Posted by: seasin | October 2, 2009

Architects’ Club Restaurant, Sofia

Club Na Architecta, Ul. Krakra 11; tel 0888880979

My first experience with the Architect’s Club was some sort of an official function. I really loved the space-a very light and airy glass-encased restaurant, completely open to one of the most charming restaurant gardens in Sofia. Admitedly, it was summer, but even in winter when the garden is covered in snow the restaurant still feels bright and open. It’s just around the corner from both the University and the quirky Crystal Palace hotel, on the quiet Krakra street-smack down in the nicest part of Sofia Downtown. If you pass in front of it, you might be slightly intimidated and think it must be an exclusive place for members (after all, it is called the “club restaurant”)-but don’t hesitate to enter. It’s a very nice place, and the staff is unexpectedly friendly (hm…probably I’ve been in Bulgaria too long, now I expect being served with a smirk and a frown, and friendliness seems unexpected…how sad!).

That first party I’ve been to, on a lovely summer evening, the restaurant had taken a very Provencal feel-the terracotta floors, the color of the walls, the wrought iron bits on the furnishings and the interior design in general, bathed in the gentle summer sunset and warm, scented air definitely carried the place thousands of miles away from its actual location. I can’t remember much of the food (I normally don’t eat at receptions. First because I’ve organized so many of them that now every single one I’m attending just somehow feels like work; second because they all start so darn early for dinner-and too late for lunch-if I do end up eating something, it’ll ruin my appetite for a proper dinner, and it won’t be enough to keep my stomach from grumbling until breakfast; third because I absolutely abhore eating standing up (like horses or cows on pasture), juggling a plate and a glass while trying to make do without proper cutlery and at the same time shaking hands with people; unavoidably, as I’m about to pop in my mouth a rather too large bite of some sort of tasteless meat, I’ll be introduced to some hot shot and panick for a moment: do I put it in my mouth, or back on my plate? Do I swallow, violently nodding while attempting to pass the huge thing through my delicate gullet, eyes bulging out of my head and brain overheated while trying to find a way of shaking hands while holding plate, glass and fork?; and not least, because catering food around these parts of the world is…let’s just say I wouldn’t deliberatly have any of it for dinner-unless I was homeless and pennyless and willing to eat from rubish bins).

But I liked the feel of the place so much that I decided to organize there the very first event I would put together in Sofia for my new employer-a staff party to celebrate the signing of a very large contract. It was very good. The food was delicious and well served, the waiting staff very helpful although they weren’t speaking much English (and I wasn’t speaking much Bulgarian back then)-making it remarkable that they did so well and I, as a host, had such a wonderful interaction with them. It means they really tried to anticipate our needs, and are professional enough to troubleshoot even with a language barrier. They did freeze our champagne by mistake (we brought it in, and quite late, so they thought they’d better put it in the freezer to chill down properly before they serve…except they forgot. I won’t tell you how frowzen, then de-frosted by means of popping the bottle under warm water champagne tastes. My colleagues were already too merry on quite nice Bulgarian reds, whites and roses to care 🙂 ) but that was so little and so late in the evening that I didn’t hold it against them.

To make a very long story short, last night I returned for a light dinner with my love. We went because we knew it’s going to be good, and it’s very close to home. Safe choice.

And it was really good. It was, officially, my first dinner in Sofia with NO RAMPANT KIDS and NO CIGARETTE SMOKE. Admitedly, the weather was mild enough to allow us to still sit in the garden (I love Sofia autumns!), but there were no kids in sight. The garden and restaurant were wonderfully lit, there was no music but as it was quite full, the quiet buzz of conversation from other tables made us feel welcome and relaxed.

Now, the menu is nothing unusual for Sofia restaurants-there are a few traditional salads, nothing fancy, price between 5 and 8 leva (most expensive is the one featuring goat cheese); four soups (including the famous tarator); a few starters-between 5 and 20 leva, with the most expensive being the grilled octopus; a few grilled dishes-the usual ones; and a few mains, chicken, pork, beef and fish, three or four iterations of each-prices range between 10 and 15 leva, with a few spikes (29 leva for the most expensive dish on the menu, veal pepper steak).

