As we stated in the Azerbaijan food post the choice and variety is immense when it comes to cuisine. It seems that wherever you choose you cannot go far wrong. There are one or two places in the Old City of Baku however that never escape a visit whenever we are in town. Lovely dining experiences in an old style setting, the caravanserais.
Being a large point on the Silk Road there are a few caravanserai in Baku Old City. A place for resting, eating and networking. The entrances leading to old open topped courtyards, a place once to freshen and leave your camel. Around the courtyards are little bays or rooms. Private rooms once used for accommodation or selling maybe are now transformed into wonderful quirky dining areas. Let us start with one of the biggest and finest. Art Garden
The wide open old courtyard has been transformed into a wonderful mix of ancient and modern. The open roof now covered in a colourful huge cloth allowing the ambience to remain within and a great light to compliment the food. The private rooms and bays surrounding are very unique themselves. Each has been decorated by local artists and each has a theme from the local area. Eating here is one of those gastro extravaganzas that could see you pass the hours away grazing at parts of the menu, chatting with friends and sipping the wine.
I still find it remarkable that the old city has not been turned into an ancient empty museum of a place. The tiny alleyways and old walls still have the sound of living and work within them. The caravanserai still put to use for eating and networking, with fewer camels of course! As you wander around them you do see the signs of old. Marks on the corners of the walls in the stone are traces where the animals were tied to… old statues, pots and ornaments still adorn the courtyards and walls.
Rather than ‘just’ eat it was great to take a deeper look into each one. Cellars underground down old stone steps, once perhaps animal shelters or banquet rooms are little bars or dramatic great settings for function rooms.
Rooms seemingly fit for a right royal banquet await passers by. I can never fail to step inside one, the lovely smells of offerings too much to resist, as well as the genuinely warm welcome from the hosts. If you are ever in Baku, I do highly recommend a dining experience at a caravanserai in the Old City. Quaint, remarkable, gorgeous, delicious, relaxing… just a few of the words I could use to describe the experiences.