A welcome introduction to Georgian food
The restaurant certainly feels homely. It’s spacious and airy, with lively Soviet-era movie and propaganda posters decorating the otherwise elegantly painted walls. We’re welcomed warmly and seated next to a beautiful stained glass window.
We pore over the menu for several minutes without coming to any kind of decision. There are things we’ve heard of – borscht, blinis, kababi – but most of it is intriguingly unfamiliar.
We ask our waitress for recommendations, and her enthusiasm for the food is infectious.
We order everything she suggests, starting with a bottle of Mukuzani, a red wine which turns out to be warm, fruity and slightly spicy.
The starter – meze and khachapuri
To start, we order the meze platter and khachapuri, a traditional bread stuffed with a blend of cheeses.
The meze platter features six different salads. Five of them have a single vegetable as the main highlight – there’s red pepper, aubergine, mushroom, beetroot and green bean – and the sixth is a traditional Russian salad of mixed vegetables, egg and dill.
They’re all absolutely delicious, and set off to perfection by a generous garnish of fresh herbs and pomegranate seeds. The tangy red pepper salad steals the show, closely followed by the wonderfully creamy mushroom salad. I could happily eat whole bowlfuls of either.
The cheese bread is ridiculously moreish, and not to be missed. Served fresh from the oven, the bread is crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and the cheese filling is rich and pleasingly gooey.
The main course – chashushuli and khinkali
Waving away our tentative moves towards ordering fish, as ‘you can have that anywhere’, our waitress steers us towards the most uniquely Georgian mains on the menu – chashushuli, a beef stew, and khinkali, traditional meat-filled dumplings.
The beef stew is cooked in a tomato sauce and flavoured with ‘Georgian herbs and spices’. Exactly what those herbs and spices are I can’t quite put my finger on, but the overall effect is beautiful. The beef is tender, and the sauce hearty and flavoursome.
The khinkali are really something to behold. The five huge dumplings sit squatly on a plate, their decoratively gathered edges making them look a little like fat, succulent flowers.
They’re filled with a mixture of pork and beef, and come with a spectacularly garlicky dipping sauce. I’m told you should eat them with your hands, and I’m only too happy to observe the tradition.
The boiled dough casing is pleated together at the top, trapping a juicy broth inside alongside the delicately-spiced meat filling, which floods out when you take the first bite.
Whilst they are undoubtedly tasty, they’re somewhat heavy, and would perhaps benefit from a non-dumpling accompaniment to provide a bit of light relief. Saying that, I eat them all despite being uncomfortably full by the end.
Little Georgia – a unique gem in the heart of Islington
Overall, our meal is excellent. The service is warm and friendly, the restaurant is atmospheric and welcoming and the food is fantastic – unusual, hearty and completely delicious.
If you’ve never tried Georgian food – or even if you have – I suggest getting yourself down to Little Georgia very soon.