Hotel restaurants, some are noteworthy, but a hotel restaurant does not spring to mind as the first choice for a meal out in Sofia.
But then again, when you hear that the kitchen is directed by ex-Sheraton chef Ventsislava Vircheva, then it was time to make the effort . Withe high expectations it was off to see what all the fuss was about at Bijou, the restaurant at the Silver House hotel on Simeonovsko Shosse.
Bijou, located in the Silver House hotel, is in a busy business area, just opposite the Sofia Zoo. It’s not that far out of the centre and very convenient from the southern ring road. Plenty of parking spaces makes arriving by car a non issue.
First impressions count
The reception area of the hotel lead us into the Bijou dining room; a spacious area with contemporary wooden walls and tastefully understated Christmas decorations.
Unobtrusive sums up the background music – and that’s a good thing.
With the steady march of tables moving ever closer together, it’s good to see that that in Bijou they are placed at a discrete distance from one another. Who needs your every word uttered being eavesdropped upon?
So a tick in the box for business meetings.
Courteous and polished service saw us greeted, and seated, with a smile. A quick delivery of bread and dips and I’m now looking at the menu with plenty of interest.
You can tell a lot of thought has been put into selecting the menu.
It’s diverse, but not too long. Enough for different tastes, and a nice balance between Bulgarian and international cuisine. We found some traditional Bulgarian dishes like Shopska salad and chicken and pork skewers — but they were not what we came for.
The menu starts to reveal Ventislava’s international dishes with modern presentation. Feeling hungry I was tempted by the beef pepper steak with Swiss potato rosti and brandy sauce. Then again, the chicken rolls in bacon in dried tomato sauce and olives looked good — just like the walnut chicken fillets. So in my usual indecisive mode, I chose something rather different…
A salad is a salad
No, not really. Here the duck fillet green salad saw tender duck balanced with fresh leaves and dressing. Quite memorable.
The grilled vegetable salad with cheese was also appreciated by my partner. Prices of salad range between 8 leva and 10 leva. Fair for the amount, and the quality.
Pork and fish wonders
For my main, the pork knuckle served on roast cabbage with home-made potato and bacon chips proved to satiate my hunger.
The fish menu looked especially good. And I got to taste the sea bass with herb and lemon sauce. Cooked to perfection and heartily recommended.
Both dishes cost 15 leva each, which is considerably less than you would pay for the same quality anywhere else.
Vegetarians have not been ignored, with some there non-meat starters that I hope to try on another visit.
The wine list contains a selection of the main Bulgarian wines, and also some popular foreign ones.
As a strong believer in local wines, we chose the Kalo Ioan 2008 red by Light castle winery – a wonderful blend that I had tried at the DiVino wine tasting for the first time. This winery is a reliable choice, and you can choose from their whole range in the Bijou restaurant. Special mention must be made for the care to decanter a half bottle. A small touch that gained more points for Bijou.
Another red on the menu is Pitos (31lv) from the Dragomir Winery Estate. Probably my favourite right now.
The wine list is well chosen and delivers superb quality wines for modest prices. What is more, you will have it professionally decanted and served.
Pudding. The creme brulee substituted the caramelised crust that fresh from the hands armed with a blow touch with a nut topping. Good, but not quite hitting the mark of the previous two courses.
A nicely decorated and arranged big table at the other end of the restaurant made me think this is a place very suitable for a company or family Christmas party; cocktail or a wedding.
If you’re staying at the hotel, look no further for your dinner. If you’re up for some proper cooking, then Bijou is well worth the trip.