But this quandary has been solved at last! For a new restaurant/cafe has opened off Median (in the covered staircase between Median and Chardini Street) - the extraordinary, cheap, comfortable, bohemian, and delicious Uzbek Tashkent, replacing a perpetually empty record store/cafe. From its location and unpromising exterior, I expected characteristically disappointing Chardini Street atmosphere: slick, excessively corporate, exquisitely manicured, overpriced, and inevitably owned by a shadowy group called B-Investments-Corp (or similar) that mysteriously owns half the restaurants in Tbilisi.
I was wrong, reader! Gloriously wrong! This tiny hole-in-the-wall, spruced up with kaftans and colorful wall hangings, fits all my criteria! Its three long tables/banquettes are large and comfortable enough for novelizing. The service is surprisingly friendly and lends itself to hours of table-sitting. But the food, reader! The food defies expectation, defies sense: it is perhaps the best food in Tbilisi. The "lunch menu", for a mere 9.00 lari (approx 3.75 GBP), consists of aromatic lamb soup, fresh-baked bread, a small but substantial serving of Uzbek plov (a fruit-and-lamb rice pilaf, easily the best iteration thereof in Tbilisi), Georgian salad (tomato, cucumber, onion, dill, parsley), and tea. (Additional options can be purchased a la carte for comparable prices).
Distance: Five minutes from the house. Check.
Food: Easily among the top meals in Tbilisi. Lunch menu always solid, but the a la carte provides a range of alternatives (including promising-sounding "pumpkin manti" and astoundingly good 4-lari carrot salad).
Price: 9 lari for the Plov lunch menu; 7 lari for the manti (dumpling) lunch menu, 3 lari for a glass of Saperavi wine.
Atmosphere: Bohemian bolt-hole. Limited number of tables may force me to avoid peak mealtimes, but it's far from crowded.
Tashkent is located off Meidan Square, on the covered stairway descending onto Chardini St from Median Palace (not the uncovered staircase near The Oval). Please patronize them because they are excellent, but do not patronize them to the extent that they are no longer a best-kept-secret.