TASTY GARDENS

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Sofia's restaurants give us more in summer - both delicious food and air where to enjoy it

Recently, getting to know Sofia's culinary pleasures have become a sight in its own right. A variety of culinary traditions, innovations, experiments, well-known and beloved suggestions – the Bulgarian capital offers a solution for every taste.

The warm months make this experience even more pleasant. Why? Because of the restaurants with gardens. Food eaten in the open air simply tastes better. The lunch gets a new dimension when it is shared not only with colleagues and friends, but also with the calm sun, the rustle of greenery, the chirping of the birds, the murmur of running water. The candle-lit dinner with your beloved is even more memorable when you see how the night falls over the city, embracing you with its promises.

The really good restaurants with gardens in Sofia can be found at a diversity of places. Some are hidden in quiet yards in the centre. Others are outside the city, in pleasant locations surrounded by nature. What unites them is the pleasure they invariably provide: with both their food and their tranquility.

Mediterraneo Restaurant: The garden of Mediterranean pleasures
For almost 20 years now citizens of the capital love Mediterraneo restaurant (Sofia, 9B Oborishte St, www.mediterraneo.bg) as it is the place where one can discover the most interesting Mediterranean cuisines while eating in a pleasant garden with lots of greenery. Each suggestion in the menu takes on a culinary trip in the region: from France and Italy to Greece and Galicia to the Middle East: coq au vin and delicate sourdough pizza, kritaraki with horse meat ragout and kebab of lamb and veal, Galician octopus and Mediterranean topenitsa in Turkish style. All of these are complemented with wines from the region which you can drink by the glass thanks to the technology for preservation of open bottles. In short: the ideal place for lunch and dinner with friends in the warm months.

Die Alte Lampe German Bierhalle: Meet a friend under the light of the old lamps
Summer is a perfect time to enjoy the authentic German and Austrian food and beer in Die Alte Lampe (Sofia, Lozenets, 2 Kotel St, phone: +359 885 63 53 23, www.fenerite.com). The German beerhall is close to Sofia's South Park and has a nice garden and some tables on the sidewalks. There are TVs both outside and inside so you do not miss your favourite sport events like the World Football Championship, the Grand Slam Tennis or Formula 1 Grand Prix with a glass of draft weizen beer. This June The Alte Lampe celebrates the 15th year of its establishment with a special Menu Top 15: a selection of the 15 most ordered dishes throughout these years. A heaven of food prepared after traditional family recipes, selected by Mami.

Vodenitzata Restaurant: The Vitosha is your garden
Greenery, flowers, clean air and the authentic atmosphere of an old-time mill, located among the dense forest of the Vitosha mountain: Vodenitzata Restaurant (Dragalevtsi, Vitosha Park, first station of Dragalevtsi chair-lift, www.vodenitzata.com) wins the hearts of its guests even before they have sat on the tables in the wonderful garden. Vodenitzata is not only remarkable for its incredible location, which makes you forget that only a few minute's drive stands between you and Sofia's urban buzz. For years, the restaurant has been an established and beloved place to enjoy traditional Bulgarian cuisine in all of its richness and variety. Classical salads, cheeses and appetisers, grilled and traditional dishes, an abundance of desserts and authentic types of alcohol: each bite and sip at Vodenitzata are charged with the spirit of Bulgaria. For an even more wholesome experience, visit the restaurant in the evening for traditional live music and gripping firewalking dances.

Lebed Restaurant: Tranquility and taste on the shore of the Pancharevo Lake

Water calms and makes us experience life to its fullest extent, with all of our senses, and Lebed Restaurant (Pancharevo, 83 Samokovsko Shose St, www.restaurantlebed.com) skilfully uses this quality of water to become a sanctuary for the modern urban person. Lebed combines its incredible location on the picturesque Pancharevo Lake, between the Vitosha and Lozen mountains, and the sense for good food. The result is charming. The spacious garden, inhabited by rare and exotic birds, is like a part of heaven, and when you try the suggestions in the menu the belief that you have stumbled upon a place of perfection and tranquility will become stronger. Lebed bets on known and beloved classics of the European and Mediterranean cuisine, and pays special attention to fresh fish and seafood. Everything here is perfected to the tiniest detail: from the food to the service to the atmosphere. The only thing you need to do is to enjoy all of it.

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