Saturday, 19 March 2016

Faces and other restaurant recommendations for Jurmala

Jurmala is an absolute treat for an architecture aficionado and a spa junkie, but it has plenty in store for a foodie tourist, too. Trued and tested places include Il Sole at Baltic Beach Hotel (the a la carte is miles better than the half-board menu) and 36.Linije, which year after year also makes it onto the Top 30 restaurants in Riga (this year ranked #6)

In case you're after a serious splurge, head over to Baltic Beach Hotel's Caviar Club - as the name suggests, this place is guaranteed to satisfy even the most demanding taste buds.

Our absolute favourite this year was Faces, located in Bulduri about a 10-minute taxi-drive from our hotel in Majori... though it wasn't love at first sight. Or even the second.

The restaurant seems to do everything in their power to keep international diners out: the website for instance fails to provide any information in any other languages than Latvian or Russian. But my stubbornness got the best of my integrity the moment I noticed octopus on the menu. Yes, apparently nothing can stand in the way of me and some octopus...

The reception at our hotel took care of the dinner reservation and transportation but the reception at the restaurant was subdued to say the least.

The restaurant is one of Jurmala's latest additions and clearly has found its clientele which would seem to be the high and mighty of the area. We didn't seem to make much of an impresssion on the staff which became obvious for instance in the way the menu was presented to us "well, that salad might be nice to share...?"

The frostiness melted rather quickly though as we kicked the evening off with Champagne and started feasting on the seafood. 

First we were served bread, aioli and some olives. Though I should specify they were most certainly not just any olives, but ones they marinate themselves and quite possibly the best I've ever had. So fresh, so fruity. I always thought I don't particularly like olives. Turned out I was wrong.

Tartar (€ 15.40, from beef dry aged for 55 days)  had exciting components in many ways, but could have used some more acidity and saltiness to balance its richness.

The scallops (€12.90) wooed us with its delicate presentation. Served with butter carrot pure and grilled corn salsa it was an excellent dish. Scallops were cooked to perfection and the salsa, which contained grapes among other things, was an intriguing addition. 

My favourite was quite obviously this modern take on Pulpo a la Gallega (€ 13.60). Octopus cooked in olive oil, served with Pimenton de la Vera and smoked mashed potatos... Oooh. All the flavours and textures I've so come to love.

Gambas pil pil (€9.30) were excellent, too.

There was certain sameness in the way the dishes were presented and the way they tasted so the main, grilled seafood selection (€21.90) didn't really bring anything new to the table. It was good, nonetheless.

This is definitely a place to come with several people (and several stomachs) as two just weren't enough to take on the extremely interesting menu, which celebrates all those Mediterranean ingredients and influences I just can't get enough of.

At this point we had clearly moved up in the staff's respect stakes and one of them offered to escort me to the cigar room in the back (cosiest smoking room I've seen in ages).

While I enjoyed my glass of wine and a leisurely smoke, my companion enjpyed something else entirely. A couple (even by Finnish standards intoxicated beyond belief) had been seated to the table next to ours leaving us the unobstructed view into all the ways they thought were appropriate for enjoying a  night out an an upscale restaurant (more booze, spilling food down their fronts and then attacking each other with knives). 

What we found strange was that their behaviour didn't get the staff to as much as to raise an eyebrow, let alone intervene or apologize it.

For afters we opted for Crema Catalana (€ 5.50) and their home-made sorbets which were incredibly creamy and rich  (á € 2). 

The total came to €113 for two people. Worth it? Yes. But did we tip? No.






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