In the course of some typically cursory research for this blog post, I turned up an execrable hack restaurant review of Hackney b.y.o.b. haven Little Georgia by The Sunday Times' Giles Coren. Ordinarily I'd just hit the little 'x' on the browser and graze onwards, but in this case the reviewer, a man who is on record as being "proud to be famous for being rude," manages to miss the graces of the restaurant so squarely as to actually infer their existence to a perceptive reader. Like, if you are at a party and someone is walking around blindfolded poking the other guests with a tail, you can be confident there is a donkey present.
In this case, Coren's eagerness to impersonate A.A. Gill - another Sunday Times restaurant critic,* another famous tosser - leads him to spend 15 of the review's 20 paragraphs making wincingly humorless, tone-deaf jokes about how people in Hackney are, in general, poorer than he is. He repeats again and again in his endless intro** the common blunder by which writers and speakers routinely lower themselves beneath even the most quivering insecure eastside hipster, which is to say he complains about hipsters. When Coren finally gets to the meal he emits little more than the names of the dishes at Little Georgia, having pretty much spent his literary load complaining about the hipsters in the poor neighborhood where he feels unwelcome.
All in all, high comedy. I visited the place last week in London and can attest that everything Coren failed to notice, all the discreet charms of Little Georgia, pretty much made me swoon with restaurant affection (a feeling seemingly alien to these reviewers I have mentioned).
Let me now critically lay down my arms and say that some of my love for Little Georgia derives from how poignantly it recalled a restaurant I adored in Los Angeles called Elf Café. The LA Elves were good friends to me throughout the few fraught years I passed in that city, and theirs too was a b.y.o.b. establishment, homey and well-appointed, serving honest filling food at relaxed prices. The key difference is the Elves are the beautiful remnants of an indie band who decided to open a restaurant, whereas from what I understand Little Georgia is run by a Fellini-esque mother-daughter team.
The menu at LG is pokey and simple and tasty, with the same five or six ingredients shared throughout almost everything. (This is perhaps the reason there are not more Georgian restaurants. There might be very little in the way of menu differentiation. "You got beans 'n' sausage? Borscht? Me too.") The borscht is pungent and flavorful; and a kotnis I had was very successful, considering it consisted of little more than kidney beans with pomegranate seeds. To hell with food though; the mistake most retaurant reviewers make is they walk into tiny restaurants, which are rickshaws, expecting theme park rides.
|Image swiped from eurocheapo.com.|
More importantly for my purposes, there is no corkage whatsoever at Little Georgia, and our server, the daughter, somehow managed not to express her chagrin verbally upon realizing that we were a ten-strong table of mostly broke contemporary artists who had lumbered in with case after case of cheap beer and worse wine, only to share appetizers.
It was my friend A's birthday, so I'd brought what I thought was something decent: a 2009 Colli di Luni Vermentino called "Fosso di Corsano" by a producer I was unfamiliar with, Terenzuola, which wine I'd snapped up during an otherwise depressing visit to Fortnum & Mason.
I'd been shocked they even stocked a Colli di Luni Vermentino. It's a geek wine. Briefly: Vermentino is what the Italians call Rolle, or probably vice versa, particularly considering that in Italy, specifically in the tiny Tuscan Colli di Luni zone wedged against Liguria, the grape truly shines, attaining a searing saline briskness and corn-kernel sweetness found nowhere else on earth.
Terenzuola is an organic estate that began bottling wine in 1996. Sadly, if the "Fosso di Corsano" is anything to go by, they still haven't quite got the hang of it. It was a hot and heavy 14%, cloying, imbalanced, with none of the Riesling-like purity you find in better Colli di Luni Vermentini. Tasting it was like attempting to put on the Stone Roses' debut at a party, only to discover belatedly that due to swapped record sleeves you'd confused it with an Ian Brown solo album.
Happily, one of A's friends had brought something that suited the occasion better: some bristly sweet white currant vodka, homemade by her mother.
We passed the little flask around, and drank beer from there. Can I endorse Little Georgia any higher than by saying the environment was so cosy and the meal so humble that I barely missed having any wine to accompany it?
* Who thought this was a good editorial direction to go in? Employing not one, but two callous angry shock-jock writers? Since both men are more famous than me, I suppose I don't have a lot of ground to stand on. But since I am not appreciably less callous than they are, only more prone to reflection, I'll hazard that these men find UK readership only due to a kind of national kitchen-schadenfreude that exists in England, a childish craving to see gourmands scolded, rather than by dint of their cutting wit. (For further evidence of this tendency, c.f. the celebrity of Gordon Ramsay.)
** Which sin I now risk repeating...
A, 87 Goldsmith's Row
London E2 8QR
Tel: +44 20 7739 8154
N.D.P. in London: Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly
N.D.P. in London: ECC Chinatown, Soho
N.D.P. in London: Pembury Tavern, Hackney
N.D.P. in London: Brawn, Hackney
Serving Aligoté at Christmastime in London
A review of Little Georgia @ TimeOut
Better pictures but disappointed people at Little Georgia @ EatingEast