With fondness I recall Saturday mornings in my 20s, when, being a Hackney-ite I’d follow up a visit to Broadway Market with a tasty lunch of dips, dumplings, perhaps a cake and certainly punchy coffee at Little Georgia on Goldsmith’s Row. Since moving in to N1, I’ve walked past Little Georgia on Barnsbury Street at least six times a week, without ever realising they were the same business. I’d been very curious, even tried to book once, but tonight, the first proper sunny Friday night of the summer, we finally got around to trying it.
We arrived and were told they were booked out, I was surprised, it always looked empty when I had wandered by. A little perseverance and we were able to secure a table and sat down to take in the menu. Georgian food has what I would have to call an East meets East feel. That is to say that influences of Eastern European origin (pancakes, stews, paprika, pickled and stuffed veg) collide with Eastern Mediterranean ones (Yogurt, Skewers, rich tomato sauces and plenty of walnuts and honey). The menu’s setup with hot and cold starters, the majority of which are meat free or have a meat-free options (mostly beans or cheese to replace beef or pork). The mains are more meaty, though a veg section provides three meat free options and there are plenty of sides should you or your party be hungry.
We ordered three starters to share between two.
I really think we need to pause for a moment.
And step through these starters.
I wasn’t expecting this. Beetroot as a starter is typically cool, yoghurty and decidedly dilled. This wasn’t: small cubes of cooked betroot smothered in something bitey and fiery. I think cumin and chilli, but I didn’t ask, so don’t hold me to it. Spring onions and vinegar too.
The Blini was delicious. Butter fried, fluffy yet crispy and ours was filled with cheese and served with a suprisingly fresh tasting Russian Salad.
We also had a Lobiani (£6), a “cheesebread” stuffed with beans and onions. Flakey pastry and a delicious filling. I rolled mine up with beetroot and yogurt, because I could.
The service was friendly and efficient. I don’t think we were always fully understood when we ventured away from typical restaurant talk, but we didn’t care. They kept smiling and were very attentive, despite our slightly out of the way table.
Our mains arrived in good time. Both were solid but they weren’t the star of the show.
The mushrooms were good. Probably not the most mind-blowing of what was on the menu but solid.
And the Ajabsandali (an Aubergine stew with a rich, tomatoey sauce that by my reckoning must have been reduced for a few hours) was very good. Though perhaps not £10 of good.
Somewhat ironically, the gave our main course the boost it needed. The buttery potatoes were great. The new potatoes tasted of spring and we were recommended a serve of Nadughi – a cheese and herb Pâté – which complemented them brilliantly.
And a tomato and cucumber salad which was very present. The Ajika (a Georgian take on Harissa) gave it quite a kick, and I’m a big fan of a fresh, hydrating salad.
I haven’t got much to say about the deserts, just that I wonder if this is the sort of place you eat more from the start of the menu.
There’s a curious contradiction to this place. On the one hand, it feels very on trend, paneled wood painted in Farrow and Ball toned semi-gloss finish with expensive looking lighting. Antique photographs and objects surround, convincingly conveying the Georgian theme. There are unclothed solid wood tables and very on-trend earthenware crockery. Conversely, they’ve no Twitter presence and the website is a minimal holding page. On a busy Friday they’d not filled the seats by the window (they aren’t romantic enough, we were told) which made me wonder if passers by might just pass by. There’s probably capacity for 25% more people, if they were to squeeze. But the fact is, they’ve not wanted to squeeze. This place has, in it’s 18 months since opening, survived and from what we saw, thrived, based on quality food and I guess, word of mouth. How rare in the London food scene – but how refreshing.
A hidden gem: Little Georgia, Barnsbury, N1
14 Barnsbury Road,Angel, London N1 0HB
Phone: 0207 278 6100
Reviewer: Jared June 6, 2014