Word-of-mouth and the soft strumming of the Spanish guitar drew us to the newly opened Bodega* in Studentski Grad for a birthday celebration for four.
The Friday night in question was packed out. A good omen perhaps, although not so auspicious when the diners at your side all seem to have laughs like hyenas that masked the music in question. The guitarists were actually a bit inconspicuous, positioned permanently behind (from our vantage points) a pillar. Perhaps they should have moved around a bit. Also, we were assured it was a no-smoking area but two diners on another table lit up. Minor gripes, nonetheless.
The interior of Bodega is spacious, airy and bright, resplendent with artwork depicting Spanish singers, statuesque flamenco dancers and ample-girthed Mexican guitarists. Ornamental tiles adorn the walls.
Bodega specialises in Spanish food and tapas but has a comprehensive menu to suit all tastes. The starters we chose were traditional Gazpacho soup - my wife claimed it was "refreshing" - (3.49 leva), Bodega salad with duck confit and a cream anchovy dressing (6.99 leva), falafel and cucumber parpadelle (5.99 leva) and club salad with honey mustard dressing. We asked about the ingredients of the latter and were told it contained avocado and blue cheese. So it did, but in very sparing quantities. The other entrees were all fine, washed down with four servings of rakiya (2.49 leva each).
Main courses (all 300g) were pan-seared salmon with marinated peppers (12.99 leva) and grilled tilapia fillet with seasonal vegetable julienne in lemon butter sauce (9.99 leva)- both tasty but not as good as my wife's shrimps Provencale with grilled polenta cake (12.99 leva). This was the best dish of the night. There are advantages to everybody ordering a different dish to enable sharing!
We followed with cheesecake with a raspberry dip (5.99 leva). Thankfully, this was better than your average Bulgarian cheesecake, coming as it did with a biscuit base. My daughter had fine apple tart with vanilla ice cream (3.99 leva) but the best was hot fondant au chocolat with vanilla sauce (7.99 leva).
The bill, including a fine bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon (22 leva), orange juice (1.89 leva), a litre of mineral water (3.99 leva) was a not unreasonable 116 leva.
Service was very friendly and attentive. Perhaps more clothes pegs and salt pots were needed (the latter were whisked away too quickly) but overall, a nice atmosphere and decor with well presented, tasty food at non-exorbitant prices.
Looks to be a really good find. Recommended.
*Another branch of Bodega can be found in Slivnitsa Blvd in Varna. This opened before the Sofia restaurant.
Overall rating: 5/6
Price: $$ ($ up to 12 leva a person for three courses; $$ 12 to 20 leva pp; $$$ 20 to 35 pp; $$$$ 35 and over pp)
17 Akad. Boris Stefanov
Tel: 0898 638003
Open: 9am to 1am
Credit cards: yes