After a week in Latvia we boarded the Lux Express coach in Riga for a 4 hour trip across miles of farming countryside to Vilnius, the diminutive capital city of Lithuania. It’s a beautiful city, with lots of historical quarters, monuments and parks to explore. But you can read all about that on Tripadvisor, let’s get to the food. Traditional Lithuanian cuisine is a hearty affair often involving potato and pork, but also berries, medicinal fruit teas, rye bread and beer.
First, the famous Cepelinai potato and meat dumplings – known as zeppelins because of their shape. They are served with a choice of creamy sauces and toppings of fried onion, bacon or mushroom. Food for cold days which didn’t quite match our August shorts and t-shirts, but we had to give them a try in a traditional ex-soviet style canteen. You can try these and other Lithuanian treats in the cafe and shop at Lituanica (29-31 High St, Walthamstow, E17 7AD).
For something completely different we set off in search of modern Lithuanian cooking. More by luck than planning, we booked a 7pm table at Dublis Restoranas in the Old Town (Traku gatve 14, Vilnius). As we entered the swish, modern but empty brasserie I began to think of bolting, but then the staff ushered us through a large wooden door and it was like entering a different, secret, hidden world. Every seat was taken and the theatrical presentation of the set dinner menu was about to begin, how we ever got a table at the right time I’ll never know.
Without too much prior knowledge we had managed to book in for the 50 Euro, Chef’s Tasting Menu. The service was excellent, efficient but not stuffy – more tattoos and hipster beards than silver service. We hadn’t really grasped that the whole ‘named chef’ thing was going on, so we were happily guided through a few courses before we realised each course was being personally explained to us by Deivydas Praspaliauskas a young, famous Lithuanian chef. Dublis offers exciting, innovative Nordic cooking without the Noma price-tag.
In total we counted about 10 dishes including a welcome fizz drink, appetizers served in a pine cone, miniature licorice loaves, 2 soups, 3 fish dishes including oyster tartare, 2 meat mains and 2 desserts! Each dish was a creative new experience of flavours, techniques, textures and ingredients. As a special night out this was an amazing Michelin standard foodie experience that in London would be at least double the cost. We spent only 135 Eur0 and would return to Vilnius just to eat like this again.
Or other recommended Vilnius places:
Jurgis ir Drakonas: Pylimo gatve 22D, Vilnius
On the edges of the Old Town this branch of the popular Lithuanian pizza chain is great for fresh pizza, pasta and salads. Excellent priced lunch menus and fantastically friendly, enthusiastic multi-lingual staff.
Kitchen: Didzhioji gatve 11, Vilnius
We booked on the basis of reviews for a mid week lunch. Walking in and seeing the smart, Skandi decor and design of the restaurant we were surprised by how cheap the ‘Business Lunch’was. Two courses – soup and tart, or salad, or beef stew or veggie pie was between 4 and 6.50 Euro. So with water, homemade bread and coffee included, with a few extra drinks we managed to run up a bill of only 20 Euro. It was such good value that went back for dinner on our last evening in Vilnius. Mackerel pate, bread, baked Camembert, rib eye steak, stuffed chicken breast, beer, coke, coffees – still only 37 Euro.
Zatar: Vokiechiu g. 9, Vilnius
Quick, cheap, healthy lunch in the old town. A nicely presented plate of 5 fresh and tasty falafel, hummus, 3 salads, sauce and pita bread for about 4 Euro. We added crispy carrots expecting some kind of fried carrot chips, but were happily surprised with the mini carrots to dip in the hummus! With drinks – lunch for 2 for 15 Euros.
And finally cakes…
Sugamour: Vokiechiu gatve 11, Vilnius
For anyone with a sweet tooth this is heaven. A ‘ladies that lunch’ kind of place with a vast array of cakes, macaroons, etc and a whole menu of teas.