Izbata, which means “The Cellar” is on Slavyanska 18. Izbata is easily spotted from the street at night time. A side entrance door to this basement restaurant of a fine house. Slavyanska is a pretty central street — a five minutes walk from Alexander Nevski Church.
I have always been a little quick to be less enthusiastic than some when referring to traditional Bulgarian mehanas . The reason is simple.
Noise, sometimes referred as folk music is just not my thing. But read on for what Izbata is very different proposition than many mehanas.
Some traditional mehanas in Bulgaria — and in Bansko for sure — do target the unwary foreign tourist. This means prices that cannot be justified in comparison to their competitors. So, after a period of avoiding mehanas, I’m now happy to review Izbata. A Sofia mehana that my Bulgarian friends reserved tables well ahead to get a place. And that’s a better sign than I can wish for. In fact, this review could only take place as we were happy to eat early and clear the table for a later booking. Perfectly fine by me.
A more subtle traditional decor — a hint of the contemporary. Normal prices; and no loud music.
Some old-style Bulgarian furniture, decoration and cutlery. Quiet music, discrete but with a jolly atmosphere.
Starters: a Monastery topenitsa (Monastery dip – 4 leva), A selection of traditional dips, including luytenitsa, kyopoolu and shopski dip.
But here was the thing. Just amazing flat bread with cheese — called purlenka (4 leva). The selection of Bulgarian salads looked tempting. And how often can you go wrong with a “Shopska” salad – 4.90 leva? (TIP: allow for taste of tomatoes and cucumbers to vary with the season).
In winter time, opting for a warm appetizer, or, a selection of Bulgarian cheeses and cold sausages would also be a good plan.
Winning wine choice
The wine prices are reasonable. 25 lev for our Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon red wine from Midilidare’s award winning wines is a fair price for a restaurant such as this. This superb wine, from this new estate, was the perfect accompaniment. The wonderful mineral backbone with a lingering blackberry and slightly peppery finish could hold its own with the robust flavours of our starter and main courses. Wine enthusiasts will be hard pressed to agree on their choice of wine, but isn’t this choosing part one of the joys of eating out in Sofia these days?
The Bulgarian wine range is extensive. I was torn between this list:
- Bessa Valley’s Enira (35 lev),
- Damiantiza’s “No Man’s Land” (22 lev);
- Katarzhina’s Carpe Diem (20 lev),
…Todoroff, Minkov Brothers and so the list goes on.
An approving look from our waiter on my Midalidare choice, was a nice touch. And it was just then I was feeling relaxed. Assisted by the cheerful and unhurried Izbata service.
We were in an indecisive mood — so I left the choice of main course until our topenitsa was finished with. Vanya made the choice for me.
She chose the traditional Bulgarian dish called satch – a mixture of pork and chicken pieces, sausage, bacon, peppers, mushrooms. It was cooked on a hot plate and served still sizzling. One is enough to serve two people (16.19 leva).
There were a number of other meat dishes that attracted my attention, such as “Babino pile” and “Roasted chicken fillets with parsnip”, but this is for my next review. From the side dishes, I chose the saute potatoes. An enormous portion and nice, but I envied the neighbours at the next table who had tasty looking home-made chips.
Mehanas sometimes service a quality yoghurt accompanied by a fruit compote.
But it was time to roll out the change… “home-made ice-cream”,
It arrived with a certain aplomb. Beautifully decorated with bright orange, green figs and dark chocolate (5.90 leva). Not to be missed.
Usually, out of the Bulgarian desert menu, the “home-made biscuit cake” is also very good. Another time.
I enjoyed most
excellent, helpful English speaking staff; nice and professional service. Excellent value in central location.
I enjoyed least
no non-smoking department, but not smoky
Conclusion and booking details
I will be back again with friends. Combination of fair prices, quality and service.
Open every day: 11am to 12pm
Address: 18, Slavyanska Street, central Sofia
Tel: +359(0)2 989 55 33 or +359(0) 88 989 55 33