Imereti, Georgian Restaurant, 31 Rasul Rzia Street, Baku
Tel.: 012 595 4510
It was that Saturday evening when there was no water in the centre of Baku. Very annoying. I’d been slouching about the house all day in a slightly slovenly fashion -it was the weekend, after all!- with the full intention of giving myself a sort of spa once over in my Bakunese bath pod in time to look spic, span and glam to go out to a nice dinner with the lovely husband. You know the sort of thing, conditioning hair mask and wash, leg and underarm deforestation, eye brows, manicure, pedicure, face mask, cucumber slices on the eyes, a nice long wallow in the oil fragranced bath to soothing music, the whole girly enchilada. Alas, it was not to be. Just as I was gearing up for it, our taps dried up. Meh and double meh! Ah well, I hastily decided that under the circumstances one of the more casual neighbourhood restaurants might be called for, mousse puffed my hair, perfume spritzed my body, slapped on the lippy and a clean pair of jeans and hoped fervently that no-one would stand too close to me.
We’d had such a lovely time in Tbilisi some months ago and Imereti, a Georgian restaurant right behind the Roses kiosk on Nizami, almost opposite the Casual Brasserie, had been recommended to us, so, since this is just along from our apartment, it seemed a good choice to stroll along to. Now all the restaurants we’d visited in Tbilisi had been rather funkily decorated and they all had some sort of theme, Shakespeare’s had a library look, KGB was full of Lenins, hammers and sickles and USSR posters, Purpur had a shabby chic vintage look and so on. Imereti, however, is in plain old Baku brown, with brown wallpaper and brown formica tables. It’s about as brown as you can get and I’m still wondering whether those were actually framed dried chickpeas hanging over our table, so okay, visually it’s nothing special. Still, the place was full to the brim with lively groups of people who all looked as though they were enjoying themselves tremendously and we only just about managed to nab a table.
The waiter who told us that he was from Baku spoke excellent English but confessed that he had never set foot in Georgia, handed us the, guess what, brown menu which informed us that here we would be experiencing Georgian Cousine……After careful perusal, very careful in my case since with my somewhat vaguely vegetarian/fishy tendencies, ox tongue or whole piglet didn’t really appeal, we ordered a tuna salad for me, a Chakapuly (300g) lamb dish with alcha in white wine for the lovely husband and, of course, the irresistible Khachapuri Meghrely, a spongey flat bread baked with a kind of feta cheese inside and on top, for us to share and 0.5 liter carafe of dry Georgian white to wash it all down with.
The wine came and, in fact, it was faintly blush, very crisp, very light and delicious. The tuna salad was a bit of a con. Though it tasted very nice, it was all boiled egg, tomato, pickled cucumber with a big mound of grated cooked potato and just the lightest sprinkling of tinned tuna on top, placed so strategically over the potato mound that it made you think you were getting a decent amount of tuna, when really you got merely a couple of teaspoons full. The Chakapuly, though also a small portion, was wonderful. It was a kind of lamb stew with a white wine sauce, spinach and a few tart alcha berries. The perfect sauce to dip your bread into! Very tasty, non fatty, perhaps a bit overly salty Baku style but very good indeed! The Khachapury was, of course, lovely too. This came in a whole loaf which was so much that we had to ask for a doggy bag to take some of it home.
Meanwhile, the live music act turned up, an electric guitarist with a backing tape, who, in actual fact, played rather well. All this alongside the Russian version of a ‘Come Dancing/Dancing with the Stars’ type show on the mute TV high on the wall, the neon frilly frocks alternating with dog food commercials, just a tad disconcerting to watch while you are eating.
So far, so good but then, oh shock horror, it materialized that there was no dessert menu! What??? You know me, my sweet tooth was screaming for satisfaction! We made a quick executive decision to pay and skip along to the old Mado on Qogol Street for a coffee and some of their scrumptious paxlava to round things off.
First the bill though, and this was a pleasant surprise! Including a small bottle of fizzy water and one of still, the half liter carafe of very nice wine and including service charge too, we paid AZN34. You really can’t complain about that!
If you like the idea of heading out for a simple but tasty meal with nice wine in a an easygoing casual Central European/Caucasian style pub atmosphere at excellent value for money, the Imereti is the perfect place for you, the brownness, neon frocks and dog food adverts notwithstanding!
On Tripadvisor, Imereti has consistently good reviews too and comes 13th of 233 restaurants in Baku. There’s a second Imereti at 13 Khagani Street, Tel.: 055 629 9127.