AUTUMN EVENINGS

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The restaurants and night life are one of Sofia's major delights

When visiting a city, the food in it is crucial, an important detail that can turn a trip into a (hungry) nightmare or into something that will forever remain a cherished memory. The food issue becomes even more pressing when you are living in the said city – homemade food is great, but even the most devoted home cook would eventually decide that enough is enough and this evening someone else should do the cooking.

Thankfully, Sofia is one of the cities where going to the restaurant is tasty, enjoyable and diverse, and at a reasonable price. The capital of Bulgaria is the place where you can try some of the best culinary traditions, besides the country's own cuisine.

The establishments with traditional Bulgarian food are integral part of Sofia's scene. You will find them both outside of and in the city centre, although these in the latter are generally packed with tourists. Restaurant chains are also ubiquitous, offering from traditional dishes to pizza and novelties like healthy food.

Foreign cuisine in Sofia is also worth exploring. In the capital, you can eat well and try from genuine French to Turkish food and from South Korean to Nepalese cuisine. Trends here, however, come and go. After the popularity of sushi and Italian cuisine, now comes the fashion of healthy and local sourced food, and of American burgers and chicken. Restaurants with more creative approach are also experiencing a momentum, as well as establishment whose menus rely on the nostalgia about home food.

But regardless of the trends there have always been and will always be some classic places, however, that never go out of fashion, and that are known and loved for their great food, love for tradition and desire to serve only the best to the clients.

You will find most of the good places, naturally, in Sofia's centre. This, however, doesn't mean that you should stick to that area – explore around the neighbourhoods and you will find a lot of delightful restaurants.

After having your autumn dinner, it will be an offence to your happiness to go straight at home.

Instead of waiving for the first taxi when midnight approaches, head for some of Sofia's bars and clubs. They are friendly, trendy and the music is great – the perfect places to make new friend and to end that dinner in the small hours of the next day.

Turquoise: The magical taste of Turkish cuisine

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.

Kohinoor Indian Restaurant: From India, with love

Even if you are new to Indian cuisine, a single visit to Kohinoor restaurant (7 Knyaz Boris I St, near the NDK, phone: 088 253 2541; www.kohinoor.bg) will make you fall in love. In its menu the restaurant has gathered the culinary diversity of all the regions in the subcontinent, and chefs Inam Khan and Sajad Laskar use only products of the highest quality, with certified origin. In Kohinoor you can try traditional Indian salads, appetisers, Indian barbecue in tandoori oven, curries with chicken, fish and lamb. The range of vegetable dishes, various Indian lentils, paneer and others make Kohinoor specifically suitable for vegans and vegetarians. If you don't know what to order, trust the advice of the staff who will recommend the best combination of dishes. Whatever you chose, don't miss the desserts:burfi, kulfi ice cream, or the classical carrot desert, gajar ka halva.

Pizzarela: American inspiration, Italian tradition

When you are looking for something more than traditional pizza and you want to broaden your culinary horizons, without taking risks with the quality, the answer is Pizzarela (1 Bulgaria Sq, NDK, opposite the Lumiere Cinema and BTV, phone: 0888 66 04 04; www.pizzarela.bg). Among the appetisers here you will discover not only classical offers, but also typical American recipes like potato skins with Cheddar cheese, and Mozzarella sticks. For those who want to have something bigger, Pizzarela offers homemade burgers in American style from freshly made beef from a special breed bred for meat, accompanied by home baked bread. Top-quality beef is also used for the wide range of beef steaks, whose taste is almost the same as the one of the American original. Pizzarela is also a great place for pizza – and these are made after exotic but charming recipes from all over the world, like the pizzas with barbecue sauce.

Trattoria Giorgio: Italian taste in the heart of Sofia

With its many restaurants, Vitosha Boulevard is one of the most popular places for eating out in Sofia, and Trattoria Giorgio (58 Vitosha Blvd, phone: 0889 98 98 28, www.trattoriagiorgio.com), which is located on it, is among the tastiest of all. The restaurant has the cosiness of a true Italian trattoria and the food is equally authentic. In the trattoria's menu you will discover delicious Italian classics such as bruschette and antipasti, spaghetti alla Bolognese, pappardelle vitello e porcini, risotto di mare, fresh homemade sausages after Italian recipe, as well as selected dishes from veal, poultry, fish. The pasta is fresh and is prepared on the spot. The desserts include panna cotta, tiramisu and gelato, and the wine list continues the Italian theme. Trattoria Giorgio has also a winter garden.

Rock'n'Rolla Bar & Club: The home of good music and mood

The crawl around Sofia's night haunts can leave you with the impression that locals go mainly after the latest pop hits, electronica and chalga. Wrong! Rock'n'Rolla Bar & Club (Sofia, 1 Graf Ignatiev St, open from 20pm to 4am, book on: 0888 13 13 18, www.rocknrolla.bg) is a true heaven of lovers of good rock, and you will see that in the second you enter its packed halls. The people here are friendly, the DJs know and play all the bands and performers who deserve to be listened to, and when you get fed up with singings your favourite song without someone else being able to hear you, go to the rock karaoke room. Rock'n'Rolla has a regular set of events, follow them on the club's website or on www.facebook.com/rocknrollasofia/.

Maxi Club: Mediterranean whiff

The exclusive hotel Maxi Sofia (110 Simeonovsko Shose Blvd, restaurant: +359 888 804 557, www.maxisofia.com) is known to lovers of good life not only for its luxury, but also for the excellent food in its restaurant. Famed for its relaxed atmosphere far from the noise of the capital, Maxi Club is a great place for a leisurely lunch or a formal dinner alike, with specialties prepared from the best fresh ingredients. After a period of renovation, on 25November Maxi Club opens its doors not only with a new interior, but also with refreshed menu. In it you will find the incredible Mediterranean creations of chef Manuele Cattaruzza, an artist who has built his signatory style in some of the most luxurious restaurants on Capri. Now you can, too, enjoy his art.

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