Address: Radisson SAS Hotel,4 Narodno Subranie Sq
I first went to Flannagans in January four years ago, during my first visit to Sofia, a few months before I moved to this city.
At the time, it was a mandatory stop among trendy political and media circles, over and above the obvious fact that as an Irish pub, it could easily tap into a well of popularity and familiarity among foreigners, given that at the time the international vogue for Irish pubs arguably was at its peak. On top of that, given the Radisson's attractive location, at that time it could count on the trade from MPs adjourning from the National Assembly across the square.
Through a series of changes in management, Flannagans has kept certain constants: staff able to speak English, and a menu of satellite television sports events, both essential for the pub and restaurant to hold its own among foreign tourists and the expatriate community.
This month, Flannagans reopened after being closed for a few weeks for a period of renovation and reinvention. Among the changes are new attractions on its menu, and a "live cooking station" with a chef on duty to mix and match, and, one might say, wok and roll, one's choice of meat and vegetables.
Although I attended the press launch of the renewed Flannagans, I was curious to return on an ordinary day, and was glad of an invitation to lunch there last Friday, February 18, with one of the Radisson's senior staff.
There were a number of customers in desultory conversation (and fortunately the place is one of those that plays its canned music at a volume that makes conversation possible) scattered around the place. I spurned the carte for the sake of trying the "live cooking". No one was giving me a chance, as a guest, to order in Bulgarian, and the chef extolled in fluent English the attractions of the meats (chicken, beef and pork) and vegetables. I ordered a concoction of chicken and various vegetables (various chopped and sliced things in green, red and brown - those who know my tastes know that vegetables do not loom large in my legend). We returned to our table as the maestro deftly wielded his pan, and it was not long after we sat down that my dish arrived, joined soon after by the sandwiches and fries ordered by my companion. In the case of both dishes, the portions were unquestionably generous. Though the food was tasty, particularly in the case of mine with the addition of the oyster sauce recommended by the chef, I found the noodles a little on the greasy side, probably inevitable with the nature of the style of cooking. I left a portion of my food unfinished, not for lack of appreciation but mainly for lack of room, and chivalrously assisted my companion with her sandwiches, which were of a proportion tall (or is that wide? It depends which way you tilt your head, or tilt the sandwich) enough to resemble the composition of a Dagwood. The sandwiches were good, if a little difficult to eat with dignity. I managed a bit better than my companion, but then I have a big mouth (literally and figuratively, I have been assured by various people over the years). With much to discuss, my companion and I lingered over lunch for more than two hours, and staff appeared at reasonably regular intervals to inquire about further drinks and desserts. In all, Flannagans appeared to have put careful thought into serving the clientele they seek, and if they continue in this vein, they should be well placed to serve them well.