One morning at the guesthouse, on our house-hunting trip, Max’s neighbour, Vassa, brings us up a freshly baked banitsa for breakfast. This is a large round pastry dish – Vassa handmakes her own pastry which is then formed into rolls and wound into a round dish. The rolls are filled with cheese and it is baked in the oven. It is the best, most lovely breakfasty gift ever. Sadly it has goat’s cheese in: Rob doesn’t eat goat’s cheese, so I get to polish off his slice too. Mnogo vkoosno – very delicious – indeed.
We have fresh homemade bread for breakfast every day and we feast on bread, jam, cheese, honey, tomatoes, muesli, eggs and a traditional cup of PG tips. The occasional homemade smoothie or ‘power juice’ crops up too. A plug for Max’s guesthouse: I highly recommend Little Spring guesthouse (http://www.littlespring.eu/) for the great hospitality. (When he’s not estate-agencing, Max runs mountain biking holidays and has an English bookshop in Yablanitsa).
The best of the food in Bulgaria (delicious pastries aside) is meze style. Main courses tend to be simple – kebabs, meatballs or stews. The meze, salads and soups are more varied and delicious.
Restaurants in Sofia have English menus and English speaking staff. In Yablanitsa, the nearest town to the guesthouse, there are no English facilities. We go to a great place with Max and have a very tasty lunch. He does all the ordering in Bulgarian and we just smile and nod. The food is lovely. The total bill for three meals, two beers and a mineral water comes to less than £6. Another day, Rob and I decide to go back there ourselves, this time alone. We can’t understand the menu and struggle to find words in our pitiful phrasebook. The waiter speaks no English (and why should he). We muddle through and order a couple of salads and a yummy fried cheese dish. We know the word for cheese well! It’s all tasty and we feel some sense of achievement managing to order and pay without speaking English (albeit with a lot of pointing and gesticulating).
Bulgarian beer and wine, by the way, is excellent and we have been taking care to sample many varieties for the purposes of research!