Lots of food coming your way! This one doesn’t look the most appetising but prepare yourselves – your stomach will be rumbling by the end of it!
Although it’s not something I find particularly interesting anymore, Shota and I found ourselves in Rustavi, an overgrown village originally built for Soviet workers just outside of Tbilisi. ‘Overgrown village’ is a little mean, since Rustavi does have some little shops and supermarkets too, but the people are most definitely villagers in the true sense of the word.
Since I’ve never really explored Rustavi although have visited several times, we decided to make the most of the nice weather and take a walk around, although mostly on the hunt for a sandwich and somewhere clean-enough to urinate.
I have some friends in Rustavi and have been told there are some cute little cafes and bars, although struggled to find any. The demand of basic human functions became so overwhelming that we ended up jumping into the nearest , slightly-cleaner looking restaurant which I think was called something like Mikola(?) which was decorated with bright oranges and yellows, funky Flintstone-esque fonts and the usual over-saturated and badly Photoshopped photos of pizzas, hot dogs and salads.
Note – as much as a lot of places have photos of various goodies, if they serve any of them (which is unlikely) they won’t look anything like they do in the pictures.
I don’t want to be harsh, but we both went in there with a skeptical disposition anyway, amused at the range of khinkali and shauwma ‘cafes’ we were presented with. Now, this restaurant specialised in pelmeni – little dumplings full of either meat, cheese or potato, usually served with sour cream or butter.
It was the closest we could get to something light and snack-like so we settled down in the small canteen-like restaurant, giggling at the disco lights flitting around (as you can see in the photo above…). They were obviously appealing to teens, with a fast food atmosphere which is still very trendy here, and an array of lemonades and snack food.
I ordered potato pelmeni (they were called varnishkes on the menu but I only understand that as this). Shota went for some cheese pelmeni, only to be given meat ones, but he was hungry so ate it anyway. It was as expected, service was pleasant enough although impressed at our (yes, our) foreignness.
We waddled down the street (dumplings can be heavy) and popped into the nearest cafe in search of something sweet. I’m so glad that Shota’s developed a sweet tooth with me, since it’s not something Georgians seem so enthusiastic about. This means the cakes are usually very sickly and with minimal choice, but we went anyway.
The supermarket was typically cluttered, leading you around a labyrinth before you reach the tills to get back out again. We went to the cake area where several of the girls working were all tittering about something, shamelessly staring and nosy as Shota asked what cakes they have to offer.
Eventually one of the girls asked if I’m Georgian, to which I replied “ara, ingliseli var” (no, I’m English) which is my standard sentence when talking to strangers and generally my way of ending communication from then on. However I didn’t expect quite the reaction of these girls, who were my age and started whooping and squealing over my bad Georgian/ horrific accent and who stared relentlessly until we left while stating how good and lovely I am, before asking Shota if I’m his wife and if we have kids.
I should have expected it, but it was mortifying. I don’t get embarrassed easily but I didn’t know what to say – they were my age! I’m used to being patronised by old ladies but that’s because they’re old ladies, but with girls my age I just felt like a child. I know, it’s nice of them to be so excited and happy that I spoke a little Georgian but I’m not sure they realise how uncomfortable it makes people when they discuss and giggle about people in a different language. Shota said they like me but even he was a bit annoyed at home incessant they were!
Anyway, we settled on a chocolate fasting cake which was suitably sickly and more than enough when divided into two. We made our way towards the marshrutkas, eating the cake and amused by the staring as we went, as Shota stated that they were just jealous because we were eating a cake that they’d have to wait 6 hours for at a supra, if they’re lucky.
Rustavi is interesting, for a boring town. It’s like a smaller, more-concentrated Tbilisi with the peculiar aspects even more highlighted and amusing. Worth a visit but I have to say it made me appreciate Tbilisi much more when we finally got home!
Now for Akhvlediani Street…
I recently discovered Akhvlediani Street when making my way to this arts center which offered me work (that fell through, they were a bit weird about how they’d want the lessons to be and it’s not worth my time, shame).
