Behind the counter at Ella’s Heaven, Amirkhan Hasanov reaches for a small cezve, a long-handled pot used to make Turkish coffee.
The café sells Americanos, lattes, cappuccinos. But Hasanov, its owner, prefers Turkish coffee, he says.
“This one, it’s better than all coffee,” Hasanov says, on a recent Tuesday.
He drinks Turkish coffee at home too – in the cafe, he only serves what he likes, he says.
Hasanov scoops up finely ground beans and adds sugar. The coffee is imported from Turkey, he says. He serves it with a nibble of Turkish delight made with pistachio.
While the coffee Khan serves is Turkish, many of the pastries in the glass counter display are Georgian. The range of pastries that the café offers is unique in Dublin, he says.
Hasanov wants people in Ireland to be able to sample all types of cuisine from the Caucasus, and from Turkey, he says.
Hasanov lived in Tbilisi in Georgia until he was six years old. Since he was a young boy, he always wanted to open a bakery, he says.
“I liked the Georgian pastries,” he says, on an earlier day, last May. “Then I grew up and opened this place.”
Top of the Menu
In 2016, Hasanov moved to Dublin from Baku in Azerbaijan, where he’d spent most of his life after leaving Georgia.
He hoped to improve his English and start a new business, he says.
After five years in the city, and more than three years searching for the right premises, he opened Ella’s Heaven in April of this year on Talbot Street in the north inner-city. He named the café after his young daughter.
A hand-painted mural on one of the walls shows the Baku skyline in the centre, and some Turkish delicacies, including coffee, to the right.
One image is of khachapuri adjaruli, a traditional Georgian bready dish, of freshly baked dough filled with melted cheese and egg.
Khachapuri adjaruli is at the top of the café’s menu. “I had the customers, they tell me, ‘This is the real Georgian pastry,’” Hasanov says.
It’s the most famous Georgian dish, he says, along with khinkali, Georgian dumplings.
At the back of the café, a chef prepares a khachapuri adjaruli. She kneads the dough neatly and rolls it into a flat circle.
The dough was prepared fresh that morning. The pastry is made with a special Georgian cheese, heaped on top of the dough. The chef pinches the dough at opposite points, and then folds it, cupping the cheese in the centre.
It is baked in the oven for 10 minutes.
Hasanov says the cheese is made in-house. There’s no salt in it, he says. “If you put salt, and give it to a Georgian customer, they will say, ‘That’s not Georgian adjaruli.’”
It takes about a day to make the cheese. And about ten litres of milk for a kilo of cheese, he says.
It’s worth it. “If you make it fresh, then you do good business,” he says.
There’s no point in making Georgian pastries if you don’t use the right cheese, he says.
“It doesn’t matter if your chef is professional and the cheese is bad, then there’s no point,” he says.
Once the khachapuri adjaruli is baked, the chef sits a raw egg on the melted cheese, and drops a knob of butter on top to finish.
“Normally, we don’t use forks or knives,” Hasanov says, stirring the cheese and egg at the centre of the adjaruli.
On a recent Tuesday, Saad Iqbal calls into Ella’s Heaven for a latte and a pastry. He wasn’t familiar with Georgian food before coming here, he says.
He tried the baklawa, he said. “They’re so good, and the coffee’s also so good.”
Today he’s trying trubochki, a Russian dessert, cone-shaped hard wafers filled with sweetened cream.
Also on the menu are different varieties of khachapuri, Georgian meat pies, and Russian ponchiki, savory and sweet.
One customer stops by to buy simit, a circular baked bread with sesame.
Hasanov hopes to add Azerbaijani treats too, to go along with the Georgian, Russian and Turkish influence on the menu, he says.
CORRECTION: This article was updated at 10am on Thursday 15 July to correct the owner’s full name and the number of litres it takes to make a kilo of cheese. Apologies for the errors.