Sofia is becoming livelier, more diverse, speaking a growing number of languages, and this change is seemingly happening not on a daily, but on an hourly basis.
But in the Bulgarian capital nothing can compare in diversity of the experience with the growing options for good eating. The changed habits and the increasingly high requirements of the locals, combined with the influx of foreign tourists, provide a fertile ground for the appearance of remarkable restaurants.
The food places in the capital offer never-ending renewal, traditional and new recipes, changing interiors and concepts, special menus and products, selected culinary traditions, experiments and tastings.
Nowhere else in Bulgaria you will find such a vibrant culinary scene. In Sofia's secluded gardens and by its busy streets co-exist charming cafes, lively bars and cosy restaurants. Some of them have been known for years to lovers of good food and atmosphere. Others make astonishing debuts, attracting crowds of people hungry for something new. While some rely on easy-going ambience, others have high ambitions in the field of author's cuisine. They all are united in their strive to achieve consistent quality and distinctiveness.
Exploring this variety is an experience that stays for long in the heart with wonderful and tasty memories.
La Bottega: Where life is beautiful
Authentic products and dishes, which you can enjoy in the establishment or at home: this is the concept of La Bottega (FB: La.bottega.Sofia, www.labottega.bg), a chain of Italian restaurants and shops. Each of the restaurants is an excellent, cosy place charged with Italian spirit that invites you to sit and relax. The salads are inspiring, the pasta is fresh, the pizzas are gorgeous, and you will fall in love with the Italian grilled meat. The menu changes with the seasons and has organic suggestions, while the wines are like a trip around Italy's most beautiful corners. Like the Sicilian bottegas, which combine an eatery and a shop, you can leave La Bottega loaded with your favourite Italian products: wine and pasta, cheeses and salami, pâtés and olive oil, coffee and desserts.
Cinecittà Osteria Italiana: Gourmet philosophy
Cinecittà Osteria Italiana (Boyana, 75G Kumata St, Monte Boyana residence, www.cinecitta.bg) is not an ordinary Italian restaurant. Cinecittà follows a philosophy to use top-quality products with clear origin that are minimally processed in order to preserve their natural tastes. The restaurant uses only fresh and seasonal products from small local farmers, and the durable ingredients are 100% Italian. The young chef Alex Dimitrov performs a modern interpretation of classical Italian recipes, and padrone di casa Domenico Fabiano takes care of the preservation of complete authenticity. Cinecittà's wine list is selected by sommeliers Domenico Fabiano and Hannes Perfler, who have personally chosen many of the labels from small Italian wineries. Cinecittà reveals the richness of its philosophy with regular degustation menus, your next opportunity to try is 7 November.
The Sushi Bar: A true Japanese experience
The well-made sushi stands out with its fine taste and elegance. It is not easy to find it, but at The Sushi Bar (18 Ivan Denkoglu St, FB: The Sushi Bar, www.thesushibar.bg) your head will spin from the quality and variety on offer. Established in 2004, The Sushi Bar proudly carries its fame as the first sushi place in Bulgaria. In it, you will find all types of sushi, all prepared from authentic ingredients, and some new suggestions as well. They are for people who are after a healthier lifestyle, like the buckwheat salad, the tapioca pearls pudding, the gluten-free soy sauce. Don't miss also the new green tea chocolate and the salted caramelised roasted organic coconut chips, offered as well in sushi with snow crab meat, wasabi mayonnaise and tobiko roe.
Trattoria Giuseppe Verdi: Italy in the heart of Sofia
When you crave for the rich tastes and aromas of the food you fell in love with during your first visit to Italy, don't lose your spirit. Trattoria Giuseppe Verdi (174 Rakovski St, www.trattoria.bg, Facebook: Trattoria Giuseppe Verdi) is in autumn Sofia's centre, but it will make you feel as if you are back in sunny Italy. The artistic interior and the genuine hospitality are only the beginning. In the menu you will find both classic and beloved salads, dishes, pizzas and pasta, and authentic homemade recipes prepared by dedicated professionals. Whatever you order – and the choice will be hard as you will want to try everything, – you can be sure that the ingredients will be original and there will be no compromises with the recipes. The wine list with original labels from Italy is the perfect addition to your short, imaginary escape from reality.
KANAAL: More than beer
Founded in 2011 and inspired by the culture and spirit of the Netherlands and Belgium, but with authentic Sofia character, KANAAL (2 Madrid Blvd, www.kanaal.bg) is the first specialised craft beer bar in the city. The selection is unique for Bulgaria and is on a par with the best niche bars in Europe, stressing on boutique, interesting, rare beers from small breweries in Europe, the Balkans and the USA. The owners import more than 350 types of beer, among them from De Molen brewery (The Netherlands), Evil Twin (USA), Omnipollo (Sweden) and traditional Trappist ales from Belgium. You can buy beer for home with a take-away discount, or attend the tastings or beer events organised by KANAAL. The bar is also the right place to be in Saturday night or Sunday afternoon for a DJ party with jazz, soul, funk, disco and electronic music. KANAAL organises also movie screenings, bazaars, concerts and poetry readings, for the newest events check the programme on Facebook.
Chekpoint Charly: The favourite place of the art elite
Named after the infamous checkpoint in Cold War Berlin, Checkpoint Charly restaurant (12 Ivan Vazov St, phone: 02 988 03 70, www.checkpointcharlybg.com) stands out not only for its intriguing interior divided between Communist East and democratic West, and covered with the autographs by famous diners, such as Umberto Eco and Elizabeth Kostova. For years, Checkpoint Charly has been a beloved place for the Sofia Boheme and for everyone who cherishes quality food. The menu plays on the pleasant variety and filling sizes, manoeuvring between recipes both beloved and denying political borders, like risotto, salmon, schnitzel and duck breasts, and classical Bulgarian dishes like cheese pastry, meatballs, Smilyan beans, polenta, buffalo cheese and tasty tomatoes. The wine list is carefully selected and on Friday nights there is live jazz music.
Tuga Portuguese Restaurant: Authentically Portuguese
From the interior to the music to the suggestions in the menu and the wine list: every detail in Tuga Portuguese Restaurant (12 Madrid Blvd, www.tugabarsofia.com) recreates the unique atmosphere of Portugal and its ocean coast. Tuga and its Portuguese chef rely on original products like Portuguese prosciutto, cheeses, chorizo, and on homemade recipes for classics like octopus lagareiro, francesinha, cozido and codfish. The desserts include remarkable local creations like pastel de nata and the famed Molotov pudding. The carefully selected white, green and red Portuguese wines beautifully complement the taste of the food and brighten your mood. The gentle fado music is the final touch in this one-of-a-kind, charming place. For a more dynamic experience, visit Tuga when football matches from the Portuguese championship are broadcasted.
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