MY OWN CHOICE: COSMOPOLITAN CAPITAL

by Uri Resnick*

Sofia's international cuisine belies its insular image

Uri Resnick

My wife is probably the best cook in Sofia! However, since my own access to it almost certainly depends on not extending an open invitation to everyone, I'll merely confine myself to my personal experiences of dining out in the capital.

Overall, I'd say that you can find excellent fare at reasonable prices, catering to virtually all tastes and preferences. Here are some of my suggestions: For tasty, authentic local cuisine, somewhat off the tourist path (for now), I highly recommend Pod Lipite (Under the Linden Trees) (1 Elin Pelin St, phone: 866 5053) and Kashtata, (The House) (4 Verila St, phone: 952 0830). The first is charmingly nestled under a grove of linden trees (hence the name), with a traditional atmosphere and an excellent selection of inexpensive Bulgarian dishes. The second, again as the name suggests, offers the unique opportunity to dine amid the nooks and crannies of a typical mid-20th Century Bulgarian house in a distinctively "local" atmosphere. Though the restaurant boasts a wide array of international dishes, the Bulgarian food is its real forte.

If you entertain guests who want to savour local cuisine surrounded by traditional decor, I would recommend either Vodenitsata (The Water Mill) (Dragalevtsi next to the Dragalevtsi ski lift, phone: 967 1058) or Pri Yafata (At Yafa's) (28 Solunska St, phone: 980 1727). Though a bit contrived for seasoned Sofianites, first-timers are sure to enjoy the musicians in Bulgarian garb and the rustic ambience. Vodenitsata, in the foothills of Mount Vitosha, is particularly suited to new visitors with its enduringly popular performances of walking on hot coals. You are advised to book a table in advance. It may also be a good idea to arrive in the early evening and enjoy an aperitif while you wait for the 9pm show to start.

Sofra (69 Oborishte St, phone: 944 5005) is an excellent venue for Turkish food and casual gatherings. You can also enjoy the lovely patio during fine weather. The lamb chops are perfect and the wide range of salads makes for a tasty assortment that everyone can enjoy together. For dessert, don't miss the knafe, a sweet, cheesy pastry covered with finely shredded filo pastry. Acre and Jerusalem are pretty hard to beat when it comes to knafe, but Sofra's definitely compares favourably to the Israeli variety.

The Taj Mahal (11 11th of August St, phone: 987 3632) serves an excellent assortment of Indian dishes, cooked to varying levels of spiciness, within a well decorated and relaxing atmosphere and you can also place telephone orders with them. If you prefer to try some Moroccan cuisine, Annette (27 Angel Kanchev St, phone: 980 4098) is very tempting, set against Casablanca-style white decor. For international and French cuisine, Da Vidi's (36 Khan Asparukh St, phone: 980 6746) is probably one of the best restaurants in town, either for a business lunch or elegant evening out. The decor is modern and stylish, reminiscent of the bars and cafes lining the Salonika pier. The menu offers a short - but wonderfully imaginative and delicious - assortment of appetizers and main courses. The beef fillet has no rivals anywhere in Sofia and if you are in a particularly indulgent mood, I would recommend the Rossini, a dish featuring beef fillet topped with goose liver. It may not be cheap but it's certainly worth the price!

If you order lunch from your office, I like Gringos (59 Vitosha Blvd, corner of 38 Neofit Rilski St, phone: 980 7709). The baked potatoes, topped by a mountain of salad and cheese, offer a tasty, wholesome and affordable snack. They have other dishes too, including pasta, but my personal favourite is the standard salad-smothered spud. Another winner is Dani's (18a Angel Kunchev St, phone: 987 4548). They offer delicious salads and sandwiches, a variety of flavoured chicken and individual loaves of straight-out-of-the-oven white or brown bread.

Several Irish pubs match the standard of any comparable American or European establishment, both in terms of food and decor. I prefer J.J. Murphy's (6 Karnigradska St, phone: 980 2870) and Dublin (54 Alabin St, phone: 943 4004). Both menus carry the full gamut of delicious "pub grub". Murphy's has one of the better steaks in town and the chicken wings at Dublin are excellent.

If you have young children and the weather permits, the outdoor patio of the Grand Cafe (Grand Hotel Sofia, 1 Gurko St, phone: 811 0800) is a delightful hangout. Situated on the edge of the park adjacent to the National Theatre, with a large sand-box and jungle-gym literally at arm's length, it offers a lovely, relaxed setting ideal for parents and kids alike.

No culinary review of Sofia would be complete without a reference to banitsa. Topla Sofiyska Banitsa (Hot Sofia Banitsa) in the NDK underground gallery (Podles Galeria) is as good as it gets. It's a small place within the pedestrian mall, just under the walking bridge between the NDK and the Hilton Hotel. They always have a fresh, loaf-shaped banitsa piping hot from the oven, from which they will gladly carve whatever portion takes your fancy. It's always fresh, warm and invariably delicious.

Whatever you choose, whether it's just a quick banitsa on the run, a coal-walking expedition to Vodenitsata, or indulging in pate de foi gras at DaVidi's, make sure to take the time to soak up the rhythm and pace of Sofia. Nazdrave!

* Uri Resnick is the Israeli Embassy's deputy chief of mission in Bulgaria

  • COMMENTING RULES

    Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

    Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

THE VELCHOVA ZAVERA HIKE
Еvery April, since 2020, hundreds of young Bulgarians gather in Veliko Tarnovo and embark on a meaningful journey, retracing the steps of a daring rebellion that took place in the town and its surroundings, in 1835.

LES FRANÇAIS EN BULGARIE
Before English took over in Bulgaria, in the 1990s, mastering French was obligatory for the local elite and those who aspired to join it.

BULGARIA'S NEW 'PATRIOTISM'
In the summer of 2023, one of the news items that preoccupied Bulgarians for weeks on end was a... banner.

WHAT WAS THE SEPTEMBER UPRISING?
Raised hands, bodies frozen in a pathos of tragic defiance: Bulgaria, especially its northwest, is littered with monuments to an event that was once glorified but is now mostly forgotten.

WHO WAS RENÉ CHARRON?
Not all people who make a big difference in history, or attempt to make one, are ahead of great governments or armies.

REARVIEW MIRROR OF BULGARIA AND AMERICA
When John Jackson became the first US diplomat in Bulgaria, in 1903, the two nations had known each other for about a century.

200 VAGABONDS
When the first issue of Vagabond hit the newsstands, in September 2006, the world and Bulgaria were so different that today it seems as though they were in another geological era.

LAPSE OF TIME
Sofia, with its numerous parks, is not short of monuments and statues referring to the country's rich history. In the Borisova Garden park for example, busts of freedom fighters, politicians and artists practically line up the alleys.

WHY DOES 'SORRY' SEEM TO BE THE HARDEST WORD?
About 30 Bulgarians of various occupations, political opinion and public standing went to the city of Kavala in northern Greece, in March, to take part in a simple yet moving ceremony to mark the demolition of the Jewish community of northern Greece, which

BULGARIA'S LAST MONARCH
On 3 October 1918, Bulgarians felt anxious. The country had just emerged from three wars it had fought for "national unification" – meaning, in plain language, incorporating Macedonia and Aegean Thrace into the Bulgarian kingdom.

WHO WAS ALEKO KONSTANTINOV?
In Vagabond we sometimes write about people whose activities or inactivity have shaped Bulgaria's past and present. Most of these are politicians or revolutionaries.

RUSSIA BRINGS ON... VANGA
The future does not look bright according to Vanga, the notorious blind clairvoyant who died in 1996 but is still being a darling of tabloids internationally, especially in Russia.