We are starting a series about different cultures in London. We will try to explore as many countries as possible. London is a brilliant place for such exploration, as one can sample many international cultures in one place.
For the first official one, we would like to write about a beautiful place in Europe that very few talk about.
It is blessed with incredible nature, amazing beaches & summer weather and stunning women. That place is Bulgaria (yes, we’re a bit biased in our first choice as one of us is from this country, but we will still give an honest opinion). Usually, people go to Turkey or Greece, but Bulgaria is as incredible and sunny as those two countries but yet has managed to stay under the radar. Here we help you discover this little jewel and you won’t even have to take a plane!
A few facts about Bulgaria
- Currency: Bulgarian lev
- Capital: Sofia
- Population: 7.2 M
- National drink: rakia (ракия), it’s strong (between 40% and 95%)
- National food: banitsa (delicious pastry filled with white cheese), shopska salata (a fresh salad), lyutenitsa (tomato & pepper based dip), tarator (a yoghurt based soup with cucumbers, garlic and dill), tsa-tsa (tiny fried whole fish), lukanka (salami with spices)
- Famous Bulgarian people: John Atanasov (the inventor of the computer), Dimitar Berbatov (footballer), Nina Dobrev (actress and model), Veselin Topalov (2005-2006 Chess World Champion)
Bulgaria is a relatively small country but has given us amazing people.
But Bulgaria has also given us some amazing food. Bulgarian food is very tasty, made of natural ingredients and beautifully combines eastern and Mediterranean flavours.
Bulgarians enjoy salads very much so chances are you
will eat salad as a starter or rather as an appetiser. Usually they have it with rakia (which is the national alcoholic drink in Bulgaria). As a main you can try the sach(or Sač to be precise) which is a succulent meal made of chicken (or pork), onion, peppers, carrots, courgettes and aubergines. Sach refers to the ceramic or clay plate (which is heated to a high temperature) in which the food is served. It is tasty but very hot so don’t just rush eating it!
If you are the “burgers and chips” type, you will enjoy kufte and kebapche with chips more. These are minced meats with a bit of onions cooked on the grill. Brilliant BBQ type of dish! Both are pretty similar in taste but their shapes and spices differ: kufte is round and kebapche looks like a stick or long sausage.
Bulgarians are not really strong on desserts so expect great main dishes but not-so-unusual desserts. You can try their palachinka which is a pancake. Or you could have some mixed fruits. If the fruits come from Bulgaria, they are guaranteed to be tasty and juicy, ripened in the sun!
If you like discovering new food, you will be able to experience some Bulgarian delicacies in London. Here are some restaurants you can go to try some Bulgarian food:
- Sunny Beach, Turnpike Lane
- Paradise, Wood Green
- Unikat 2, Palmers Green (live music every night)
- Caprice, Croydon
- Bulgarian House Restaurant, Surbiton
- Others are: Bolyary, Palmers Green; Déjà vu Garden, Walthamstow; Little Sofia, Leytonstone; Perpericon, Streatham Common; Black Sea Restaurant, Stratford
If you would like to experience Bulgaria starting with some drinks, you could go to one of the cafes spread across London.
One that we particularly like is called Unico (they don’t have any website yet) and is based in Harrow-on-the-Hill (only 2 minutes walk from the station). They serve some nice cafes and delicious fresh cakes and banitsa. Added bonuses: the owner is very friendly and they also have a small shop inside the cafe so you can buy a few Bulgarian sweets, teas etc.
If Harrow-on-the-Hill is a bit far from where you are, here are some places you could go to:
- Olimp café bar, Tottenham
- Café Luba, Leytonstone
- Plovdiv Café, Turnpike lane
- Cafe 406 BarClub, Palmers Green
- Moreni, Turnpike lane
- Café Onik, West Ealing
- Jolly Cakes, Putney
- And the countless BG Zakuska (Bulgarian Breakfast) outlets, where traditional pastry breakfasts are served to take away
You might want to cook yourself or get some ingredients from the Bulgarian motherland. Usually, the ingredients/food comes straight from Bulgaria so you will truly get the real deal! You might have noticed the countless Polish shops in London but there are also some Bulgarian shops around and luckily they are scattered across the capital so you will be able to get to one fairly easily.
We’re giving you a list so you don’t have to guess where they are:
- Bakary Naslada, Enfield
- BG Foods, Wembley
- Karlovo, Barking
- Bulgarian Food, Wood Green
- Aida, Walthamstow
- Rozova Dolina, Tottenham
- Kasmetcheto, Acton
- Roza, Greenford
- Bulgarian food, Croydon
- Supermarket Favorite, Surbiton
Ok, so you got the food but actually have no idea what to do with it?
Don’t panic, there are some cooking lessons you could attend at BCI (Bulgarian Cultural Institute). BCI organise different workshops. One of them is about cooking. So learn how to master some traditional Bulgarian recipes.
Traditional dance classes
Another type of class you could go to is the traditional dance class. You will get to learn horo which is the traditional dance in Bulgaria. If you like moving those hips and be all bootylicious well this might not be the right type of dance for you but you will learn some unique dance techniques.
Learn the lingo
If after experiencing Bulgaria in London, you start feeling a connection with the country and would like to learn the lingo, know that some London institutions teach Bulgarian. Here are the ones we know of in London:
One of the key benefits of living in London is, if you make a bit of effort, you can discover a lot about different cultures. A few months ago, we wrote about experiencing Brazil in London. We went to different Brazilian places in London which we didn’t know existed. And after discovering an amazing dish called feijoada and a refreshing drink (called Guarana) in a restaurant, we regularly make some trips to that same place to get some more. Had we stuck to fish and chips, we would never have discovered it! It’s the same with the Bulgarian culture and food. We guarantee that if you make the effort to try them, your life will change for the better.
And once, you’ve tried rakia, lukanka, banitsa etc., for sure, you will keep going back to the shops to get some more! 🙂