Cherga means a Bulgarian colourful hand-woven rug. You will see a lot of these if you enter “The magic of chergite”.
Chergite is out of the centre, in a peculiar areas called Students town and hence the young party people all around. A taxi from the central Sofia should be no more than 10 leva. The restaurant is easy to find.
Why go there?
For me, it was the craving for traditional Bulgarian cuisine. But actually my evening delivered rather more than sampling local dishes.
Dancing and mingling with the local crowd – well, this is what travelling is all about. Casting my eye over the prices saw me do a double take. They’re so reasonable it is enough to make you want to stand up and join in the dance for the horo.
This is the real deal – you’re not a visitor or a tourist here.
The restaurant interior is designed as an old traditional Bulgarian house. Rugs all around, wooden furniture, an open furnace. Me and my girlfriend are feeling warm glow after the arctic temperatures outside. Warm smiles, and we were taken to our table. Then after being recommended several different meals, all this in perfect English, we settled into the atmosphere. A very hospitable start.
The menu is very big as it covers meals from almost every region in Bulgaria. You risk getting lost in the typically Bulgarian names so ask your waiter for advice. But read on for my top recommendations.
You can’t go wrong with any of the salads – prices ranging from 4 to 7 leva. Shopska is always a safe bet, but I’d give the more interesting ones a go. I was very happy with my Selska salad (4.50 lv) and Chergite salad (7.50), which has a selection of nice dips.
However, salads you can have anywhere. Bulgarian home cooking is what we need. Cabbage leaves (rice and meat wrapped up in a sour cabbage leaf) or stuffed peppers (red peppers stuffed with beans) were all the best I have ever tasted. Melted Bulgarian cheese with honey looked worth a try too too.
Preparing beans is in art form in Bulgaria. These slow cooked butter beans in a copper pot with spices, which go to together like gin goes with tonic with chilly peppers. The presentation of these was amazing:
Although the above starters (all ranging from 4 to 9 leva)were enough to make us full, we were also offered another typical Bulgarian mezze – Katino meze (beef in tomato sauce with onion and peppers).
By any means try and slot in some bread with your starters – a real winner – made on a wood grill – plain or with cheese (1.60 to 2.60 leva).
All that was really tasty and substantial. But we had to try the other typical Bulgarian main –chicken, pork and veal pieces and vegetables on a skewer roasted in the fire. If you like me prefer the meat rare, have in mind that in Bulgaria they make meat very well done, so indicate your preference in advance.
There are all kinds of meat, including fish, most of them cooked with vegetables and in the fire. Prices ranging, but rarely above 10 leva.
Again some typical Bulgarian desserts, the most popular of which home-made buiscuit cake with honey (3.60 leva) or ox yogurt with forest fruit jam (3.40 leva).
While enjoying your dinner, there is a band with singers in the background (starts at 8 o’clock) and plays Bulgarian songs. Not too loud and discrete – they do not impose themselves on your table waiting for a tip like in other tourist places.
A dancing show starts at 9:30 – ensemble Chinarite – 4 young enthusiastic dancers in costumes performing on all kinds of music from Bulgarian folk music to Spanish. Again, nice and discrete. All the Bulgarians around got very excited by this performance, stood up and danced as well.
Well, I thought, if the locals find it such fun, it must be.
Authentic Bulgarian food and show, great prices, young diligent staff and a manager who is making sure everyone is happy. A nice garden for the summer.
No no-smoking area – smoke was OK only in the early hours (7-9). A bit far away from the centre.
Great value for money (20 leva for a big 3-course meal), worth the trip.
Sofia, Studentski grad, block 60
Work hours: 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.
tel. 0879 990 903