Friday, August 10, 2012

Where to Write a Novel in Tbilisi: Book Corner

I probably shouldn't write a review of Book Corner, my official new favourite cafe in Tbilisi. The last few times I've written about a favourite cafe in Tbilisi (to wit: Caravan, Tashkent, the Abano St branch of Nero, and my all-time favorite Near Opera), they've closed down within months. But Book Corner, a characteristically bizarre, artfully mismatched collection of typewriters, upside-down umbrella, upright pianos, gramophones, modern art, antique chairs (and, in typical Tbilisi fashion, almost no books) tucked into a side street in the heart of Vera, deserves a much wider audience. Less slick than Moulin Electrique or Literaturuli, less horribly smoky and hipster-crowed than Salve, Book Corner is the closest thing I've found to an Old World Viennese cafe in Tbilisi. Its furniture is properly old, rather than suspiciously shiny; the ceilings are high and the decor is reasonably simple, giving the interior the atmosphere of a particularly bohemian dowager's living room. (The terrace is, by contrast, utterly bizarre, and largely occupied by murals of various writerly quotes and a ceiling fashioned from colorful inverted umbrellas). The bill comes in an old photograph box and the menu contains several varieties of cake, as well as proper food.

The proprietress is absolutely lovely (She remembered me and the VEB after a single visit!); there is wifi; all these are amenities necessary to a Local Haunt. But what makes Book Corner utterly delightful (other than the marvelous paradox of being a largely bookless bookshop) is its genuine secret-hideaway feel, something that's largely absent from both the posh eateries of Vake and the rather glitzified cafes in the old town.

Increasingly, my own geographic sympathies are likely moving in the direction of Mtatsminda (perhaps the only part of Tbilisi I prefer to Sololaki) and Vera - between this cafe, the nearby Uzbek restaurant Ferghana/Asian Town (replacing the departed Tashkent with a slightly less "mother's kitchen" vibe and insanely friendly and charming waiters), the German beer garden, and the as-yet-untested Tarkhinshvili branch of Literaturuli, nearly all my favorite cafes are (alas) an hour's walk from my house.

Book Corner is located at 13b Tarkinshvili St (the second street to the left as you take Melikishvili past the Philharmonic). The entrance is not on the street itself but rather on the side-street just to the right of the main street. Ferghana is located the next street towards Vake (Janashia St) at the top of the hill.


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