Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Black Lion (and other returns to Tbilisi)

Returning to Tbilisi has been something of a mixed bag. While elements of my return have been extraordinarily positive (I have discovered Vietnamese Coffee at what continues to be the World's Best Restaurant Cafe Gabriadze; Tartine is opening a French epicerie down the street from me; there is now a Georgian takeaway near me; my landlady makes amazing cheesy mchadi), others have been somewhat disappointing: I had the distinctly humiliating experience of being assaulted (full-on ass grab by a group of men who laughed at me when I reverted into full-on New Yorker "fuck you!" mode. In front of my mother! The laughter was worse than the grope); an enormous and hideous casino by the Freedom Bridge rather ruins my lovely historic terrace view; my beloved local overpriced French wine bar L'Accent Francais has relocated to - gasp - Vake; my equally beloved restaurant Sherikelebi has been replaced by a branch of Shemoikhede Genetsvale; I have discovered that many of the new restaurants on trendy Tabidze Street have absolutely dire food that in no way resembles their menu offering.

Spring is apparently construction season: a new cable-car is being built from the new park by Freedom Bridge up to Narikala Fortress, a beautiful new canal is currently in progress on Abanos St (by the baths), and my favorite ramshackle baroque building has been torn down altogether.

But most exciting of all is that I have finally proved the existence of the mythical Black Lion restaurant, for which I have been searching since September. When my half-Georgian friend Bella informed me that such a place existed "around Davitashvili 19, up the hill in Sololaki", I was very confused to find no such street on my map. Google Maps gave me an alternate Sololaki address - 32 Tabidze St, so I assumed that perhaps Davitashvili was, as is so often the case, an archaic name for Tabidze.

Not so! After my friend Robin and I spent a full night aimlessly wandering Sololaki, we determined that there was, in fact, no 32 Tabidze St and promptly gave up. Two weeks later, my mother and I discovered a new (and lovelier) hidden part of Sololaki away from the touristic centre (keep going up Asatiani St past the Tabidze St turnoff torwards Freedom Square), and - thus buoyed - I renewed my search. Thus did I discover that Davitashvili Street is in fact now Amagleba Street.

credit to katalina_bakradze on flickr
But no such luck! Despite wandering up and down said street, we could find nothing - until Bella helpfully posted a photograph to my facebook. The Black Lion is (how did I miss this?) marked by a large painting of aforementioned black lion, but is in fact off the street itself, and thus could potentially be missed from the street.

It was worth the wait. As eclectically Victorian-charming as Pur Pur, but about a third of the price, Black Lion is friendly (laptops, couches), gorgeous (carpets, mismatched furniture) and affordable (lunch options, largely of the Large Sandwich variety, run 6-8 lari). The proprietress was uncannily friendly, and the sangria plentiful. Possibly my new favourite Novel-Writing Haunt in Tbilisi.

The Black Lion is off 23 Amagleba St (keep going up Asatiani, turn right at the fork, pass a Populi on your left, right side of the street, look for the Black Lion)

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