This street is sort of opposite Rustaveli metro, just behind the main street. It’s a weird street just off a busy road so mind the cars if you ever visit!
I was amazed as I walked down there to find an abundance of little cafes, galleries and restaurants. It’s like all the foreign food in one place outside of Vake, so easier for me to get to.
We decided to visit a newly-opened Thai restaurant simply called ‘Thai Food‘ which was decorated with nice muted tones and pastel flowers. No smoking, no loud people, and good music (including this one, one of my favourites).
I was so excited and seriously craving noodles (when am I not craving noodles?) after being shown a Chinese restaurant near my new workplace. Shota’s cousin gave birth to a little boy yesterday and typically we’d go and visit and toast to the baby but the plans didn’t work out since Shota usually finishes work quite late.
Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details but you can imagine my excitement when I saw veggie spring rolls on the menu:
Also pad thai Yes, actual pad thai cooked by a Thai chef. Heaven! It wasn’t on the menu as a veggie dish but they had no problem with making it so. It was one of the best Thai dishes I’ve ever tasted, and it wasn’t just because we were hungry. Shota loved it too, it was his first time trying Thai food and we spent the whole time ‘mmming’ with faces full of noodles, amazed at how good it was.
By the way, the yellow thing is a lemon… Which went perfectly with the spicy, nutty flavours!
The portions were fair sizes for one person, but we shared, so of course we ordered some more. This is a sweet ‘n’ sour chicken dish. I ate around the chicken but the sauce was perfect. We had this with a little bowl of sticky rice to finish up.
Or so we thought… The food was satisfying but light, so we had room for dessert. As I mentioned, Shota has a sweet tooth now as well so it was actually his idea, I’m not complaining.
The dessert menu was limited (the whole menu was quite small generally but all the essentials were there), offering just fried ice cream or a fried banana. I’m intrigued by the fried ice cream but they didn’t have any, so we opted for the fried banana instead. It was heaven!
I loved this place. The food was incredible, the service was friendly and with good English (good since everyone else in there was foreign too), the music was great and the price was only 35GEL. Forever thankful for the Lari – Pound exchange rate! Definitely 10/10.
It was still daylight so we ventured to the English pub I wanted to suss out, called ‘Old London‘ and nicely reminiscent of The Blind Beggar which I lived close to in London.
There are several necessary things that an English pub requires for me, and that should be things that remind me of my dad after our countless pub trips while I was growing up.
The first thing is a relaxed environment, where everyone is quite laid back and not snobby. Check.
Secondly the overwhelming smell of beer and ale. Not overwhelming enough for my liking but the beer smell was stronger than the cigarette smell so, check.
Thirdly music which makes me proud to be British. You know, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath etc etc.. Okay maybe not Ozzy but atleast The Beatles. Check, check, check. There was a live band performing actually, and they were really rather good considering they didn’t speak English as well as they performed. I was impressed.
The other thing I liked was to witness beer-drinking culture in a wine-drinking country. I won’t get into the details now but beer drinking is so much more private and solemn for me compared to wine drinking which I always find more sociable. The people there were perfectly characterised too, just like the staff and punters in the pubs in my hometown – the same mannerisms and attitudes, just with darker hair and bigger eyelids. Perfect.
The only thing which revealed that it was an ‘english pub’ abroad was when the singer said ‘madlobt‘ after each song instead of ‘cheers‘ and the various different currencies stuck around the bar from other foreigners. That, and the shameless Union Flag and three lions flags which, if in the UK, would make it a skinhead bar rather than a family pub. Also never display black and white photos of Tower Bridge with an edited red bus and London Eye plastered in the background, it’s never a good look. Don’t get me started on the framed photo of a telephone box…
We really enjoyed ourselves, and Shota gets more nostalgic for the UK and it’s beer than I do so it was good for him too.
I suppose this post was rather long and uneventful but I like to share my thoughts about this kind of thing. What do you think, could you handle a pelmeni bar or an English bar? What shall I try next in this street, Spanish or Iranian food? Have a lovely day wherever you are!