The climate is agreeable, the country fertile and beautiful; the republic of Georgia has the natural advantages of pomegranates, aubergines, walnuts, peppers and coriander to add charm to the cabbage red and white, roots, gherkins and Spam-like sausages that are more generally associated with Eastern Europe.Pkhali, a “pâté” of beetroot, with walnuts and sour cream, combines these influences in a piquant, not particularly nutty, but creamy and intensely garlicky dip; deliciously unusual. A variation with leek was more fibrous and not much less pleasing For good measure we added a Russian salad. Heinz’s emetic interpretation must have been a Cold War ruse to discredit Russian food. But Little Georgia’s combination of peas, potato, carrot and gherkin in a light mayonnaise liberal with fresh, frondy dill was a salad so miraculously reformed it should guarantee lasting entente. Nobody need fear the dumplings here, either.Shashlik, the meat, marinated in pomegranates, red onions, lemon juice and Georgian spices – whatever they may be – was superbly tender with a molasses-like tang.
Satsivi, a thick sauce of ground walnuts provides a powerful and rich accompaniment to trout, chicken or as we ordered it, a large, sumptuous, grilled aubergine. Each main course also comes with a contrastingly crunchy small salad of cucumber, tomato and dill and sour cream. Independent since 1992 , Georgia used to produce the bulk of subsidised wine drunk in the Soviet Union and now has investment from Pernod Ricard, and Australian flying wine-makers to improve the quality of its output. Little Georgia has some of the best, Balanchine red and white for £12 a bottle.The music did become a little singalong-a-shepherd.
But until then it had been almost ironically loungey, and other artefacts – paintings of flyovers à la Gary Hume – were more Hackney than folksy. Notwithstanding the amount of food we’d eaten, our mood remained buoyant Optimistic enough, even, to continue to pudding. It was a revelatory, uncloying rice pudding of fat brown grains sweetened and sharpened with dried fruit and lemon peel.Recommending places that are fascinatingly foreign but impossible to sit through for two courses is cultural relativism that serves nobody well Novelty is not enough Little Georgia, though, does not involve doing penance. It’s great by any standards, and at around £20 for three courses and drinks – cheap, too. You’ll have to trust me.Little Georgia, 2 Broadway Market, London E8 (020-7249 9070) Tue-Sat dinner, Sun lunch and dinner Major cards, not Amex or Diners Limited disabled access (not to toilets). Also: Tblisi, 91 Holloway Road, London N7 (020-7607 2536); Kozachok, 10 Red Lion Street, Richmond, Surrey (020-8948 2366). Café Cossachok, 10 King Street, Glasgow (0141-553 0733) Mon-Sat 10.30am-midnight, Sun 4pm-midnight.