RIGA - In recent years the word "lounge" has become a generic term to express all manner of supposedly trendy things. It's a loosely-defined and lazily-applied concept whose general purpose is to evoke cool with a dash of kitsch.
And so it was that I was faintly dreading paying a visit to the new bar-restaurant, Lounge 8. I imagined it would be unbearably trendy and pretentious, not to mention horribly overpriced. But after turning up there on a viciously cold afternoon, I ended up wholeheartedly lounging around on a leather sofa for three hours. In fact, I was so smitten by the place that I didn't want to leave.
The owners of Lounge 8 have managed to create a hybrid concept that really works. First and foremost, it's a wonderful place just to sit and relax. The interior is warm and intimate and makes an ideal setting for anything from a business meeting to a romantic date.
As I sat there reading W.G. Sebald's wonderful book "The Rings of Saturn," I noticed one of the most famous pop stars in Latvia being interviewed at a nearby table. Lounge 8 is clearly going to be a place to be seen. But it's to the owners' credit that they have managed to make Lounge 8 so broadly appealing.
I happened to bump into an English guy I know and we chatted for a while in the spacious bar area. Like me, he said he fully expected to dislike the place but after just one visit was convinced it was going to become one of his regular hangouts.
While many will be drawn to the sleek atmosphere, I have to say the menu was the most pleasant surprise for me. Not only is the food there of very high quality, but the prices are amazingly reasonable for Riga's Old Town.
I tried the Thai Chicken and coconut with mushroom soup as a starter and admiringly spooned it down in between reading snippets of Sebald. There's a good range of salads and pastas too and a small but impressive choice of main courses. For desert try the amazing New York Cheesecake, which is fantastic value for only 1.80 lats.
Lounge 8 has been a popular place in Tallinn for some time so it's a bit of a surprise it took so long to transfer the idea to Riga. But the owners have made up for lost time by really going for it.
The complex includes the cigar specialist, La Casa Del Habano, on street level, alongside a decent cafe called Crema which does an excellent line in fresh salads.
But whether you go to Lounge 8 to puff on a costly cigar, or to try their exotic cocktails, or simply to lounge around with friends, it has to be said that Lounge 8 is an impressive achievement. I guess this is what lounging is all about.
19 Valnu St.
(entrance from Gleznotaju St.)
Tel: 735 9595