Biblioteka Number One

Tērbatas iela 2, Centra rajons, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia

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This restaurant is in a handsome building, the dining room looking out over the attractive Vermane park near the centre of Riga. There is a bar area as you enter and the dinIng area lies beyond this, the tables large and very generously spaced. The view over the park on a sunny day must be impressive. There was a choice of a la carte or a nine course tasting menu at €70, the latter in particular focusing on local Latvian ingredients. Starters were €12.50 to €19.50, main courses mostly €22 to €35. The head chef is Maris Jansons, an articulate man who is keen to promote Latvian a distinct identity.

The wine list ranged in price from €25 to €995 and had labels such as Framingham Sauvignon Blanc 2014 at €38 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for about €17, William Fevre Beauroy Chablis 2012 at €70 compared to its retail price of €38, and the excellent Torres Mas La Plana 2010 at €89 for a wine that will set you back around €42 in a shop. The list majored heavily on Italy, though there were certainly many choices from elsewhere. Prestige labels included Gaja Barbaresco 2008 at €290 for a bottle whose current market value is €187.

The tasting menu began with foam of duck liver with mushrooms and onions, a pleasant and comforting set of flavours, the liver taste not overly strong (14/20). This was followed by marinated herring served on a block of ice, with potato, horseradish cream and freshly grated horseradish. The herring, from the Baltic Sea, was excellent, and the horseradish gave a pleasing bite cut nicely through the inherent oiliness of the fish (15/20). 

Another local speciality, tongue, was brined and slow cooked for thirty six hours, served with a rather less local tartare of ostrich, along with garlic mayonaisse, onion, pickled mushrooms and a garnish of chervil. The meat was certainly tender, and the pickling juices nicely cut through the richness of the meat (14/20). 

This was followed by a kind of riff on a local potato porridge, this version spurning potatoes and instead comprising wheat barley, enoki mushrooms, onion, a local hard cheese, butter and popcorn made from quinoa and black rice. I really liked this dish, the combination and contrast of textures being very successful, the butter and cheese avoiding any overall feeling of austerity, the grains excellent (15/20). 

Next was a take on another ingredient that is popular locally - birch sap, which is perhaps comparable to maple syrup. Here a sorbet of fermented birch sap was flavoured with lemon and served in a dish of rose petals that was scented with a mist of rose. The birch sap flavour was quite mild and so the sorbet tasted to me more of lemon, but this was certainly pleasant enough (13/20). 

Local sturgeon was lightly smoked and served with potato and mushrooms, along with sour cream and a garnish of caviar. The fish was carefully cooked, and although sturgeon is arguably not the most thrilling fish to eat in terms of taste, the flavour combination was enjoyable (14/20).

The final savoury course was moose that had been wrapped in lardo and baked in a crust of eye bread. The meat was medium rare and was reminiscent of venison, served with carrots and a rich sauce of the cooking juices. This was very enjoyable, though I did think that the dish would have been improved by the addition of some green vegetable component to balance out the richness (14/20). 

A honey and hazelnut sponge came with sour cream snow and sea buckthorn, drizzled with buckwheat honey. Mercifully the sea buckthorn, a wildly astringent hooligan of an ingredient, was heavily sedated here, so the main flavours were the hazelnut and honey. The honey used had excellent flavour (14/20). Finally there was chicory coffee, something that is apparently traditional here but a bit too close to childhood memories of jars of Camp Coffee for me.

I was being brought here by a company I was working with so did not see a bill. However if you drank modest wine then a typical cost per head might be around €70 (£60). Overall I really enjoyed Biblioteka Number One. It was particularly nice to see local Latvian ingredients being given pride of place, and certainly the kitchen team here are skilled. Combine this with the spacious dining room and lovely park setting and you have an appeaing overall package.

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  • Harrison

    Interesting, I found the food extremely unbalanced here. Over rich in places with nothing to counter balance. The whole de/reconstructed versions of traditional Slavic dishes was strange too. I paid €200 for two, which is obscene for Latvia. I much preferred 3 chefs.