From the time I was planning my trip to the time I actually landed on Azerbaijan soil, Art Garden was the only place I was most excited about. It is an art centre coupled with a traditional Azerbaijan cuisine restaurant with its historic location being the centrefold of the attention it receives from tourists.The Old City or Inner City is the historical core of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. It is the most ancient part of Baku, which is surrounded by well-protected walls. In 2007, the Old City had a population of about 3,000 people. In 2000, the Old City of Baku, including the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and the Maiden Tower, became the first location in Azerbaijan to be classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. So, this is the significance of Art Garden’s location.The fact that the restaurant highlights its artwork more than its food is heart-warming and indeed a modest gesture on their part, for tourists are as taken in by the deliciously prepared meals as they are by the stunning artwork that lines the walls. There are dedicated rooms inside the premises, where a plethora of artworks stare back at the art lover in you. From hand painted boards to colourfully graffitied walls, there are also unique papier-mâché works and oil paintings that fill the spaces. Abstract designs, artificial fauna & flora as well as floral imprints are some of the highlights of these art filled spaces, where I happened to trespass two rooms.These works have been contributed by some of the most eminent artists of Azerbaijan. Whether these are for sale or not, remains a question.The seating space of Art Garden is unique and unlike all the fancy or traditional restaurants you have been to anywhere. We, as Pakistanis, know for a fact about the rich cultural and historical eminence of our country, but the way Baku locals have preserved their legacy, especially with Art Garden, remains an impressive and inspirational act.The fact that the restaurant highlights its artwork morethan its food is heart-warming, for tourists are as taken in by the deliciously prepared meals as they are by the stunning artwork that lines the walls. There are dedicated rooms inside the premises, wherea plethora of artworks stareback at the art lover in youHoused under a single marquee, the seating space is elaborate and spacious. There is no carpeting, nor is the floor smoothly constructed. It’s a rough walk over to wherever you choose to sit. This feature itself contributes to the uniqueness and the historical element Art Garden aims to exude, for there are only bricks and stones wherever your feet touch the ground, rather than solid concrete. The entrees arrive in the form of traditional Azerbaijan starters, which include the Mangal Salad, a Local Cheese Set, Fisinjan and Lavangi & Nuts. I highly recommend the Local Cheese Set for all the light eaters, as it’s appropriately light on your tummy, especially if you go with a croissant to have it with. From the main course, Lamb Pilaw, Antrekot Kebabs, Sac Mixed and Badimjan Dolmasi were some of the traditional meals, which I happened to try, but the Antrekot Kebabs were something I absolutely couldn’t get enough of. They are a lot like our naan kebabs, only instead of the naan, there is a soft roti filled with lots of mayonnaise and also the size of it is pretty compact too. So, one can have at least three Antrekot Kebabs and still not feel stuffed.Another exquisite meal in terms of its unique presentation was the Badimjan Dolmasi, where eggplants, bell peppers and tomatoes were roasted and stuffed with meat. Just writing about it makes me salivate. All this was served with traditional grape juices, olive sherbets and lots of red and white wine.I particularly found the Lamb Pilaw the most tempting and different in its presentation. While we all were seated, a brown rectangular box approached our table all of a sudden. The servers placed a candle on top of it and as soon as it was lit, the brown box burst into a huge platter of rice, lamb, apricots, tomatoes and what not. I learned later that the brown box was actually made from papad and the entire crust was edible. In desserts, I tried a tiny helping of the traditional baklava with green tea, lemon slices and lots of cubed sugar.A trio of local musicians of Baku keep playing live at the back in their beautiful heartfelt voices and monochrome suits sans their jackets. I befriended a server there who told me that Art Garden received more tourists than locals for its historical significance and richness in Azerbaijan appeal. The place is saturated with the breath of the time, where, alone with the excellent cuisine you can plunge into traditions and history. Here you can taste a wide range of national dishes, cooked in the best order to present the traditions of Azerbaijan, oriental sweets, and tea from samovar and a fragrant hookah.In the gallery of Art Garden, you can organise a celebration for 30 people in a unique atmosphere of fine art. Art Garden provides services for organising weddings, banquets and conferences. The writer is incharge Lifestyle at Daily Times. She Tweets at @cheenaagha and can be reached at email@example.comPublished in Daily Times, November 13th 2017.