Firstly, this restaurant I’m going to talk about is absolutely amazing. Secondly, happy anniversary to the beast on its 50th blog post today. Woot.
Okay back to the food.
Little Georgia is truly a hidden gem. I’m not going to lie, if someone mentioned Georgian food to me before having this dining experience (which they obviously did or I wouldn’t have ended up at this restaurant), I wouldn’t be that keen. Historically it doesn’t seem like Georgia is particularly renowned for its gastronomic culinary delights. Sorry if that’s offensive.
Little Georgia has two locations, one in Hackney and one in Islington. The menu is identical in both outlets (owner Tiko Tuskadze makes the dishes for the two restaurants in the N1 kitchen) so it’s probably better to go to the one in Islington as the food is made in-house. Little Georgia source ingredients from Russian and Turkish suppliers – Georgian cooking is a mixture of influences from Europe and Asia.
The Islington restaurant is airy and spacious but the décor of old telephones, traditional memorabilia and graphics-heavy political posters gives a bit of character to the environment. Some critics have claimed that the Islington location lacks the intimate feel of its Bethnal Green counterpart but I found the restaurant to be welcoming and comfortable. Service is a bit clunky and painfully slow at times, but the food more than makes up for it.
Cold starters include Russian salad (a filling mix of potato, carrot, spring onion, pea, egg, dill and mayonnaise); Lobio salad, red kidney beans mixed with onions and coriander and Georgian spices; or you can opt for the Meze plate which gives you a little bit of everything to sample — walnut stuffed aubergines and red peppers; mushroom salad; spinach pate; green bean salad; and of course the Russian salad, served with cheese or bean bread. Very vegetarian friendly I might add..
Hot starters feature borscht, a soup of Ukranian origin, yet popular in many Eastern European countries; blinis, filled with savoury mince beef and pork blended with Georgian spices. A lot of items on the menu seem to be blended with these ‘Georgian spices’ – however when I enquired as to what Georgian spices actually are, the waiter advised there is a not a direct translation for the majority of spices. Further research tells me that Georgian spices include but are not limited to: coriander seeds, blue fenugreek, dried marigold flower petals, caraway seeds, dried Ajika, Svanetian salt, Megrelian salt, dried bay leaves, parsley and basil. Basically, in summary, ‘Georgian spices’ can mean a lot of things.
Anyway, mains include chashushuli, a highly seasoned beef stew and my personal favourite main of the day, kotnis lobio (a bean dish), loads more bean goulash type dishes, and pan-fried poussin amongst others.
In a class of its own is the baked-to-order khachapuri, a moreish cheese-filled bread that’s a national staple of Georgia. Khachapuri is a traditional Georgian cheese bread which can be made either in the well, traditional form, stuffed with a combination of Turkish feta and mozzarella or you can have Adjaruli khachapuri, in which the dough is formed into an open boat shape and topped with a raw egg and butter. The menu calls the latter ‘sinful and delicious’ which I do not doubt — I stuck with the traditional as a large portion was more than enough along with the rich chashushuli for what was meant to be a ‘light lunch’.
Unlike the BYO Hackney branch, this place is licensed. And, according to the waiter, the Islington spot has become somewhat of a celeb hangout given its unassuming location tucked away from the bustle of Angel and the high quality of this underrated, yet exquisite cuisine.
Highly highly recommend. Go here. And don’t even think about not ordering the khachapuri.
14 Barnsbury Rd, London N1 0HB
Tel: 020 7278 6100
Website (they do need to work on this one a bit..): http://www.littlegeorgia.co.uk/