Monday, February 20, 2012

Flaneur in Search: Georgian Food in London

When, by virtue of my undying love for my Very English Boyfriend, I am forced to spend the weekend in the Worst Place in the World (for the uninitiated - London), I attempt to cling to what few scraps of dignity and beauty I can snatch from the cruel jaws of that feral fox I once saw munching on an abandoned styrofoam kebab container near Battersea Power Station (yes, London is full of roaming feral foxes and abandoned grease-puddles of kebab and vomit). While I spend most of my time in London complaining vociferously about the London Tube (it doesn't work), the food, the crowds, and the feral foxes that prowl the streets in search of their prey, there are (despite my moans) a few things that are not completely awful in London. These include free admission to the National Gallery, the Globe, eating takeaway paella along the South Bank, Gordon's Wine Bar near Charing Cross, falafel in Golder's Green, the book stalls by the National, the Battersea "Power Station" coffee shop, and the majority of Clapham.

Luckily, on Valentine's day, the Very English Boyfriend and I were able to add another Not-Entirely-Awful London-based Thing to Do to our "Weekend Projects" list. For the past year, I have been attempting to try the Georgian food at Hackey eatery Little Georgia, a project that is in fact harder than it sounds: they're a regular "sandwich shop" by day (with the Georgian fare served only for dinner) and it's impossible to dine there without reservations. (as I discovered after a three-hour journey there last term).

But - after several disappointing outings to the other Georgian restaurants in London (slick, flavorless "Georgian" food) - we decided that we were going to get our hands on lobiani at all costs, and booked months in advance to spend our Valentine's Day at Little Georgia.

Two words, readers. Two words. Andouilette Lobiani.
Yes, that is correct. Little Georgia serves - in addition to proper tkemali, plenty of pkhali, and tender tabaka - lobiani with smoked bacon AND lobio stew with sausage (yes, readers, I had both!). And I am happy to confirm that this is essentially the best thing ever. (A close second is the "ajapsandali and mozarella" panini, which is available for lunch)
photo linked from

The decor was a refreshing change from "Totally Not Owned by the Russian Mob Chic" (which characterizes most of the other Georgian restaurants I've been to out of Georgia) and actually looked like the sort of place I'd eat in in Tbilisi - lots of antique maps, abandoned gramophones, and bizarre kitsch scattered about here. The place is absolutely tiny, making booking all but necessary, but it's romantically intimate rather than cramped. The service is friendly enough, although I regret to say that I did not build up the courage to introduce myself in Georgian and start raiding the staff's cha cha (the restaurant has a BYOB policy).

Overall ratings:
Food: 9. Andouilette lobio! (yes, there's also a vegetarian option)
Price: 6. Everything costs in pounds what it would cost in lari at a reasonably expensive Old Tbilisi restaurant. I'm not sure what's more depressing - the fact that the food is thrice as expensive as in Georgia, or the fact that it's actually extraordinarily affordable by London standards.
Atmosphere: 8. Intimate, romantic, and with an aged hostess speaking minimal English. Perfect!
Authenticity: 7 I can't speak to the fusion-authenticity of andouilette lobio or ajapsandali panini - but the individual ingredients taste as they're supposed to, and the bizarre fusions do in fact work extraordinarily well. Extra points for tkemali.

Little Georgia
A, 87 Goldsmith's Row
London E2 8QR
United Kingdom
Tube: Haggerston
Tel: +44 20 7739 8154 ‎


Shawn Basey said...

The London Tube is crap. The only redeeming quality is it's not the New York metro, which is second to Chicago in the world's worst metro contests. Chicago wins because every station looks like someone's dropped a grenade in it.

Fleur Flaneur said...

I'm going to have to disagree with you there, Shawn. I'm a New Yorker (born and bred, albeit with plenty of international upbringing thrown in) and I think the NY subway is perfectly fine - even good! It's far cheaper than London, never randomly breaks down (at least, not in Manhattan), can be combined with crosstown bus journeys on the same ticket via transfer (which the London Tube) cannot, and is generally functional.

To be fair, it's slightly less shiny and new than the Tube, but infinitely more functional! Plus, the buskers are better.

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