When the wish for culinary adventures grows particularly strong, a piece of advice is especially important. Forget the cooking books with exotic recipes and appetising pictures. You will never be successful in recreating the original aroma or the pretty look at home with store-bought ingredients, and your experiment may make you give up once and for all Peruvian or Szechuan cuisine. Instead just go out. The experienced chefs in specialised restaurants which often have their own supply lines for products will outstrip everything you could possibly create and will give you an unforgettable experience with an authentic taste.
The multitude of foreign cuisine restaurants in Sofia is very welcome to those who want to have their each dinner different, or are looking for the cuisine of their lives. The quality is rising all the time for the past few years and Bulgarian clients already have high requirements for authenticity of dishes. In many places chefs come from the nationality or ethnicity in question and know perfectly well what they are doing, so you will not receive a watered-down version of ratatouille or heartburn-inducing pelmeni.
Marmo Food & Wine (Mladost 2, block 218 А, phone: 088 827 6276, www.marmo.bg) is the choice for the occasions when you prefer refined atmosphere at lunch or dinner. The menu runs to every taste – from fresh seafood and sushi through beef steaks and delicious pasta to the desserts made on the spot, everything is of superb quality. Whatever you choose, you will have the wine to complement it with a list of vintages from Chile, Argentina, Italy, France, and Bulgaria. Marmo is ideal as a venue for business meetings and is close to the Sofia airport, and the temptations on the lunch menu are worth taking the time for a quality break.
Do you miss real steaks and burgers? Do not despair, you will find some of the best recipes from all over the world in Boom! Burgers & Steaks (15 Karnigradska St, phone: 0894 420 440, www.boomburgers.bg). The owners have put a lot of effort into sourcing Irish Angus Beef and experimenting to find the best recipes – the juicy meat, hand-cut fries, fine wines and ice cream shakes are evidence to their success. The items on the small menu are served to perfection every time, which is highly appreciated by visitors leaving their praise in sites such as Tripadvisor and Foursquare.
To experience the real Turkish cuisine, visit Turquoise Restaurant (90 Bakston Blvd, phone: 855 1100, www.turquoise.bg). Situated at the foot of the Vitosha mountain, the restaurant boasts a great view and air of blissful relaxation. Along with nature and tranquility, in Turquoise you enjoy the delicious meals, prepared by original Turkish recipes in wooden stove and on barbecue. Nine selected chefs from Turkey are taking care of the food's delightful taste.
Another favourite is L'Etranger Bistro Français (78 Tsar Simeon St, phone: 983 1417), run by a Frenchman, the chef, and his Bulgarian wife, the manager and chief waitress. Invitingly intimate and with a true Parisian atmosphere, the restaurant is known to offer French cuisine at its best. Despite a thankfully small menu, written up on boards, visitors find it difficult to choose between the escargots and the equally good duck pate for hors d'oeuvres. Importantly, the delicious food and friendly service come at Bulgarian prices. Don't be too surprised if you see royalty, government ministers and ambassadors – as well as "ordinary" expats – ministers having dinner there. Indian cuisine is as boundless as the country itself and just as irresistible.
When looking for the ideal combination of spices, aromatic naan and original tikka masala chicken recipe, go for Taj Mahal (11 Eleventh August St, phone: 987 3632, www.tajmahal.bg) – the restaurant in which for more than ten years two Indian chefs serve the best spicy food. The combination of a rich menu and relaxing interior is a guarantee for excellent lunch or dinner, while well-selected drinks and desserts are evidence for the attention to detail and to your enjoyment.
If you are fond of Mediterranean cuisine, the Moroccan restaurant Annette (27 Angel Kanchev St, phone: 980 4098, www.annette.bg) is the place for you. The quiet spot in the centre of Sofia has relaxing atmosphere that makes it ideal for a getaway dinner, special occasions or lazy evenings with friends. The recipes are faithful to authenticity – hummus and tahini, beef with plums, chicken glazed with honey and mustard are just some of the options on the menu. With the Moroccan fresh mint tea with pine nuts you can get refreshed after a hard day, and on the second floor of the restaurant you can enjoy your dinner on the floor seated on soft pillows. Delivery and catering services are available.
Established 17 years ago, Gustoza (Slatina, block 30, phone: 971 3773) is the first Greek restaurant in Sofia – and one of the best, with its rich choice of dishes after authentic Greek recipes. If the spit-roasted meat on coal is not reason enough for you, the fresh wild fish from Thessaloniki and the fish soup will immediately make you part of the regular crowd.
Irish pub J.J. Murphy's (6 Karnigradska St, phone: 980 2870, www.jjmurphys.bg) has gained many fans in Sofia both for its menu and for the atmosphere – a welcoming place with an excellent choice of beer and the obligatory accompaniment of onion rings, beef steaks, ribs and smoked salmon. Order a pint of Guinness and soak the friendly environment of the pub's customers – expats and locals, united in their love for football, Irish drinks and good food. In the past few years you can find sushi all over Sofia, but good places are not that many.
The Sushi Bar (18 Denkoglu St, phones: 981 8442, 0885 760 176, www.thesushibar.bg) is one of the best. Here, food is masterfully prepared and served in an environment which helps you to appreciate the tastes and ingredients as they deserve. For best experience, try the signature sushi sets, pick a delicate wine from the list to accompany your tempura or the homemade green tea with mint and lime. The deliveries by The Sushi Bar will help you recreate the Japanese atmosphere whenever you wish at your home or office.
If pasta is your passion, you may have already discovered Pastorant (16 Tsar Asen St, phone: 981 4482, www.pastorant.eu). The peaceful romantic ambiance of the Italian restaurant, which is situated in a tucked away street in central Sofia, matches the refined dishes with delicate spices and the well-conceived wine list.
Finding the wines to match your meal takes no time at all in Cartel's well-organised online shop (www.cartelbg.com). The importer offers more than 200 vintages, selected from the world's finest – Italy, France, Spain, Austria, Greece, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, The United States and Bulgaria. From the detailed information on each winery you learn more about your favourite wines and can see which of them have been awarded medals. Keep an eye out for the promotions and gift boxes – a great choice for friends or business associates.