Friday, 8 May 2015

The best brunch in Riga? Bibliotēka

Oh, we had plans for Sunday. Lots of plans. One of them was a day-trip to Jurmala: the spa paradise of a town with miles of white sandy beaches lined with Checkhovian villas. It's only a 20-minute train ride away from Riga, too! But as you might have figured out, we'd been so busy for the first half of our trip that we decided to leave Jurmala for the next time and spend the day exploring Riga instead. Unpredictable spring weather played a part in it, too: only a couple of days earlier the weather forecast had promised snow in Jurmala...

So, we got the chance to kick of a leisurely Sunday at the brunch at restaurant Bibliotēka no 1. Much like 3Pavaru a couple of days earlier, this was a pit stop we'd been looking forward to. However, I can admit I did feel slight skepticism rear its ugly head as I saw the place; what with its grand facade overlooking the park scattered with lion statues.

"Great. Another one of these pompous celebrity-chef places where people with more money than sense come to see and be seen". 

(Yes, I did think that. I'm a horribly petty person, you see.)

But Christ, no. Not at all like my horrendously petty mind envisaged.

Maris Jansons is one the most renowned Latvian chefs and the views to Vērmanes dārzs par are spectacular... but so is everything else in this place.

Restaurant's wine list for instance is the only one in Baltic countries awarded with Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence. Most of the bottles set you back less than €40 and a dinner (wines excluded) won't cost over €50 a head. 

The brunch is €35 per person and I can't imagine a better setting for a laid back, stylish Sunday. Everything from the superb service to the smooth jazz lingering on the background lulls you into such relaxing bliss you sort of forget where you are (or who you are!) until you accidentally overhear yourself ordering Champagne (!)

The brunch includes a welcome cocktail, which today was Prosecco-based Bellini. Ooh. And aah. 

But let's have a look at the food, shall we? With any luck the photos managed to capture at least some of the abundance so you'll understand all these superlatives are being used for a reason. 

First salads and dressings and such. Everything was good. And I mean, really, really good.

Charming charcuterie...

... and excellent tartare. I actually don't think any of the labels were in English, so I couldn't tell you which animal it was. Suffice to assume it was a dead one.

And if the meats on display at the buffet of cold starters were overwhelming, then Jesus Maria Rodriguez, what the fish selection had in store!

Marinated herring. And blinis. And I'll tell you, they hadn't scrimped on anything. Like, the amount of roe. The staff kept replacing everything as the brunch went on - a special thanks for that. All too often brunches back home in Helsinki end up a sad collection of empty bowls that no-one is refilling.

Oh, and there were marinated and barbecued king prawns too...

... along with just a little bit more seafood fabulousness. Everything was excellent. The tempura crust on the deep-fried calamari was light and crunchy without any sogginess (how is that even possible in a buffet?!) and those breaded and the crunchiness of those deep-fried king prawns almost had me in tears. OK, well maybe not tears - but they did have me go back for more. Like, 4 times. Cocktail sauce (home-made like everything else) was sheer perfection.

But my God - there was more.

There were oysters. Oysters!!! (Is it too early for another round of "excellent" and "sublime"? ) S0 fresh, so freaking yummy. And hey, in case €35 seems steep, you'll soon eat your way back into black. I alone ate enough for at least for of you. You're welcome!

In addition to the cold buffet, there's a selection of warm dishes that change weekly. Try some. Or all of them- they're included in the price tag as well.

I was sold after I saw the squid dish. Fresh, simple and soooooo goooood. Harissa pasta turned out to be harissa paste, but it made for a smooth and wonderfully rich sauce.

Slow-cooked goose leg was at least as good. Even now as I'm typing these words I find myself smiling. Now that tells you you've had a good meal!

I could have easily tried everything else on the menu, too, but I did have the dessert buffet to attack. Which I did. 

Those adorable little jars contained chocolatey mousse. I think the white one had been spiked with some oh-so-trendy-right-now-here-too matcha.

Cakes were decadently rich and loaded with berries. I did not even look if any of them were raw or gluten-free. But divine? Yes.

Worth it? Abso-freaking-lutely.

The only thing I found a bit disturbing was that coffee/tea and juice (items I would classify as brunch staples) weren't included in the price. Both cost €4.50 each so their share of the total (€44 each) was 20%.

Another thing that troubles me is the logistics - that I can't start every single Sunday like this. 

I trust no-one's hungry? Shall we continue with a bit of culture?





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