The summer activity of the night Sofia with the streets buzzing with the voices of people in open air bars and the restaurant gardens is but a memory now. But this doesn't mean that the capital is loosing its charm as Bulgaria's probably most interesting place for a night out – just the opposite. Your friends are back from their vacation, the good old places you love are eager to greet you again, and there is a plenty of new restaurants and bars worth exploring.
Central Sofia is the epicentre of the capital's night life. There, charming rustic restaurants and pizzerias co-habit with classy establishments and restaurants specialising in traditional Bulgarian cuisine. The centre is also the place with the most diverse culinary scene, ranging from Greek. French and Indian cuisine to wine bars where you can enjoy a bottle of rare vintage complemented by a variety of light appetisers.
If wine is life for you, you will find kindred spirits at Grape Central (45 Tsar Samuil St; www.grape-central.com; reservations: +359 889 820 444; Facebook Grape Central). In Grape Central, the wine is thought about as a daily pleasure for all the senses which is not necessarily expensive or difficult to understand. Instead of pretentious "rustic" caskets and even more pretentious service, in Grape Central you will find a galore of quality and interesting wines, delicious food prepared with full attention to the products and people to talk about wine and everything else. Grape Central offers some of the best priced wines in Sofia and is proud with its selection of sparkling wines, stretching from Bulgaria to Tasmania.
When you want to go back to the times of erstwhile Bulgaria – in terms of both atmosphere and food, – choose a table at Bulgary Restaurant and Garden (71 Dondukov Blvd; phones: 02 843 5419, 0887 455 050; www.bulgary.bg). Situated on one of the capital’s busiest thoroughfares, the restaurant is filled with the spirit of the past, and in its menu are gathered Bulgarian culinary classics like kyopolu, or aubergine paste, Panagyurishte eggs and roasted lamb, with dishes like foie gras and wild sea bass. Whatever you choose, the service will be impeccable.
If you dream of the juicy beef steaks, splendidly cooked burgers and thick-crusted pizza which are the gold standard in the United States, you can find them in Sofia as well, in Pizzarela (1 Bulgaria Sq, next to Little NDK; phone: 0888 660 404; www.pizzarela.bg). For an year now, the restaurant has been catering to every taste. Vegetarians and fans of Italian pizza will be charmed, and the excellent cappuccino is the best start of your day. Thanks to the central location of Pizzarela, you can easily gather your friends for a dinner full of good food and conversation, and the big TV screens make you part of the event when you watch your favourite games.
When your taste runs to Indian, look for a place with the patrons' seal of approval. For five years now Indian restaurant Kohinoor (soon on new address; phone: 088 253 2541; www.kohinoor.bg) has delivered authentic and spicy curry and tandoori dishes in generous portions. The recipes are carefully selected by the chef from India and feature favourites such as tikka masala chicken, panееr dishes and homemade naan. Vegetarians will find the diversity of recipes appealing, and the degree of hotness is up to you – the obliging chefs can tone it down, or turn it into a fiery experience at your request.
When you are in the centre and you want something tasty – and quick, – look out for one of the two Raffy Bar & Gelato (18B Vitosha Blvd; phone: 0895 515 041, non stop; 11 Angel Kanchev St; phone: 0895 515 045; www.facebook.com/raffybargelato). For years, Raffy has been famous for its ice cream of natural products and now offers a variety of over 30 types. However, Raffy is more than just ice cream – it also has the best of the Italian cuisine. The diverse lunch menu is a temptation and if you are not in a hurry, do try the promotional plateau with a bottle of wine for 19,90 leva. After 5 pm, the cocktails are half a price. Raffy Bar & Gelato has also free home delivery.
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.
The sushi fever has overtaking the city, but not every establishment of the type is worth grabbing the chopsticks.
The Sushi Bar (18 Denkoglu St, phones: 981 8442, 0885 760 176, www.thesushibar.bg) stands apart for its sushi chefs and careful attitude to ingredients. The signature sushi sets are an excellent chance to broaden your horizons and appreciate the delicate combination of tastes. Add the proper wine or order the special green tea with lime of the establishment, and if you don’t feel like going out, The Sushi Bar will immediately supply you with your favourite dishes at home or at the office.
Miyabi (5 Stara Planina St; phone: 0887 275 064) serves the most popular and authentic Japanese dishes – tempura, sukiyaki, soba, ramen, and all kinds of sushi that you can think of. The interior and the serving manner are according to the rules of Japanese style – a reason enough to stay for both lunch and dinner.
Sofia's neighbourhoods are increasingly offering interesting places for a diner or fun with friends. In recent years, there mushroomed restaurants which broke up with the omnipresent pizzerias and started experimenting with Mediterranean and gourmet cuisine. And neighbourhoods like Lozenets and Boyana have their emblematic establishments which have long ago become a must on the Sofia culinary map and easily prove a special trip even from the other part of the city.
The Turquoise Turkish Restaurant (90 Bakston Blvd; phone: 855 1100; www.turquoise.bg) is one of them. Situated at the foot of Vitosha mountain, the restaurant has a great view and air of blissful relaxation, and is famed as the best place for Turkish food in Sofia. In Turquoise you enjoy delicious meals like ezme, çiğ köfte and Adana kebab prepared by original Turkish recipes in wooden stove and on barbecue by nine selected chefs from Turkey.