It was already 11 a.m. when we left our hotel so instead of breakfast we decided to brunch in Tbilisi and check out the city after. Davit, our tour guide’s first pick was Machakhela. The place was packed and the aura of fresh baked bread was nonetheless tempting. I opted to sit by the window presenting a view of Zion Cathedral and street life too.
As I sat there sipping the best local beer that I’ve ever tasted, I noticed that people here are so very laid-back . More than half of the population lives in Tbilisi, the new capital because it is the most happening place in all of Georgia. The night life is ecstatic and local folks love to party.
Putting a quick end to my seemingly endless questions, the hot steaming Khinkalis got my rapt attention. A bite into the soft dumpling oozed meat juices that have been cooked with a lot of love, generously flavoured with parsley and coriander, none overpowering the other but complimenting the soft meat inside. Lemonades are even more delightful in Georgia because those come in peach, tarragon and lemon flavours. Pork barbequed with onion sauce was just what I needed when my taste buds sunk into the comforting Khachapuri- cheese-bread. We spent 55 Lari.
Another must-lunch place in Tbilisi is Racha. We tried their bestselling Apkhazura, ostri-beef, lamb curry and roasted eggplant with walnut puree. Yes, lemonades too and we spent about 25 Lari. Racha is a local favourite. I would love to go to Tbilisi just to dine at Racha again.
The food served was fresh without a doubt and cheap too, that is why Georgian cuisine has been our favourite ever since. A hearty meal indeed and a stroll around the charming old streets of Tbilisi called for ice-cream. Luca Polare redefined ice-cream for us. How is it different from London Diary or even Ben and Jerry’s ? Well, those don’t qualify as ice-creams, not anymore, after Luca Polare.
The drive to Mtatsminda park got exciting as it started to snow a bit. Although it was frozen and a wee bit slippery, the park was a beautiful sight to behold, a winter wonderland with cute rustic shops and stone laid pathways lined with majestic green pine trees. So cold it was but one couldn’t feel dreamier and happier for such is the feeling Nature bestowed on us. A wooden bench right under a green lamp post is a common sight here. Really, all we needed was hot chocolate, comforters and good old Christmas carols. We spotted a cute little cafe further inside. Oh and the bestsellers are sugar donuts and lemonade with cream. I’ve forgotten what it is called in Georgian but we skipped the bestsellers for Latte, Hot Chocolate and Panoche . Panoche is a delightful combination of chocolate cake, chocolate ganache and crumbly biscuits. Aaah! just what I needed before the ride on the Funicular.
In the city, you can also check out Cafe Leila, Cafe Mukha and Caliban’s Coffeehouse for a good cup of coffee and home-made Georgian pastries. Cafe Mukha is the best out of the lot that I’ve mentioned here.
Now, off the Tbilisi grid. I am guessing you would certainly go skiing in Gudauri if you are visiting Georgia.
On your way, tucked away in the foothills of the mountains, dotted with pine trees, you will spot the cutest hotel,Chabarukhi. Brick laid interiors, a cozy fireplace in the corner, streaks of sunshine streaming through the wooden windows,and Georgian folk music. A lovely bucolic setting perfect for mutton soup, khinkalis, baked bread and eggplant roast.
Typical Georgian Meal
You are lucky if you get invited for a home-made Georgian meal. Davit’s mom, Julia was extremely kind and hospitable treating us to pickled cabbage, braised pork, tender chicken, chicken soup, khachapuri, roast potatoes, plum sauce, fruit compote, wine and vodka.
Located opposite Stalin’s Museum is Chinebuli ,famous for their roast chicken with white sauce, lobiani and pork-beef-cheese dish. So famished we were that we forgot to take pictures. Chicken is roasted with its skin on giving it an absolute delicious comforting crunch replete with soft juicy meat in every bite. Lobiani is a simple yet a delicious veg dish made with red kidney beans.
Just for the cause of tourism, Signagi went through a course of thorough renovation. There’s a peek of pink, orange, yellow and beige houses throughout the alleyways in the town. The roads aren’t tarred but stoned, imitating the french pathways. Warm LED lights hung over the streets give away an effortless festive feel in the evenings. If you take your wines seriously, you have to sign up for a wine-tasting session at Pheasant’s Tears . They are one of the very few units that still follow the traditional wine-making process in clay pots. For a sumptuous lunch we felt Nikala Restaurant would be a better choice. For the first time I tried pan fried fish in Georgia and I loved it.
The restaurants that I’ve written about aren’t high-end places. It’s the first place any Georgian would prefer where you get good value for your money. When in Georgia, you eat and live the Georgian way so tourists , please be kind. Being rude to local people just because they don’t speak your language isn’t going to help. Happy Tripping in Georgia!