We know pretty much all the decent restaurants in Vilnius and certainly make good use of them when we’re there whether its at the Pinavija kibinai cafe, the Kitchen or Markus ir Ko (still the best steaks in town)!
At the beginning of October I returned to Vilnius with my friend and colleague Mike (who had not visited for a couple of years because of illness) and we were both looking forward to visiting some of our old haunts, including Bistro 18, the Kitchen and the finest steak house in the city Markus ir Ko. In the latters case I have to report that although the food is still as good the, customer service still leaves a lot to be desired. I think it is something to do with it being a “pub” atmosphere and all male staff (an occasional smile wouldn’t go amiss). There is however, on selected night an excellent jazz pianist who is extremely talented and on the last visit did a magnificent improvisation on Billy Strayhorns “Take the A Train”
The Hill of Three Crosses in autumn
Anyway, we spent six days in the city…
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Before I returned to Vilnius after a two-year gap my colleague Terry warned me that our hotel, The Shakespeare, had changed its draught beer. He discovered on his solo trip last year that there was no more Svyturys Extra! He was not a happy man.
Turns out it’s brewed in Klaipeda at the Lighthouse brewery owned by Carlsberg. (NB Lighthouse = Svyturys). And the hotel still has Svyturys Baltas in bottles, which we also like, so not a totally lost cause.
Later in the week we went to our favourite steakhouse, Markus ir Ko, where they didn’t previously serve Svyturys, and we were also served with the Red Brick beer.
Back home in my local Tesco there is now a range of craft beers, including one from America, which is surprisingly good (as I tend to think of American beer as watery and weak). I’ve tried a couple of them starting with the American Goose 312 wheat beer and the IPA and have just bought some to pass on to my colleague Terry.
Time for a bottle I think!
I observed this gentleman at a restaurant in Vilnius, he seemed to be brushing up on his Lithuanian whilst indulging himself in a very fine steak and a bottle of Miguel Torres excellent Gran Coronas red wine. Obviously a man of erudition and taste……………and most certainly English!
Last time I was in Vilnius in June I heard there was a new steak house worth visiting. As you may know my favourite steak house is Markus ir Ko on M. Antokolskio g. just off Stiklių g. so I had to compare.
The new place is called böff. The name is a play on words. It’s obviously not a Lithuanian name as it contains an umlaut but if you pronounce it as a German word it sounds like boeuf, the french word for beef.
Anyway enough of the wordplay what is it like? It’s across the river from the Cathedral on Olimpiečių 1 and you can see it from the castle. Just look across the river for two large boulders and there it is.
As it was a Friday evening I’d booked in advance which was just as well as it was pretty full and they were turning people away.
The staff were very attentive and spoke good English so a good start.
I decided to start with a salmon wrap – a bit unusual for me . I’m not a big fan of wraps but it was was OK.
They offered me a sauce with the steak which I thought I’d try but it wasn’t spicy or peppery enough for my taste.
But the steak was really great as was the Malbec wine.
The whole meal cost me 139 Litas which I thought was good value for money by UK standards ( I just paid 230 Litas for a similar meal in Birmingham, England). The service was very good especially considering how busy it was.
I’ll recommend it my colleague who is visiting next month and get his opinion.
Is it better than Markus? Well I think the steaks are equally as good judging by my one visit to böff and the service is better than at Markus.
But for all that I think I’ll stick to Markus. The fillet mignon there is wonderful (and so big we’ve had to downsize to the medium serving. Markus does generous portions). And despite the rudimentary level of customer service it has a good atmosphere especially when the jazz pianists are performing.
Markus ir Ko is also close to Stiklių g. and the wine bar Notre Vie is just on the corner opposite, ideal for a nightcap to round off the night.
However the name refers to the glassblowers who worked and sold their wares there in the 15th and 16th centuries.
You can see them in the painting above the entrance to the Stikliai hotel (I’ve never seen many people inside the hotel but it seems to be popular with visiting dignitaries. You’ll know when you see all the top-end Mercs parked outside with the drivers and minders hanging about).
There is still a glass artist’s studio on the street but there are also lots of eating and drinking places!
To get there you can walk up between Vilnius University and the Presidential Palace or walk up Pilies g. onto Didžioji g. and turn right at the fountain at the bottom of the town hall square (Rotušės aikštė).
Almost opposite you have Mamma Mia, a new and classy delicatessen, coffee shop and wine bar which also sells bottles of wine and gifts.
Walking past the hotel straight ahead at the junction of Stiklių g. and Žydų g. is Poniu Laime a wonderful coffee and cake shop (owned by the Stikliai hotel) which is reminiscent of an Austrian coffee shop, a little old-fashioned but very popular with locals (The name means a lady’s pleasure).
You’re also at the entrance to M. Antokolskio g. on your left. And there is the best steakhouse in town, Markus ir Ko. Service is rudimentary (all male staff) but they have filet mignon to die for and on some nights a jazz pianist.
In the Summer you can sit out in the street. You need to book a table.
Further up the street is Rene, a Belgian restaurant which gets fresh fish twice a week. Not a place I’ve eaten at but the staff seem courteous and friendly.
If instead of turning left to Markus you carry on down Stiklių g. you come to another great restaurant Bistro 18. My colleague and I have eaten there several times. He’s a big fan and often he’ll go there and I go to Markus and we meet up in Notre Vie.
There’s something for everyone in this part of the Old Town.
Tucking in to my fillet mignon at a great steak house, Markus ir Ko, in Vilnius, Lithuania, I overheard a woman complaining in French to her partner that there were no vegetarian options on the menu.
His response? “Tough – this is the best steak house in town and we’re only here one night!”
It turned out that they were French Canadians on a whistle stop tour of the Baltics.
On one of my next visits I spotted this sign in Vilnius.
There’d be no such misunderstandings there!