The Tabidze Street scene has come to life in the past year with the addition of several new cafes and restaurants. In the evenings, the street bustles with activity and the dining rooms there fill to capacity. It is a shame that this street is not crowded during the daytime too. Last year, the city government refused to allow Tbilisi vendors of used and antique books to use Tabidze Street for their trade. It is actually a perfect idea – a charming street, with books, cafes and music….
Café De France opened about three months ago and, let me say right at the start, its best qualities are a pleasant staff, good music and a somewhat diverse wine list.
Like many Tbilisi restaurants, Café de France offers an uninspired – one might even say dull – menu. Some innovation and a little intrigue would have done much to enliven the list of starters, soups and main dishes there. The printed menu contains numerous misspelled names of dishes with handwritten corrections for many (but not all) of them. But the misspellings on the menu are a trifle compared to the mistakes behind it.
We began with the restaurant’s Signature Salad (GEL 17.90), which proved an instant disappointment. The salad was a heavy and somewhat grim combination of poultry with soy sauce, green apple, lettuce, cubes of Swiss cheese and, of course, the ubiquitous mayonnaise dressing (for how much longer will mayonnaise continue to dominate Georgian menu selections?!). Though a little intrigue would have been welcome, the excessive use of caramel as an accent was just plain strange. Even the apple did not help to refresh the palate. Of some help was the wine: Tsinandali of Telavis Marani (GEL 8.00 a glass) turned out to be too delicate for such a clumsy salad, but Tsolikouri of Teliani Valley was a perfect match (GEL 6.00 a glass).
Onion Soup (GEL 6.90) was good but not outstanding – the onions were not overcooked and seemed less concentrated in taste.
My heart sank when the next dish arrived: a Bulgarian pepper occupied a prominent place on the plate next to Grilled Salmon with vegetables (GEL 16.90). It instantly reminded me of take-out food sold at Populi supermarkets, which uses those peppers to dress up just about every serving to conceal the real taste of the food. As it happened, I enjoyed the vegetables more than the salmon and the Tsinandali of Teliani Valley (GEL 8.00 a glass) even more than the vegetables.
To my surprise, the same assortment of vegetables – cauliflower, green beans, marrow, lettuce – reappeared as a side dish served with the Mutton (GEL 18.90) … and again caramel around the plate. Thankfully, we had asked that the gravy for the mutton be served separately. I did not even bother to try what looked and smelled less like gravy than cream sauce of semolina porridge. We were also grateful that Mukuzani of Telavis Marani (GEL 13.00 a glass) helped us to soon forget that flaw.
The interior of the restaurant is undistinguished, although the lighting is pleasant. Burgundy colors dominate the space and the walls are decorated with photos of Ron Carter and Oscar Peterson and their colleagues. Though no one bothered to help us with our coats when we arrived, I later spotted a wardrobe in the restaurant.
The wine list features a wide selection from a limited number of wine factories - Telavis Marani, Teliani Valley, Château Mukhrani, Shukhmani, Bagrationi. It is nice that you can order a single glass of wine (and not necessarily an entire bottle) and sample several different wines. How those wine are served is another matter. Dry white wine was served in gigantic stemware shaped like a sommelier glass for wine tasting – monumental in size with a decorative appearance. When I asked for an appropriate replacement, even stranger glasses were delivered in the form of champagne coupes.
Address: 3/5, Galaktion Tabidze Street
Tel: 577 94 01 27; 2 99 02 21
Hours: Daily, from 09:00 to 02:00
Bank cards: Received
Price: GEL 130-150 (Dinner for two including wine and gratuity)
Parking: Adjacent streets
E-mail: [email protected]