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By Anatol Steven. 11.07.2011


Save to foursquare Jauniela 24, Riga Phone: 371 67212 404
Fax: 371 67 212 406



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A few steps from Riga’s famous Dome Cathedral, in an area rich with architectural detail, is a 4-star boutique hotel, the Hotel Justus. Venture inside and you'll discover an evocative little hideaway restaurant that serves Latvian dishes for hotel guests and non-guests alike.

The evocative historical building has been immaculately restored. The site of the hotel is significant, as it was part of a plot selected by Bishop Albert for the location of his Baltic residence back in 1210. Today, the building on this spot, which is located on one of Old Riga’s loveliest cobblestone lanes, dates back to the 18th century. Hosting a tavern in the early 19th century, the building has since housed a printing business, artisans’ workshops, pharmaceutical laboratories and, most recently, a cinema.
The unique historical atmosphere found in this area made it a favorite shooting location for Soviet moviemakers, who made the street famous with key scenes in the series “Sherlock Holmes” and the spy drama “17 Moments of Spring”.
A delightfully rustic ambiance pervades the Hotel Justus restaurant, Aleks. It stretches along the ground floor of the building, and in summer tables spill out onto the peaceful cobblestone street. The Art Nouveau architecture along the lane provides plenty to look at beneath the Old Town spires.
Inside, the countryside theme is clear in the lampshades made out of barrels and wooden kitchen utensils around the room, and some tables are hidden in cozy alcoves. The retro atmosphere is complemented by framed photos from the twenties and thirties showing playfully cavorting couples.
This is the heart of Riga, and yet all of the dishes on the Aleks menu are crafted from fresh Latvian ingredients straight from the farm, including the meat, fish, vegetables and fruit. Virtually nothing has been frozen.
The number-one dish in popularity, however, is the traditional cheese soup. A rich, filling bowlful resembling creamy cheese that has been especially melted, the soup is made from smoked cheese and comes with a wispy ring of toasted bread.
Salmon on a bed of spinach and almonds will charm fish lovers, and those looking for a local twist should definitely go for the crispy Baltic sole, served whole with wild rice. Each of the main dishes is created in imaginative ways, with the turkey having been marinated in ginger, garlic and honey and served with mashed potatoes and sauce made from Latvian mushrooms.
Other dishes are positively traditional, however, one being a huge husk of pork leg served with lashings of apple sauce and horseradish – enough to satisfy a king, and usually plenty for two people.
Around 50 excellent wines adorn the wine list. One of the highlights of the menu is the plate of traditional Latvian cheeses with pear jam – a perfect summertime evening accompaniment for a crisp and fruity white.
The menu has been touched up for summer, of course, and features, for example, a light and fluffy berry berevua with fresh berry sauce as well as a tangy, citrusy cold lemon soufflé. The ice cream plate features apple, peppermint, chocolate and cherry flavors.
There is a banquet hall downstairs for up to 20 people seated and 40 standing. But for a real exercise in style, the magnificent chandeliered ballroom in the Museum of the History of Riga and Navigation cannot be matched for special occasions such as weddings and anniversaries. Up to 100 guests can comfortably fit inside as sumptuous feasts are created by the head chef at Aleks and consumed under the gaze of a vast painting of Tsar Peter I and a stucco portrait of the fun-loving Tsarina Elizabeth.

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