Celebrating Georgian taste, culture and history at Barbarestan
When strolling through the aisles of the flea market located on the Dry Bridge in Tbilisi, Georgia, one is sure to find hidden treasures. In 2015, a particular find in the form of a book gave Maka Jibuti a winning business idea.
The EBRD and its donors spurred on her success and helped her restaurant, Barbarestan, improve its performance and expand.
The book she chanced upon, “Georgian cuisine and tried housekeeping notes,” was written in the mid-19th century by Barbare Jorjadze, a noblewoman, author and the women’s rights advocate in Georgia. Her book chronicled more than 800 original recipes.
For Maka, this was the wake-up call to transform her existing family-owned restaurant into a homage to the Georgian cook-book writer. And so began the story of a restaurant whose name literally translates as “being Barbare’s guest”.
Travelling back in time
“The book is not simply about recipes: it is our guide to 19th century Georgia and you can learn much about salon life. I consider us ambassadors – bringing that culture into the modern age.”
The restaurant certainly evokes an idyllic atmosphere, with its traditional tablecloths, antique lamps and poetic and melodic old songs. The owners draw inspiration from the cookbook not only when preparing seasonal menus, but also in designing the space and service.
Guests are offered dishes with unusual twists under authentic names from the cookbook and made with fresh produce from around the country.
But with initial success came time for reflection. With more guests interested in fine dining at the restaurant, the company needed to maintain quality both in cooking and service as well as plan its expansion strategically. The EBRD’s programme Women in Business, funded by the European Union, Sweden and the EBRD Small Business Impact Fund* helped the company tick precisely those boxes.
A growing woman-inspired business
“The advisory project helped us organise our business structure, manage processes, menus, procurement,” says Maka. “We are now stronger with a precise plan on how to move forward.”
Following the project, the restaurant was able to expand the seating area by roughly 30 per cent. In addition, Barbarestan also undergoes a coaching programme that helps the company to pinpoint directions that need more work and action plans to carry out – all to achieve the goal of opening a new Barbare-inspired restaurant abroad in the near future.
“Our fascination with Barbare Jorjadze can be explained by the fact that we share the same values. She wrote much about women’s equality and she succeeded in mixing and documenting 19th century French influence with Georgian authentic taste – along with providing very practical rules on, for example, how to set up a feast table.”
In March, like all other restaurants in Georgia, Barbarestan closed its doors in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. However, the family worked hard to keep their business running by integrating a delivery service. A couple of months later, the restaurant is slowly opening its doors to guests, rigorously following the guidance from health professionals.
Maka and her family do as much as they can to share the knowledge of Barbare Jorjadze. A couple of years ago, they contributed to the latest edition of the “Georgian cuisine and tried housekeeping notes” and published a practical Georgian-alphabet-inspired 33-recipe book featured at the Frankfurt Book Fair last year.
Now they are preparing for their next journey of launching a confectionery line. Their mission to familiarise more people with Georgian cuisine, culture and history continues.
*The EBRD Small Business Impact Fund contributors are Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, Taipei China and the USA.
By Nina Tsintsadze