What is the common between stuffed quail after a traditional French recipe, Serbian kebapcheta, a plate of antipasti, a beef burger and a bowl of aloo palak? You can eat these all in Sofia. And, actually, you can eat much more. In the past decade, the culinary scene of the Bulgarian capital diversified with a bang, and a number of foreign food restaurants won the hearts and the palates of happy customers.
Today, you can travel the world, at least culinary, without leaving Sofia. The Chinese food has long become ubiquitous. Sushi is everywhere as are pasta and pizza, including genuine Italian trattorias. There are pubs serving fish and chips, venues for gourmet burgers and restaurants specialising in Indian, Pakistani or Nepalese food. Russian restaurants are, traditionally, popular and French cuisine is as interesting to hungry Sofianites as ever. There are places where you can even try Peruvian cuisine.
The cuisine of Bulgaria's neighbours is also enjoying popularity, regardless of the obvious similarities. Many Bulgarians swear that Serbian grilled meat is the best in the world. The Greek restaurants are frequented for the fresh fish and seafood, and the Turkish ones are beloved for their appetisers and desserts. The Middle Eastern cuisine, with its richness of tastes and exotic spices, is also increasingly attracting attention.
The diversity is there, you only need to be curious enough to explore it. An easy way is to grab the map of Multi Kulti Collective (or visit www.multikulti.bg/map) or continue with our list below.
Gastrothèque L'Art de Vivre: The new French culinary star
Aromatic cafe and croissant, terrines and escargots, cheeses and quail – the spirit of Paris, with its romance, smells and tastes, feels at home in GastrotHèque L'Art de Vivre (Sofia, 76 Patriarh Evtimiy, phone: 0896 505 505, www.gastroteka.bg, FB: gastroteka.bg). Charming in a very French way, the restaurant is equally hospitable when you have a breakfast with raspberry lemonade and omelette, enjoy the lunch menu or travel back, at least mentally, to France, during a dinner with specialties like frog legs, duck magret with chestnut puree and fresh salad with herbs. Most of the suggestions at Gastrothèque L'Art de Vivre are seasonal, prepared slowly and with attention, and chef Danny Spartak has graduated from the elite culinary school Le Cordon Bleu. The beverages list includes a selection of wines from almost all regions of France and 10 varieties of Champagne. The interior reflects the spirits of the place. At Gastrothèque L'Art de Vivre you can sit in the PARIS room with its panoramic windows, in the rustic CHATEAUX room in the sub-terrain, or in the two gardens – one on the sidewalk, Paris-style, and the other in the restaurant's yard.
Pri Miro Serbian Restaurant: Tradition matters
When you feel the urgent crave to have a plate of tiny juicy Serbian Kebapcheta and some Serbian plum Rakiya, you don't need to plan a trip to Serbia. Instead, book a table at Pri Miro (Sofia, 34 Murphy St, phones: 02 943 7127, 0889 512 964, www.primiro.info). Miroslav Stefanov, the man who years ago introduced Serbian food on Bulgarian soil and is a four-time culinary champion of Serbia, continues to perform his magic. At Pri Miro, everything from the salads to the soups and appetisers to the grills and meat is prepared after authentic recipes, with care and professionalism. The restaurant offers a variety of veal, pork, chicken and buffalo meat on charcoal. The mince for the over ten varieties of Kebapcheta and Pleskavitsa is made at the restaurant, and carefully selected spices are added. The vegetarians will feel equally welcome at Pri Miro – the menu has a rich range of meat-free food.
Kafana Stefanovich: Taste Serbia
Serbian cuisine is famed for its grills that are arguably the best in Europe, and for its strong Rakiya, and Kafana Stefanovich (Sofia, 4 Zlatovrah St, phone: 0888 898 767,www.kafanastefanovich.com) brings you the best of these straight into the heart of the Bulgarian capital. Located in Lozenets, the restaurant works under the authoritative advise and recipes of Chef Miro, the legendary cook and four-time culinary champion of Serbia. On the menu of Kafana Stefanovich, you will find all of your all time favourites – Serbian and Leskovats Kebapcheta, a variety of Pleskavitsa and Ushtiptsi, along with lesser known but great meals like buffalo on charcoal and Serbian soups. The appetisers include Urnebez, Kaymak and the delicious Tavche Gravche baked bean. Add a glass or two of Serbian Rakiya from quince, grape or apricots, or a bottle from the well selected wine list, and you will have a once in a lifetime culinary experience.
Italian bakery and patisserie Gorchivo-Sladko: From Italy with love
If you think that Italian cuisine is only pizza and pasta, the visit to the boutique Italian bakery and patisserie Gorchivo-Sladko (Sofia, 32 William Gladstone St, www.gorchivosladko.com, FB: gorchivosladko) will be a revelation. At Gorchivo-Sladko are made emblematic sweets from all regions of Italy, with original products under the control of an Italian pastry chef, and after authentic recipes, without stabilisers and preservatives. Whether you will try the cannolo siciliano tubes, the pastiera napoletana cake, the baci di dama cookies or something else from the rich variety of offers, is up to you – although the choice is gonna be hard. Enrich the experience with a cup of aromatic coffee Dolce Amaro after recipe by Gorchivo-Sladko, and you will soon discover that you visit the place more often that is good for your shape.
Boom! Burgers: Great burgers, and more
The trend for gourmet burgers is making its way in Bulgaria in the past few years, but the truth is that Sofia has been having its own, top quality burger venue since 2012. Situated in a quiet street of the centre, Boom! Burgers (Sofia, 15 Karnigradska, phone: 0894 420 440, www.boomburgers.com, FB: BoomBurgersBG) is the place for having genuine, tasty burger. The menu is based on Irish beef of the best possible quality, and includes also homemade fries and ice cream shakes. The beer list is intriguing, with labels from Belgium, and the UK. Everything in Boom! Burgers is fresh, no processed or frozen foods or ingredients are used in the kitchen. Happily, you can now enjoy the food of Boom! Burgers even when you are outside Sofia. The special food truck – the Boom! Truck – travels around Bulgaria, with stops at festivals, events and resorts, and provides you with the taste of gourmet burgers wherever you are.
Pastorant: Where pasta is a passion
If well made pasta is something you are particular about, 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.