As with the rest of the hotel the restaurant at the California is chic and stylish. Creamy painted stonework is broken by simple mahogany rails and arty features such as the wrought iron dividers and stained glass mock windows create a sense of space combined with intimacy.
Tables are laid very formally with starched napkins, gleaming glassware, polished stainless steel cutlery and designer crockery. Each of the rooms, upstairs and downstairs, is surrounded by plumply-cushioned beige banquetttes whilst the rest of the seating consists of high-backed rattanwork chairs which are a lot more comfortable than they look.
The waistcoated serving staff add to the impression of classiness but are cheerily welcoming rather than stuffy.
The menu, although sectioned in the normal Bulgarian style of salads, appetizers, grills etc, has an eclectic modern-European feel - a touch of pancetta here, a sun-blushed tomato there hinting that the food might just be a little special.
The drinks list continues the cosmopolitan tone offering pretty much something immediately familiar for even the most far-flung traveller, yet at the same time showcasing local rakiyas and Bulgarian wines and beers.
Favorite Dish: All sounds good so far? Ha! But the best has yet to come.
I ate here twice in four days and so gave the menu a bit of a work-out, variously sampling the Bierwurst, a more traditional Russian Salad, a great Sea Bass dish which came with a nicely spiced chilli rice and a tangy Hollandaise sauce, and succulent Lamb Cutlets with Green Veg. Everything was spot-on.
The Sea Bass particularly stood out, being perfectly grilled and seasoned and hardly needed the moistening of its sauce. Its accompanying rice worked perfectly, a flavoursome Basmati with a subtle heat, and a nice refreshing Zagorka just to keep the palate clean. The Bierwurst starter I'd preceded it with perfectly matched the German sausage with Bulgarian pickled vegetables - fortunately I'd opted for the fish main course as this was almost a meal in itself.
On my second visit the Russian Salad was exemplar - everything nice and fresh, and this time not too huge a portion. The Lamb Cutlets were tender and nicely pink, well-presented with their al-dente greens and crispy saute potatoes. This got washed down by an rich plummy Mavrud which tasted of the earth - but didn't cost it!
On both occasions I started with the local Burgaska Muskatova and on neither occasion did the bill exceed 40 leva which, given the quality of food and the general ambience, made for very satisfying repasts.
What took my experience into the haughty realms of "Great Experience" was my waitress. On both occasions her service was friendly, professional and on my second visit, when I asked for the Bulgarian version on the menu, I was rewarded with genuinely appreciative "Bravo's" as I stumbled through my ordering.
Those are the little things that make the difference! (And she was gorgeous ;))
Following the footpath along the seafront north from the city centre you'll come across a clutch of seafront cafes. On my early February visit most of these were closed but one that does seem to be open year-round is Selena.
This is a simple wooden shack overlooking the narrow strip of beach. With its sea view there's no need for elaborate decor and so furnishings are simple but it is a pleasant little place with well-cared for pot plants adding a touch of individuality. Service is pleasant, if not the fastest in the world, and prices very reasonable.
The menu veers towards being snacky and I can imagine that in the summer the fish dishes such as Tsa-tsa (whitebait) would be popular.
Favorite Dish: With the outside temperature below zero I fancied a warming bowl of Sirene po Shopski (baked white cheese with tomatoes). This was perfectly up to the task and a roasted chilli as garnished added a welcoming little touch of extra heat. With a side of fries and a couple of beers the bill came to just over 10 leva and so value for money too.
On the main pedestrian street Bogoridi, heading up towards the Sea Garden there's this pair of take-away pizza places. They seem to be pretty much identical in what they have to offer and the prices are exactly the same. Personally I preferrred the Prisun place as the girl serving was always friendly.
Favorite Dish: Well obviously it has to be pizza, tasty and generously topped, with usually a choice of three varieties at 1.50 per slice. If it's breakfast time Prisun offers the best banitsa in town, well-filled with tangy sirene wrapped in crisp, flaky, filo pastry and only 1 lev.
For your coffee afterwards pop across the road to Foket.
This is a big, buzzy, cafe-bar facing onto the main pedestrian street Bogoridi, heading towards the Sea Garden. The food menu is limited to sandwiches, cakes and other snacky stuff but has a well-stocked bar and offers a full range of hot and cold beverages.
Although the decor is youthfully trendy and the wide screen TV's permanantly tuned into the Bugarian equivalent of MTV blasting out the latest pop numbers it has a good mixed local clientele and always seems to be busy.
I found this to be one of the cheapest places for a coffee in the city centre and service was always prompt and friendly.
Favorite Dish: I never ate here, simply because there's an excellent (and cheap) takeaway pizza place immediately across the street, but the hot chocolate is delicously rich and only about 2.5 leva including cream.
The highlights of my visit to Bansko (the town that is) were the local Mehanas where I enjoyed great food served in friendly, lively, surroundings. Here in the city centre of Burgas I stumbled across this "Bansko" (the Mehana) whilst doing my usual random wandering and so reckoned it might be worth a visit.
From the outside the restaurant, with its brightly-lit signage, wooden-porched entryway and painted wall murals, certainly wouldn't have been out-of-place in its eponymous town. The cavernous dining room is located in the basement of a modern office building and so obviously everything was designer mock-up but the rough, stone-clad, walls, coarse timbering and assorted bric--brac combined to give the interior too an "authentic" Banskian feel.
Despite being not quite sure what to with me, the lone diner on a busy Saturday night when every other table was occupied with varying sized groups of revellers, service was excellent, casual and friendly. After a little scratching of the head and checking of the diary my waiter found me a little table in the centre of all and we took it from there.
