On our first night in Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, our guide Sergi introduced us to Café Kala in Erekle Street, a pedestrianised area lined with eateries. Only a 10-minute walk from our hotel, it became our go to place.
We sat on the large terrace and as we’d not been in the country long, Sergi took charge of ordering from the extensive menu beginning with khinkali – dumplings filled with brothy seasoned beef mince. A Georgian staple, they’re said to go so well with beer, Khinkali Houses serve literally beer and dumplings. They’re always ordered in quantity and the minimum order at Café Kala was 10. The knack to eating the mushroom shaped dumpling by hand was to hold it by the stem, take a small bite from the side so you could suck and slurp out the hot broth before chewing your way into the filling. Needless to say, it’s messy and an acquired skill. The dough stems are discarded and left on your plate to demonstrate how many you’ve eaten. Fortunately, the next dish was easier to eat: thin slices of Sulguni, Georgia’s most famous cheese, rolled into a horn shape and stuffed with Nadughi, a soft cheese mixed with mint. Ajapsandali, a spicy eggplant stew followed, and our meal ended with Matsoni, a fermented yoghurt said to be an elixir of long life. We also shared a bottle of Tsinandali white wine, in honour of our earlier visit to their estate.
The second time we were flying solo and began with a G&T before moving on to a litre of house white. We were discovering that white wine is usually served at room temperature, so asked for it to be chilled. Fortunately, the menu was in English, with a picture board at the entrance if you were really doubtful. We shared Mtsvadi or chicken grilled on a skewer, and a salad of rocket, sun dried and cherry tomatoes with parmesan shavings. It went beautifully together and was lovely and light as we’d had a relatively large lunch. During dinner, the heavens opened and uncovered terrace tables were taken out of commission which resulted in a very quiet night. Whilst waiting for the rain to ease we finished with coffee, shots of honey vodka and Chacha, a strong Georgian brandy a little like schnapps. Fortunately, by the time we paid our bill of just over £40, the rain had stopped, and we arrived back at the hotel unscathed.
We also stopped during the day for drinks and hummus which came with thin crisps, and crudites which was so generous there was plenty for two to share.
Having returned to Tbilisi for a final night before flying home, we felt a return to Café Kala was a must. During our tour, we’d become very familiar with khacapuri, a popular dish of cheese-filled bread with regional variations, and I felt it appropriate to have a final meal of khachapuri made with Imeretian soft cheese which we shared with a Georgian salad with walnuts. It was a fitting finale and as we left at 10pm due to an early morning flight, people were vying for tables.