With the approaching cold season, keep up to date with Sofia's best restaurants
Issue 49-50, October-November 2010
by Gergana Manolova
Snowy cityscape, freezing pavements – Bulgaria's capital is not at its best during the winter. When you're only concerned with finding the shortest and fastest route between two shelters, your desire to stroll leisurely about is minimal. The cold weather drives people inside, but you don't have to stay in the solitude of your home when there is fun to be had. Keep up your social life in the Bulgarian style – with regular café visits and dinners out with friends. There is a side benefit to this as well: you won't have to cook.
Sofia offers a lot in terms of choice, but a combination of winter-friendly interior and delicious food is rare enough to be appreciated. Some establishments boast an open wood fire that is so much a part of the winter picture – you can find these most often in traditional Bulgarian restaurants. For those who like sophistication, the city can provide that as well. It's advisable to book a table as early as possible, because the popular places fill up quickly when it's cold.
Many places have foreign cuisine on the menu, from the ubiquitous Chinese through to the more high-end Japanese, by way of Mexico, Lebanon and Morocco. Turkish and Greek restaurants are easy to come by, but don't be fooled – many of them simply imitate the most popular dishes of Bulgaria's neighbouring countries. Carefully check out the menu, the chef and the ingredients to be sure of getting the real deal.
If you have a preference for the stylish, check out Aromat, which offers the casual interior of a French bistro and gourmet cuisine. It is only 10 minutes from the centre of Sofia, but you can try dishes from all over the world – choose a Latin American starter, French seafood soup and Thai prawns, combined with a great wine list from Bulgaria, France and the United States. Everything is cooked with fresh ingredients and ingenuity to create a true fusion menu.
There is hardly anything more satisfying than being inside in the warmth and looking out at the scarf-wrapped people hurrying down the street. When you want to indulge that part of yourself, go to the Park Bar and sit by the big windows. The classy interior goes hand-in-hand with the Mediterranean dishes, and the drinks match up to the atmosphere in their creativity. The Park Bar is the kind of place you can go to at any time – whether to watch the snowflakes fall over the Doctors' Garden during the day, hot coffee in hand, or to unwind with company around a dinner table.
When the winter weather takes a turn for the worse, the last thing you want to do is poke your nose out into the cold. Alaska restaurant has an ingenious answer to this: they provide transport from your own door and back again, at their own expense. After you book a table, you are delivered straight to the restaurant and its excellent salmon menu and well-rounded wine list. The peaceful winter surrounds of Dragalevtsi, where Alaska is located, means you get to enjoy the winter landscape at the foot of Vitosha as well.
If you feel like pizza, check out Escada. The sign may not be conspicuous, but you will easily find it at the corner of Patriarh Evtimiy Blvd and Vitosha Blvd. The stairs will take you to one of the best places for Italian cuisine in the city. Escada started out as a pizzeria with 40 seats, but nowadays it is a restaurant seating 120 people, with a garden all year round, a wood oven and a charcoal barbecue. Among the favourites at Escada are healthy pizzas with a crust made from wholemeal dough.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers