A self-described deli, Tartine has managed to bring a novelty into a town that has had very little flirtation with French cuisine before.
Curious and hungry I first went to Tartine on a busy weekday for lunch a couple of days after it had opened. It was still winterish-cold out, so the tiny café located just off the Mother Teresa boulevard in the center of Prishtina was crowded and noisy. Inside, the markedly simple modernist décor differentiates this eatery from the city’s many cacophonic joints.
A communal table, smaller low and high tables are neatly arranged inside the small location, at the end of which stood a bar decorated with sweet and savory offerings: tarts, pies, and quiches.
Tartine, self-described as a deli, is run by two young and energetic women who with a love for the impeccable have managed to bring a novelty into a town that has had very little flirtation with French cuisine before. From croissants and poached eggs for breakfast, to quiches and tarte tatin for the afternoon, Tartine is trying very much to distinguish itself with ‘signature food.’
The relaxed atmosphere, simple jazz or folk tunes in the background, the boulangerie feel to the place make customers feel immediately at home. On a slow afternoon, it can be the perfect place to sit and read in the recently opened massive lush garden. Like the interior, the garden has been decorated with an intentional simplicity – bountiful plants create a little secluded spot in a street which is commonly dusty. Even the menu seems to be a perfectionist’s struggle: it is limited but well-thought out, based on fresh ingredients and a mix of things that are not usually available in other places.
A French café comes to mind as one sits down and looks at their offerings: fresh mint tea, or Italian coffee served in simple white porcelain. For the late afternoon wine is also available. The food stands out from the blur of prosciutto sandwiches that Prishtina is unfortunately recognizable for: fresh tartines with whole wheat homemade bread, seasonal vegetable quiches, and a great supply of tarts and pies. Intended as a breakfast and lunch place Tartine is doing a fine job in contrast to its competition around.
Since I had the great pleasure of visiting the place a few times my experiences varied, but as a lunch place it is still very much recommendable. Their namesake, the tartines, are beautifully made: a chicken hummus tartine is accompanied by a slice of orange and roasted chickpeas on top. It is delicious, but the portion is tiny, especially considering my passion for crusty bread. The tuna tartine is also a good choice, although topping the whole thing with slices of cornichons made the tartine look like a naked sandwich more than a deconstructed one. The quiche was also tasty and not on the heavy side – the goat cheese flavorful and an exciting offer in a town in which restaurant cheese pales in comparison to what people actually eat at home.
The day I visited, a spinach and broccoli soup was soupe du jour and it was spot on spicy and seasoned. My excitement could not be contained upon the first sip as I discovered that hopla ( a vegetable-based faux cream) was not used to create the creamy texture of this lovely soup.
What is most disappointing is the breakfast: the croissants are more like kifle (local pastry) than anything else. This might have changed in the meantime – but it was a shock for a French-inspired place.
In terms of dessert, the sour cherry pie confused me as it was infused with a layer of chocolate. Perhaps this makes me a fruit puritan, but I would have liked if the crisp dough had showcased the fruit exclusively. On the other hand, this is perfectly achieved in the lemon tart, which has a buttery crust and a tangy lemon topping to die for. The cheesecake is perfectly creamy too, while the chocolate gateau, which was tried by my companion, was revelatory in its deliciousness.
Starting small, Tartine began with limited working hours and was closed on weekends. Now that it has found its footing, it is open from 8 am till 8 pm, and till 6 pm on Saturdays. Whether you choose to go on a weekday or a sunny Saturday – you won’t be disappointed.
06 May 2016 - 10:46
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