RIGA - After months of winter hibernation, my taste buds had finally woken up with the fresh spring weather. Our senses brimming from the crisp April air, my friend and I decided to try the recently opened 4 Rooms restaurant and club situated in Livu Square, Old Riga.
Thanks to the restaurant's outdoor wicker chairs and tables, I was able to wait for my friend in the early spring sun. I scrutinized the menu. So far so good; European Cuisine at a reasonable price. The cream and gray painted facade seemed a little false, reminiscent of a Hollywood film set. The interior, however, was refreshingly authentic.
4 Rooms is literally that. Well, maybe 3 Rooms and one tiny closet space (my bathroom is larger than the Beer Room). The first three consist of the restaurant, a banquet hall and oriental room. The restaurant's most characteristic feature is a stone fragment of the city's defense wall, dating back to 1201. The natural furnishings, ageing oak beams and soft lighting work to make the place inviting.
Upstairs in the banquet hall you can enjoy a superb view of Livu Square. The basement, called the oriental room, offers water pipes for 6 lats (8.6 euros). Apparently no eatery is complete these days without a hookah lounge.
Every Friday and Saturday night the restaurant offers live music. Either that, or they let Canal Park's old man with his electric keyboard come in from the cold. Although he was no jazz band, the musician played well. As the keyboard's polka um-pah-pah made conversation difficult, we were grateful that the service was quick. Our eyes widened in delight to see the generous portion sizes.
A bit lethargic after our hearty meal, we resisted the temptation to explore the remaining three rooms and opted to make our way home. But I'm sure rooms number 2, 3 and 4 would have revealed their own charm. On our way out, we couldn't help but notice that Monday through Friday they offer a three-course lunch for just as many lats.
As always, it's nice to leave a restaurant impressed with everything from atmosphere to service to food. So often one of those areas falls through in Riga. Passing the restaurant's windows, fogged with the warmth of conversation, lively music and hot food, we almost turned around to rejoin our old crowd, who had begun to sing along with the keyboardist.
Watching the scene from outside, I smiled slightly at their use of the word "club." Quite frankly, I could not see how the cozy, cabin-like restaurant came anywhere close to a dance club. Unless the hard-wood floor transforms into a mechanical dance platform and the soft lighting into flashing strobes, there is no way 20-somethings would consider the place for a Friday night. More likely, the bar's late-night crowd would head to the basement, pass out on one of the oriental cushions, and wake up at 11 the next day, just in time to order a bacon and egg breakfast.