Dining at Pastorant is like visiting the home of a prominent chef who in her down time does not exhaust herself with elaborate feasts but instead puts together simple meals of high quality ingredients, creating basic yet surprisingly good results. This cosmopolitan host also delights in collecting vintage inspired decor items, embellishing her home with ornate birdcages, romantic little boxes and containers, and porcelain jars. Sitting on her aged wood furniture, you glance about at all the small details, at the fabric shaded sconces, and the silver and gold framed mirrors, all on that tranquil yellow/pale green background, and acknowledge the charming time you are having.
The owners of Pastorant have their own fairy tale beginning, best described on their website: "You know how sometimes when you and your friends have one too many glasses of wine and start dreaming big, you tell yourselves: ‘Well, someday we should open a restaurant. It would be cosy and welcoming and earthy and beautiful. We would serve pasta and wine, nothing fancy, just good hearty food.....Oh! That would be so amazingly cool, and we would love to be there every day and everybody would love to come and eat with us’". And thus Pastorant was created when a few friends got together in 2005 and "allowed themselves to dream big and poured their hearts and souls into creating a dreamy little restaurant that serves delicious food".
The name Pastorant is rather unusual, perhaps stemming from the "past", as well as "pasta", as that is the core of the restaurant. Measures have been taken to beautify the place, especially as the building it is housed in, is neither old nor grand. The ceiling is relatively low but otherwise its newness is unnoticeable once inside. The first room is non- smoking and has a number of quaint little tables including a family-gathering sized one with nice upholstered chairs, the second more structured, smoking room looks out to the back mini garden. Present at each table are olive oil (most likely extra virgin) and balsamic vinegar, as well as a pretty metal tin where the cutlery resides. Once seated, complimentary mineral water and homemade feta-cheese bread rolls are brought out, and an English-language menu sans mistakes or humorous translation. The cuisine is primarily Italian, and offers some essential appetisers and salads, followed by 11 pasta dishes, and four other entrees, accompanied by good European wines.
Dishes are brought out in a correct manner, but the servers are not as friendly as their website fable purports them to be.
From the starters I have tasted: a Caesar salad with anchovy dressing (12 leva), the lettuce part being meagre, but otherwise it was tasty and generous with grilled chicken and Parmesan cheese. The tiger prawn salad, (14 leva) with lettuce, julienne carrots and cucumber with ginger and herb dressing, not as flavourful as I would have liked, and the prawns were not particularly big. Another appetiser of sea food with black emperor rice (16 leva) was fine, but the rice was a bit undercooked. Starters have not proven to be spectacular, however the pasta items are more successful, beginning with the Fusilli con Gamberi (16 leva), a prime example of a Pastorant basic dish made delicious with quality ingredients. The pasta was authentically firm, and the sauce made from fresh tomatoes and olive oil, with shrimp and a sprinkling of fresh basil leaves - a delicious outcome.
Another great entree was the Spaghetti al Prosciutto e Funghi (16 leva), with a creamy marsala wine sauce, mushrooms and prosciutto ham, delicious as is, and made special with sage leaves and thyme. The straightforward Tagliatelle with basic Bolognese sauce was also good. All the meals are presented in white over-sized shallow bowls, making the portions appear minute at first; however they are, in fact, of sufficient size and filling.
Desserts (eight leva) are available off the menu and differ every day with usually three at a time to choose from, including options like tiramisu, cheesecake, chocolate mouse, walnut pie, and so on. A taste of the chilled chocolate mousse was decadently rich, almost ice cream-like, and the walnut cake was presented with a vibrant raspberry sauce, also being good.
Pastorant is an ideal spot to escape from the bustle of nearby Vitosha Blvd, even if just for coffee, or a luxurious tea (Harney & Sons, 2.50 leva). Lunch times are even family-friendly, as the clean restaurant provides baby wipes and a child’s toilet seat in the WC, and music is quiet. Do bear in mind, however, that evening reservations are a must because it is always booked and full at this time, with people enjoying the romantic surroundings of this relatively unknown treat of a restaurant.
Price $$$$ ($ up to 12 leva a person for three courses; $$ 12 to 20 leva pp; $$$ 20 to 35 pp; $$$$ 35 and over pp)
16 Tsar Assen St, Sofia
Tel: 981 4482
Open: 11am -10.30pm
Credit cards: Yes