Plate With A View: Tores Vilnius, Lithuania
Saturday 30 July 2005
The relaxed atmosphere of this bar-restaurant reflects the funky mood of the area. The residents of this part of Lithuania's capital declared it an independent state in 1997. Not that they take the matter very seriously: the "Republic of Uzupio" is Vilnius's answer to Montmartre. The ensuing publicity has turned the fortunes of the once run-down arty area: real estate here is rapidly becoming some of the most expensive in the city.
Not that Tores itself is anything other than a large, sophisticated shack,
its corrugated-iron roof disguised inside by fabrics. But the focus is its back terrace, which offers sublime views and seating for about 100 people. The food is somewhat secondary, although perfectly acceptable - especially in a city not renowned for its cuisine. Lithuanian meals are heavy on potatoes, also making much of pork and pickles, and the tinned ingredients itemised on menus are a throwback to the difficulties of the recent Soviet past. Since Tores opened four years ago it has been serving dishes that nod to such traditions while also taking account of modern European tastes. In keeping with the informality, there are no defined meal times - you can eat or just drink pretty much as you like until closing time at 2am.
From the terrace you look down on pretty Vilnia river and across to the Upper Castle and Gediminas' Tower, with its turret and ancient walls. Further west the skyline is etched with the spires and topknot church crosses that are quintessential elements of Old Vilnius. The modern city hovers in the distance, its construction cranes and TV tower adding a contemporary twist. You don't have to take all this in from the terrace. If it's raining, sit in the clubby building and stare out through the picture windows. Inside or out, Tores is a great place to linger over a long lunch during the day. But if you like your views with added romance, come for sunset and stay to see Vilnius transformed into twinkling lights.
Starters or snacks include Tores dried beef at 9 Lithuanian Litas (£2) and potato soup with smoked brisket (Lt 6/£1). Mains range from tiger prawns with peppers and leeks (Lt 45/ £9) to roast beef filet salad with bacon, lettuce, mushrooms and tinned cucumbers (Lt 15/£3). Desserts are around Lt 8/£1.50 and are more appetising than they sound: fruit salad with ice cream, and cheese cake that comes with an elaborate hairdo of crystallised sugar.
For drinks, most customers opt for the local Svyturys beer at Lt 4/80p. Wine is also served, with a special emphasis on Spanish Torres. A bottle of Torres Gran Sangre de Toro, costs a relatively hefty Lt 105/£21.
Tores is open daily 11am-2am (40 Uzupio; 00 370 5 262 9309; www.tores.lt)
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