The band, with a male and a female singer alternating in belting out a mix of traditional and modern tunes, added to general buzzy ambience and despite the vastness of the room there was a cosy intimacy about the place.
The menu (in English and Bulgarian) continued the overall theme with a good selection of Mehana staples, and of course Banskian specialities, supported by an excellent rakiya and wine list, the latter of which included several from my "wish-list".
Favorite Dish: I'd already decided I was in rakiya-mood and so started with the local Burgaska Muskatova and to accompany it I opted for what was described as a "Wolf's Salad" - a plate of two types of chunky sausage along with some salady bits which made an ideal rakiya match.
As with my selection of starter, for main I first chose the wine and then the food. The Terra Tangra Organic jumped straight out of the wine list at me, being both localish (from the Sakar mountains) and impressively priced at under 20 leva. Not one that I'd tried before but definitely (another) one I'll look out for again!
Expecting the wine to be a full-bodied red I reckoned the Banskian winter dish of Kapama would make a good accompaniement. Kapama is basically a slow-cooked stew of meats, fermented cabbage and rice and here this one was spot-on: meaty, tasty and filling, and the wine gets the same description!
Along with good home-made pitsi bread and finishing with coffee the just over 40 leva bill made for a very satisfying repast and the live music and general bonhomie were bonuses. Well worth stumbling across!
Note - Sorry no food pics as the waiter had taken my coat away to be hung up ;(
On my previous visit to Bourgas I'd noticed a Chinese restaurant just off the main Troika Square but hadn't had a chance to try it. On this visit I had a sudden urge for something Oriental one evening and recalling that this one wasn't too far from my hotel (especially attractive since it had started snowing again) decided to search it out.
I was dead impressed with myself! On leaving my hotel I made a perfect bee-line: across the main road, across the square, then a quick little jiggle on a side-street and there it was!
Straight through the narrow little front door, through the second inner door and into a cavernously huge dining room. It didn't look velly Chinesey tho'.
Never mind - I hate kitschy places where they seem to think that shouting their identity at you will in some way enhance the "authenticity" of your dining experience.
When I got the menu my new-found self-congratulation dissipated - that didn't look velly Chinesey either! Maybe I'd gotten the wrong the place? But there were little Oriental touches - a folding screen here, a dragon motif there. The menu was definitely Bulgarian - so much so that even with my meagre six word vocabulary I could understand it.
Ach well, here I am, and I am hungry.
The pleasant (Bulgarian) waitress asked me if I was ready to order and so a a large rakiya was duly requested and a Russian Salad to go with it, whilst I kept the menu to decide what I was going to eat proper.
Favorite Dish: It may not have been the Chinese meal that I'd been looking for but this is a good local restaurant. My rakiya and salad duly arrived, by which time I'd decided on the "Honeyed Lamb Cutlets" and a side of cheesey chips for my main course.
The Russian Salad was spot-on and presented with a touch of flair, the rakiya was warming and when the lamb arrived that was aromatically immediate. This really was a good plate of lamb and the honeyed seasoning brought out the meat's own flavours. The cheesey chips were OK and adding a bottle of Zagorka brought the final bill to just over 18 leva.
Service was fine, if unexceptional. Food was good and even on a quiet winter evening there were a couple of other tables to give the place a pleasant laid-back buzz.
No complaints whatsoever.
Perhaps I should have stuck to the pizza or the other fast-food options as I had a really naff meal here.
This is actually quite a characterful little restaurant, on the main pedestrian street leading up to the Sea Garden, and during the summer its terrace looks as if it is quite inviting. Staff are friendly, and multi-lingual just a shame about the food and the prices.
Instead of pizza I thought I'd try something more traditionally Bulgarian and opted for the "Sirene-stuffed Roasted Pepper" - ooops. This was definitely something from the local frozen food supplier and the accompanying "Baby Potatoes with Olives" from the same one.
If it had been cheap it would have been OK but, if I remember correctly, the bill, including a couple of beers, a side salad and a coffee was about 30 leva - next time PIZZA!
There is icecream sold all over the city. A lot of street vendors offer icecream of different flavours. Some are comparable to Italian icecream.
My favourite is yoghurt flavour, fruity youghurt, malaga (rum and raisins), biscottino (crashed cookies), etc.
Theres heaps of restaurants in the area near the hotel Bulgaria. Theres a pedestrianised street with loads of good restaurants. The food is very good in Bulgaria, and very cheap compared to western europe. it cost about £5(13lev) for 2 courses, several beers with wine, and the portions are a decent size and although the service sometimes not 100%, friendly staff.
Try goulash, like a stew.
Open 9am – midnight (or later)
Offers also appetizers, main dishes, and desert
For example: beckon stuffed with cheese, various salads, yogurt with honey and walnuts
Favorite Dish: Didn't like the cocktails so much but the food and desserts are OK.
Nice atmosphere and authentic Bulgarian cuisine. There is a live band playing pop and folk tunes in the evening.
Open 11am to 2-3 am
Some special dishes include: Chicken “vreteno”, tripe soup (shkembe chorba), grilled meat (“kebap”), stuffed peppers.
Favorite Dish: Anything barbecued is good.
While old Cliffie prefers the Zagorka beer from Stara Zagora, he will admit that the local beer in Burgas - Burgasko - goes down very easily when the temperature goes up. The pedestrian street leading from the city centre to the sea is lined with small cafés and bars. It's a great place to have a couple of beers, accompanied by a delicious Bulgarian snack of small Black Sea fish, while watching the world go by.
A nice place. If you sit in the terrace on the second floor you'll get a nice view of the main street and the park.
Favorite Dish: Beef, paella wasn't bad, creme caramel desert...