What do you do when you’re browsing a flea market and come across a centuries-old recipe book from a Duchess?
Start a restaurant, of course.
This is the premise behind Barbarestan – widely thought to be Tbilisi’s best restaurant.
The history of Barbarestan
The funny thing is that a few years ago, the restaurant was struggling just to stay open. In a market where upscale dining wasn’t yet a thing and there was little room to stand out from other restaurants serving up traditional Georgian cuisine, the little family-run resto was considering shutting their doors.
Which was when they found the cookbook. By Barbare Jorjadze. The internet calls her a princess. The menu calls her a duchess. Everybody calls her an exceptional chef and Georgia’s first feminist. And it was her little cookbook that saved Barbarestan.
Eating at Barbarestan today
Now, the two-story restaurant, with its romantically lit wine cellar (a former butcher shop with hooks still hanging from the ceiling) and rustic upstairs dining room, serves up recreations of Barbare’s recipes. Pumpkin croquettes. Quince soup. Cakes with grape syrups.
We started with the cheese plate (which was an excellent place to start) and two glasses of Georgian wine: a dry, smooth red and a citrusy white called Winiveria that reminded me of sauvignon blancs from New Zealand. Then it was onto croquettes, duck in a pomegranate and wine sauce, and dessert plates featuring cheese, sorbet, meringue, and more grape reduction sauce.
For me, the best things on the menu were the cheese plate, the exceptional, crunchy, spicy walnut bread (a crisp flat bread served up with each course), and anything with duck (we had several duck dishes and each was perfectly prepared). For dessert, don’t overlook the coffee ice cream. It sounds simple, but is garnished with edible pinecones and served with several types of cream.
The elevation of Georgian cuisine is still in its infancy, so don’t expect quite the sophistication of Parisian staples like Philippe Excoffier or Frenchie Bar a Vins. But do expect some of the best food you’ll eat in Tbilisi and most definitely the best service.
We ate two meals at Barbarestan. Four courses and a glass of wine cost 124 GEL (about $47).
Address: D. Aghmashenebeli Avenue 132
Phone: +995 322 94 37 79
Hours: 10:30 – 23:30 (11:30 p.m.) daily.
Price range: Four courses and a glass of wine cost us $47.
Dog friendly?: No.