes were as this was my first experience with Georgian food outside of dumplings sold off a cart in San Francisco, but I really enjoyed everything about our experience, from the meal to the low-key cozy ambience to the friendly service.
We tried the appetizer mezze platter, which included six scoops of different cold salads. I half expected sad deli-style flavorless vegetable shreds, but was impressed by the diversity of flavors and textures. One was a standard Russian style coleslaw salad, but the rest included a variety of crunchy, sweet and spicy tastes – we both particularly liked the spicy mushrooms. This platter comes with a choice of bread, either bean bread or khachapuri (called cheese bread on the menu). I’d like to try the bean another time, but the cheese bread was delicious and satisfying. (There’s another version of khachapuri with an egg, not part of the mezze platter).
For mains, there are several stew-like meat dishes, poussin, trout, salmon and a couple vegetable options. We ordered a beef stew which was nicely oily and paprika-flavored, and a bean stew with smoked ham which came with house-made pickled cabbage and bread. Both were winners, but the beef stew in particular was luxurious.
The only downer of the meal was dessert. There were three options and a “platter” which seemed like it would include small versions of all three. Instead it was a hunk of what seemed like pound cake and a hunk of apple cake which was very much like the New York Times plum torte recipe (a baking powder-heavy batter poured into a pan with sliced fruit on top; the batter rises and swallows the fruit as it bakes). The apple cake was just OK, but suffered from comparison to a recently made plum torte – I thought the sharpness of plums more interesting against the simple batter.
The menu of Georgian wines was interesting and fairly affordable – the most expensive was 21 pounds per bottle. Our waitress was from the part of Georgia that makes sparkling wine; unfortunately, no fizz on the menu.
The restaurant is in a converted pub, painted sage green and decorated elegantly with antique phones and black and white photos. We’d definitely go back, but I’d also want to try the other Georgian places as well (particularly if any served dumplings – Little Georgia did not).