Our excursion to the Bulgarian restaurant at Turnpike Lane, ‘Sunny Beach Restaurant’ was an exhilarating experience! All of us trooped together from the station to the restaurant where we were welcomed warmly by the hostesses. We took our seats and in absolute excitement opened the menus, only to find that every word of it was in Bulgarian. What an adventure! Our language tutor, Yordanka, and the hostess helped us read the text and choose the dishes we wanted to try.
We chose, among the variety of the dishes that were available on the menu, a lot of food. Our choices ranged from Calamari and Prawns tossed in Bulgarian herbs (parsley etc.), to the traditional Shopska Salad and Meat and Vegetables stewed in a traditional clay pot. Few of us also tried the traditional Bulgarian red wine, that seemed similar to what is commonly known as Merlot. The flavours seemed mellow and quite soft. The highlight of the meal, to be honest, was the beautifully made white cheese. The perfect balance of its softness and slight saltiness was a delight! We all agreed that we hadn’t had better quality white cheese in London, or even in our home countries, in a long time.
Moreover, we were also introduced to Bulgarian Folk music and Pop music that was very different to the kind of music we generally listen to. It gave the restaurant a very unique ambience and it was a pleasant and special experience.
For us, this was not only an informative and amazing gastronomic and (small scale) cultural experience, but it was also a wonderful way to bond with the rest of the crew. We shared childhood stories, hobbies, our own experiences of London, some silly inside jokes we’d come up with in the past five days and slowly warmed up to each other. It was a beautiful experience, and we’re so thankful to our Navigator, Zora and Language tutor, Yordanka for organizing this wonderful evening! ~ Aditi
In the restaurant I felt like a tourist dining at the Sunny Beach resort along the coast of the Black Sea because of the freshly-prepared seafood dishes and murals hand-painted on the walls. We were warmly welcomed and the waitress prompted us to further our language when we tried to use the expressions on ’’how to order food in a restaurant’’ from our language lesson. Being fond of Turkish cuisine, I could relate to Bulgarian cuisine and it was more familiar to me than I had first imagined. However, the cuisine is its own unique twist on the Baltic cuisine and so I noticed differences such as the feta cheese grated over most dishes or сирене was much more creamy and less salty than the Greek feta cheese.
Next time, I would like to try ‘Tarator’ (a yoghurt soup with cucumber, dill, garlic and walnuts) typically enjoyed in the hot climate of Bulgaria. It sounds very refreshing and from my studies on Biotechnology I know that Lactobacillus bulgaricus, the bacteria use in the fermentation process of yoghurt production, was discovered by Bulgarias very own Stamen Grigov. My favourite dish was Cheese Shopski сирене по шопски because of the authenticity of the decorative pot in which the dish was served ~ Yashil
Coming to Sunny Beach restaurant was a wonderful experience. Upon settling down in our seats, we were greeted with warm and welcoming Bulgarian hospitality. As we were waiting for our meals to arrive, we were able to enjoy various Bulgarian music playing. Varying from folk music to more current and contemporary tunes, the melodies set a lively atmosphere to the restaurant that got everyone into the mood of conversing stories met with smiles and laughter.
Upon the arrival of our dishes, I was delightedly surprised by the love for feta cheese that Bulgarian people had. This was clearly evident in most of the dishes that I had ordered to which the feta cheese was always present, (which made cheese loving individuals like me very happy to indulge in!). The feta cheese, or ‘sirene’ as what they call it in Bulgaria, is a rich and creamy texture that would melt in the mouths of those savouring it, giving the dishes a pleasant salty tang.
Overall, experiencing simply a brief measure of the Bulgarian culture within the walls of a Bulgarian restaurant in London was a great experience. Having delicious food, a lively atmosphere and of course good company with me that night, what more could I really ask for? It was a wonderful Bulgarian dining experience and I would definitely recommend others to come and try it too ~ Nadiah
Having spent a lesson learning about Bulgarian food that same day, everyone was really looking forward to trying some at the restaurant. Once we got there, it was really hard to make a decision but I knew that I had to try the шопска салата (shopska salad) as well as the сирине по шопский (which is a bowl filled with warmed feta cheese and tomatoes) after hearing so much about these two dishes in the lesson and I was not disappointed! I was also struck by the similarities between bulgarian and other balkan cuisines: I would say the main difference is the use of feta but otherwise many dishes are very similar. Lastly, it was a great way to spend time with the rest of the group and practice some Bulgarian.
So, to sum up, if anyone wants to have a delicious filling meal for under a tenner, I really recommend going to the Sunny Beach restaurant near Turnpike Lane ~ Lina
From the moment we approached the restaurant, I could feel a charismatic atmosphere that only furthered when we entered. From the entrance I could smell the faint aroma of the food, mixed with a vague scent of delicious red wine.
The atmosphere really helped us connect further while we were waiting for the food to be ready. In a matter of no time, the whole group was laughing and starting to feel like a small part of a bigger community that were enjoying their time at Sunny Beach Bulgarian restaurant. And when the food was ready… You really need to experience this yourself, but try to imagine this rich smell of cheese mixed with fresh tomatoes and all kinds of amazing combinations. The taste was perfect: the egg and white cheese gave a rich, lovely flavour that only got better when mixed with the salami.
I ordered Thracian-style cheese, but tried a bit of everything and I definitely recommend everyone to have a taste of Bulgaria! ~Andreea
It was a great experience to dine in a Bulgarian restaurant. The thing that impressed me most was not only the food but also the containers of the dishes. We ordered several kavarma as main dishes which are meat stews cooked for many hours and served in a traditional small earthenware pot, topped with a fried egg. The patterns on the pot are delicate and colourful, and the colours are usually green, yellow and brown which give a fresh and clean feeling. I also noticed that they have diverse containers for different dishes – the hot stewed dishes are put into the pots with two hand grips, and cold or baked foods are usually put in a taller earthenware pot with a relatively big grip shaped like an ‘ear’ on the side. The taste of the food focused more on original flavors of the ingredients and combine them in plenty of ways. For example, the shopski salad combined the strong taste of white cheese with fresh vegetables like tomato, spring onion, cucumber etc. It doesn’t require a sauce with it since it was already perfectly balanced by marrying these two flavours and the lemon on the side gives natural acidity and leaves a refreshing sensation in the mouth ~ Xing
Good food, a vibrant atmosphere and Eastern European cuisine are all things that can easily be found in London. What made Sunny Beach remarkable was that it combined all of these and also kept its sense of community. At no point was the restaurant not buzzing, but unlike most restaurants, it was full of, not tourists, but Bulgarian people who had come out for a nice, homely meal. The food itself was delicious, and we were able to try the famous ‘Shopska Salad’ among other traditional Bulgarian dishes. It was also an opportunity to practice our Bulgarian, which is always entertaining, to say the least! ~ Aashish
I am no wine expert, but have read enough investigative articles to get the impression that the whole idea of a wine expert is slightly dubious. We ordered a traditional red wine at the Bulgarian restaurant, a sort of eastern European Merlow that came with a Cyrillic label presumably ascribed with several adjectives that would have made this description easier on my part. To these very inexperienced tastes it was quite smooth, with less of the harsh aftertaste present in the only other Merlow I have consumed – the five pound a bottle Sainsburies wine that my roommate bought four bottles of around Christmas time, and that I remember not finding particularly palatable. But this Bulgarian wine I enjoyed a lot (though for all I know it might have cost five pounds at Tesco)~ Tim
Compiled and Edited by Aditi and Yashil