By Douglas Williams
Sometimes, often just when we really need it, life comes up with a wee treat to make us smile. This happened to me twice recently and both times it was in the form of a very enjoyable lunch.
Few things beat a good lunch. Both times I had successfully avoided what, with hindsight, would have undoubtedly been terrible lunches. The first place I tried looked ok, slightly pretentious, the staff, when they finally appeared were chilly and instructed that I’d need to pay in cash, their POS wasn’t working. And without the merest smidgen of regret or, for that matter, cheer. Perhaps it was me… Anyway, I left. The next place I tried, a deeply unimaginative chain, was closed at 12.30 on a Tuesday. Again, “Inchis”, delivered with a smug smile.
So onwards hungry and in a darkening mood and past Caju, just behind the Atheneum. I reversed and further inspection revealed an interesting menu, and inside a modern, tasteful interior so I went in and took a window seat the better to watch the world go by. A menu was provided and it was sufficiently interesting that the sullen staff were swiftly forgotten. Bare red brick walls with empty, elaborate frames, the roof like an upside down wooden boat is super, the place is cozy – a little too cozy perhaps – but cool for sure. So I had the fallafel to start, Egyptian, with sauerkraut but wisely accepted the waiter’s recommendation of bread which was delivered as an extremely hot and delicious baton, don’t miss. My fellow diner had the coal-roasted eggplant which duly impressed as did my main of tagliatelle with baby calamari. It being lunch and with a busy afternoon ahead, we stuck to the juices which were very good. And a bill that shocked with it’s reasonableness. Had the stuff managed to muster something approaching a smile it would have been practically faultless. Perhaps that’s above their pay scale.
Caju – Nicolae Golescu 16 and see www.cajubyjosephhadad.ro for more information.
Caju was good but the next is, in my humble opinion, exceptional. Another Monday, this time snowing, dreary, and lunch was sought at an Italian which looked vaguely passable. No greeting, no staff. Eventually a menu was presented by an amazed waiter – punters! The menu was interminably dull – Rom-Italian. I left, out into the cold again, wandering aimlessly like a cloud, hungry, when what do I see before me but a cool frontage with a cool name, Aubergine, and an alluring menu.
Greeted like the returning prodigal, seated in a booth upstairs all eclectic furniture and modern, world music and left with a tablet menu with an abundance of interesting Mediterranean inspired dishes, including veggie options aplenty. We had soup, more fallafel, the cerviche, mushrooms and a rainbow salad rounded off by a creme brulee and washed down by an excellent Liliac. The dishes were fresh, colourful and flavoursome, cooked and presented with some panache, the cerviche and the salad the stand outs. The service was warm and helpful and the ambiance hip but relaxed. The quality was reflected in the bill. Aubergine – Strada Smardan 33 – see www.aubergine-restaurant.ro for more information.