The arrival of British friends from London led us to a traditional meal at Hadjidraganovi. Another Bulgarian friend made us a party of five.
Decor was authentic and welcoming: tables with typically woven red table-clothes, multi-coloured tapestry on wooden benches, paintings of rustic scenes, traditional pottery and vintage wine bottles on the shelves and copper pails hanging from the ceiling, authentic wooden furniture and attractive ceiling decorations, including carved ornaments.
A traditional folklore music band – earnest and zestful – visited all the tables. Service was professional with an initial small glass of complimentary rakiya. Someone – ok, it was me! – ordered a large rakiya (Burgas 63) for 7.60 leva. Snort!
One of our companions ordered Aivar (250g for 3.50 leva), a mixture of home-made lyutenitsa (traditional spread of ground red peppers, tomatoes and herbs) with minced cow's cheese. Too much cheese, she thought, and the texture, instead of soft, was bulky and unattractive.
Her main course was roasted vegetables on a hot clay plate with pepper sauce (300g for 5.10 leva). It resembled a Mish-Mash – a mixture of chopped peppers, tomatoes with grated white cheese and scrambled egg. Although served on a hot clay plate, it wasn’t what she expected. Her dessert was home-made biscuit cake (200g for 3.80 leva). Our friend was unable to finish it, although she liked it.
Another of our party had chicken steak topped with a sauce of melted white and yellow cheese and egg, oven-roasted (250g for 9.80 leva). Although originally presented on a wooden tray, the sauce that was supposed to be roasted atop the chicken was in a separate pot as a dip and tasted bland. Otherwise, the chicken was well-cooked and tasty, accompanied by potato wedges.
Another diner had Sborianska salad (300g for 5.40 leva) – fresh lettuce with radishes, cucumbers, spring onion and a boiled egg, sprinkled with olive oil. Excellent!
My starter was Shopska salad (5.40 leva), standard but well done, followed by St. George’s lamb (450g for 21.50 leva) – oven-roasted lamb stuffed with offal and rice, garnished with fresh lettuce salad and yoghurt dressing. Well cooked and tender.
My wife had "Bulgare" (Bulgarian) salad (400g for 5.80 leva) – a combination of salads all in one plate – Shopska salad, rocket salad, kyopoolu (traditional spread of aubergines and green peppers), roasted red pepper with garlic and roasted marrows. A nice touch was a carrot-made decorative flower. Her main dish was leg of pork on a hot iron plate – (250g for 9.50 leva) – finely chopped boneless pork mixed with mushrooms and seasoned with garden herbs, topped with grated cheese and roasted on an iron plate with ornate handles and served piping hot. The yellow cheese topping covered the dish like a crispy blanket. The pork and mushrooms were well cooked and tasty if rather fatty.
My wife's dessert was baklava (3.80 leva), fresh and home-made, a generous portion, which she described as crisp and juicy with just the right amount of sugary syrup.
Our party had two excellent creme brulee (3.80 leva each) and two bottles of Mavrud wine (18 leva each) plus a cup of tea (1.50 leva), bread (two leva) and two bottles of water.
Overall, a good experience with dishes presented with style and imagination in accordance with Bulgarian traditions. Considering there were five of us – albeit one diner only had a salad – the bill of 135.40 leva was not excessive.
Overall rating: 4/6
Price: $$$ ($ up to 12 leva a person for three courses; $$ 12 to 20 leva pp; $$$ 20 to 35 pp; $$$$ 35 and over pp)
Address: 18, Hristo Belchev Str., Sofia
Tel: 02 / 981 81 48, mobile 0898 775 936
Open: noon to 2am
Credit cards: yes