We didn’t have starters as we were aiming for a light meal-DB got the chicken filets with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, served with mashed potatoes, and I went for the pork fillet with lemon sauce, served with potatoes gratin and garlicky spinach. It wasn’t a life altering experience, but the food was good. They obviously care about the ingredients and the chef’s technique shows he’s not a housewife cooking in the family restaurant (as I very strongly suspect is the case in too many restaurants in Bulgaria-people cook without any formal training; I’m a very good cook, but I wouldn’t consider cooking commercially without first being properly trained, darn it!). The lemon sauce on my pork was velvety and very citrusy without being sour, the spinach was a triumph and the potatoes rich and creamy and probably made with a sheep or goat cheese, because they were really yummy with a hint of farminess to them. DB polished off his chicken, but didn’t have much to say about it-he seemed to enjoy the sauce too. I asked our waiter for a side-dish of green salad-which didn’t feature in the menu-and he graciously accomodated (this kind of request normally stumps most waiters here-if it’s not on the menu, even if they do have the ingredients and it’s a simple as boiling water, you can’t have it). The lettuce was fresh, crisp and crunchy, came with a wedge of lemon to sprinkle on top, and the chef even added a few chopped radishes and two quarters of a boiled egg on the sides of the dish-he must have thought that plain lettuce isn’t proper food for humans :).

We had a half-bottle of Chillean Cabernet Sauvignon, rather non-descript but a much better quality than one would expect from half bottles.

And now for the criticism. Our lovely waiter (easily one of the best waiters we’ve had in Bulgaria so far) told us the bread is really nice. It wasn’t. We didn’t really want bread but we ordered it hoping it’s freshly baked on the premises. My personal oppinion as a bread baker is that the bread is of the vacuum-packed pre-baked sort. As in, it’s baked on the premises (or rather finished there) but not MADE fresh every day. Shame, fresh bread is SOOOO easy and makes such a difference in a restaurant! the one we had was warm, but it was clearly re-heated once too often. My pork was tender, but the fillets were really tiny and very thin-and tasteless even with the lemon sauce covering them. I couldn’t taste the pork at all (not a bad thing, in fact, as I don’t really like the taste of pork) but I also couldn’t taste any seasoning whatsoever. Tip for Chef: you’ve obviously floured the fillets before searing them; next time, add some salt and pepper to the flour, then coat the meat in the mixture. You won’t believe the difference-and it will work magic with the lemon sauce.

They don’t seem to have any wine by the glass, and the choice of the half bottles was very limited (a bulgarian, the chillean we had, a spanish crianza and another one that I can’t remember). But this is where the criticism stops.

Because we were having quite a lovely evening and the portions weren’t oversized, we decided to have pudding as well-apple pie for BD, and creme brulee for me. According to him, the apple pie was yummy (with a special mention for the crust). My creme brulee enforced my oppinion that the chef knows what he/she’s doing. The custard was very very nice, smooth and creamy and fragrant and not too sweet. I liked. Liked very much. Granted, the burned sugar crust on top was too hard to break with the spoon (too thick, I think) so I couldn’t spoon it together with the custard, and there were some blueberries on the bottom of the bowl which were a nice thought but somehow didn’t add anything at all to the final result. But I did like the creme and I don’t normally like sweets.

The bill was very very decent-two mains, two deserts, three waters (soda) and a half-bottle of red wine, came up to 60 leva (tip not included) which was very fair for the food we had, and good value for the nice restaurant and really good service. As a bonus, it’s very close to home so we’ll definitely see more of the Architect’s Club in the future 🙂

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Responses

  1. …. well this was a helpfull description of the the restaurant ! I live in England and I’m coming to Sofia in June ’13 and would like to celebrate an event with my love and her daughter who live in Sofia. We are both looking for a good restaurant and the previous one that we have gone to (Niagara) seems to have outpriced itself not to mention that the portions I’m sure have got smaller ! Yes I think we will try this one which is only 15 minutes walk …… does anyone know if the menue is online anywhere ?

    • Delighted that you found the review helpful, a little warning though-we’ve moved out of Sofia in the summer of 2010, so I should think it’s better that you check if the restaurant is still open before you head there…also, it might well be that things have changed with the restaurant since we’ve last been, but also with Sofia. Try this website http://insidesofia.com/restaurant.php for more recent info (although I can’t say how reliable the reviews are).


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