SOFIA FOR YOU

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The restaurants, bars and nightlife in the capital are diverse, friendly and affordable

Night Sofia impresses with the variety, quality, and dynamic of its nightlife. The first thing that strikes the visitors is the diversity of modern restaurants, cafes, discos, clubs, and pubs. Even the ones that look more basic on the outside, are well maintained and pleasant on the inside, and the fresh interior is rule of thumb for the most part. The owners and designers know that it is not necessary to go over the top on luxury to make the client feel good.

One of the pleasant Sofia paradoxes is that these places are full of people all day long. The food is famously good, the choice is enormous, and the prices are reasonable. Keep in mind that good restaurants, and clubs are not concentrated only in the centre.

The best way to kickstart the night is to have a dinner at a restaurant. The establishments with traditional Bulgarian cuisine are indelible part of Sofia's scene, but in the past few years the restaurant crowd has been enjoying a growing diversity. The capital boasts restaurants specialising in a variety of culinary traditions, from Nepalese, to Moroccan to Turkish, and the latest trends are establishments with their own interpretation of Mediterranean and fusion food, as well as restaurants for healthy and even vegan food. Good restaurants are particularly devoted to their wine lists, which include excellent vintages from Bulgaria, the Old and the New world.

Check in advance if it is necessary to book a table; there are eating places where this is the safest bet to find free seats. Most restaurants take orders at least till 10 pm. Choose the way you dress according to the occasion, but don't get too stressed about that. In Sofia, and in Bulgaria, as a whole, there is not a formal dress code for going out at night, therefore the suit and tie are not obligatory.

Grape Central: Wine is (a way of) life
For Grape Central wine is (a way of) life, a daily experience for the senses which is no necessarily expensive or sophisticated. Situated on the charming Samuil Str. (45), the wine bar is a great place for pleasant meetings, business lunches, lazy brunches, private parties or just a place for having a glass of wine. Uniting the professionalism, experience and passion of its creators to wine and food, the wine bar offers a variety of top quality and interesting wines from all over the world, delicious food with special attention to ingredients and people with whom you can talk about wine, but not only.
Each month Grape Central ( www.grape-central.com) offers over 10 different wines sold by the glass. At least one time per month it organises wine tasting evenings when you can meet the people behind the wines, to learn more from them or just to enjoy the evening with great company and wonderful wine. The food is prepared intelligently, with lots of curiosity and love by Ivailo Ignatov. Last but not least, Grape Central is one of the few places in Sofia offering Saturday brunch with wholesome food.

La Skara: A new dimension of healthy eating
Some restaurants serve not only food, but a wholesome philosophy for green way of living. La Skara (Studentski Grad, next to block 60, phone: 0889 369 369; www.la-skara.com) is one of the most revolutionary. In the restaurant products processed with chemicals and conservatives are not permitted, the meat is marinated in emulsions of natural oils and herbs, and the vegetables are organic. The most innovative step is the preparation of food: in La Skara clients can barbecue their food by themselves on a charcoal grill. Aspirators absorb the smoke and leave no smells in the restaurant. La Skara has a kid's corner with animators, and for those loving to have fun, there is live music in the evenings.

Ventana: Unrivalled taste with imagination
Far from the noise of the busy city but close to each part of it, VENTANA FOOD. WINE. GARDEN (Sofia, 150 Vartopo St, phone: 0888 121 061; www.ventana.bg) offers a romantic escape in the calmness and cosiness. Situated in Musagenitsa, close to Sofia Airport, VENTANA is a place where food tastes like cooked by a Bulgarian grandmother, with a rich variety of carefully selected wines and dishes, lunch meals, fresh grill on charcoal and fantastic desserts. In the friendly and warm atmosphere of VENTANA you will easily feel at home, regardless of whether you are on a romantic dinner, lunch with colleagues or on a huge party with friends and family.

Magical tastes in Turquoise
Turquoise Restaurant (90 Bakston Blvd; phone: 855 1100; www.turquoise.bg) has been for years the top choice for lovers of Turkish cuisine in Sofia. Situated at the foot of Vitosha mountain, the restaurant has a great view and an 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.

Miyabi: Authentic Japan

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.

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.

In summer, the restaurant has also a great garden.

The Bulgarian capital has a developed clubbing culture that is frequented by locals and loved by foreigners. Most of the foreigners in Sofia are not expatriates but tourist, drawn in by the free loving spirit of Bulgaria's capital night scene. "I am thrilled, the party here never stops," the 24-year-old student from Greece Giannis says, "People are pretty open to foreigners and easy to communicate with. In some cases the Bulgarians are even the pro-active side in the communication," he adds.

KANAAL: More than beer
Inspired of the culture and spirit of the Netherlands and Belgium, but with authentic Sofia character, KANAAL (Sofia, 2 Madrid Blvd, www.kanaal.bg) is the only bar in the city specialising in craft beers. 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 Belgium, the Netherlands, England, Denmark, Italy and the US. The owners supply more than 250 types of beer, including classics like the golden Duvel, Trappist Westmalle, wheat Vedett, and more exotic varieties like bitter hopped India Pale Ale, fruit beers, sour lambics, light craft lagers and many more. You can buy beer for home from the bar, or attend the tastings or beer events organised by KANAAL. The bar is also the right place to be in Saturday night for a DJ party with Jazz, soul, funk, disco, indie and modern electronic music. KANAAL organises movie screenings, bazaars, concerts and poetry readings, for the newest events check the programme on www.facebook.com/kanaal.bg.

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