Thu, May 23 2013
Address: 3a Matochina Str, Dragalevtsi, Sofia
Tel: 967 32 47, 088/ 500 48 49
Open: Tuesday to Saturday, lunch:12.00 to 14.30
Dinner: 19.00 to 22.30; Monday, dinner only
My friend and I first noticed the stylish and yet discreet signs that appeared at the end of the road earlier this autumn, as we drove around doing our individual school runs and maternal chores. Always on the look out for good restaurants closer to home, we both agreed that La Maison du Gourmet sounded too intriguing to ignore for long.
(If you are coming up Cherni Vruh Boulevard cross the ring road and follow the road towards the central square in Dragalevtsi. Matochina Street is the last one on the left before you get to the square.)
With the babysitters arranged, we decided to treat ourselves on a weekday evening.
The first pleasant surprise was that there was plenty of space to leave your car in front of the restaurant. As we quickly realised, this may not be the case if the restaurant is very busy, but generally one should not have much trouble finding a space nearby. There is something welcoming and familiar about the street entrance, even as diners pass the kitchen on the ground floor before entering the restaurant area on the first floor.
The feeling of light and space is enhanced by the correct use of mirrors. The interior is simple but smart, neutral colours complementing the natural stone floor. As we took our seats and opened the menus, we were again pleasantly surprised.
Short and simple.
It makes choosing so much easier. A choice of six starters all priced at seven leva except for the foie gras which is 14 leva. In the main course section, there is fish and meat, each with three choices and again simply priced at 15 leva for all meat dishes, 16 leva for the fish dishes. The menu is available in Bulgarian or French and by comparing the two, it was fairly easy to work out what most items were. Curiously, the menu requests that people order their desserts when ordering their meal. This could be because the chef needs time to prepare them freshly or maybe also just to ensure you don't pass on the desserts because you are too full after the other courses.
A small complimentary dish of crispy bread "chips" and delicious home-made tapenade (olive paste) help to get the tastebuds going.
My friend N opted for the smoked duck breast with melon, followed by fish - lavrak with ratatouille. A little unadventurous maybe (but I need my oily fish intake), I chose the smoked salmon followed by the cote de boeuf. (It's been ages since I ordered beef in Bulgaria.)
N ordered a glass of French white wine to accompany her meal. The wine selection appeared to be exclusively French and included some old (forgotten) favourites like Corbieres. Needless to say the prices are slightly higher but in no way outrageous.
As it transpires, La Maison du Gourmet is run by a young Bulgarian couple - he's the chef and she serves - who lived and worked in Paris for many years. Now that they've returned, they want to share their culinary experience in a tranquil setting on the outskirts of Sofia.
Everything we had ordered was fresh homemade, tasty and nicely presented complete with garnish and side salad. Unfortunately, although my beef tasted good, it still had the traditional Bulgarian chewiness, for which the owners apologised, saying that their usual supplier had let them down. It certainly didn't stop me from clearing my plate completely!
My friend and I both felt pleasantly full at this stage and had we not already ordered our desserts we probably would have passed. And that would have been a real shame!
This time N was the less adventurous and went for the creme brulee, while I couldn't make up my mind between the strawberry souffle or the basil and lemon sorbet. The latter finally won, as I just couldn't imagine what it would taste like. Divine is the answer. What a great way to finish a great meal. The cool refreshing tartness of the lemon combined with the distinct basil flavour. Even my friend couldn't resist a couple of tastes and I am drooling as I write.
We rounded the meal off with coffee and the bill which came to about 65 leva. It's been a long time since I've felt that a meal in Bulgaria was well worth the money paid. This was one of those rare occasions.
The final pleasant surprise was to discover that they offer a take-out service at very reasonable prices. The menu includes pate, smoked salmon quiche, smoked duck filet (magret), fresh tagliatelli and French apple tart. So if you feel like a little treat after you've spent all day rushing the kids around (or whatever), stop by at the Maison du Gourmet.
The suburbs need more places like this.
A real find, plum in the middle of Sofia, which ticks all the boxes for a wonderful meal out – novelty, location and quality. Likely to do extremely well.
One of those places striving to be authentic but somehow a gimmicky joint.
If you're in the mood for a light dinner or a business lunch – one that is not too expensive and you only have, say, 60 to 90 minutes to spare – then you could do well to visit the Spaghetti Company.
The restaurant trade seems to suffer more than most during times of crisis and so it's nice that an old favourite has weathered the storm.
Word-of-mouth and the soft strumming of the Spanish guitar drew us to the newly opened Bodega* in Studentski Grad for a birthday celebration for four.