This Friday, my two cousins, two of my friends from high-school in Sofia, four of my American girlfriends, and I went to a Bulgarian restaurant in London!
For a long time, I had wanted to give my American friends a true Bulgarian experience – of course I talk to them about my country all the time, but I really wanted them to create their own impression of our culture and traditions. So I looked up a Bulgarian restaurant in London, The Crazy Cock (click on this link to read my friend’s review on Yelp).
The thing that worried me about this restaurant were the online reviews: every single one of them was negative! They were all by Bulgarians who were complaining about how overpriced the food was, how scandalous the waitresses looked, how bad the pop-folk music was, and so on. Still, this was my only chance to present my friends with an objective image of Bulgaria.
The restaurant actually looked great! It was decorated like the outside of a traditional house from the Bulgarian Enlightenment era: the walls were covered in river stones and had colorful balconies like in the town of Melnik. On one of the walls, they had a – I must admit – quite ostentatious picture of St. Cyril and Methodius, but at least it gave me a reason to talk about the canonized brothers who created the Cyrillic alphabet (read my previous article to learn more)!
The food was also very good! We, the Bulgarians got excited and ordered all sorts of delicacies for our American guests: for appetizers, we got shopska salad, snezhanka (yoghurt, cucumbers, garlic, dill, and walnuts), liutenitza, assorted lukanka (dried pork and beef meze) and cheese, very tender cow’s tongue in oil, and chicken liver with veggies. The girls even tried rakia (40% alcohol that Bulgarians use for drinking as well as disinfection), but they didn’t like it too much.
For the main course, we ordered chicken and vegetables on a hot clay plate (sach) and guyveche, which consists of cheese, tomatoes, peppers, egg, and sausage prepared in a clay pot. Us the Bulgarians joked around that many of our typical meals were not on the menu because they UK had banned such imports: pig’s ears, intestines, brain, hearts, etc.
The entertainment was as classy as it gets! At first, we watched pop-folk (chalga) videos on the TV. The Americans quickly caught the pattern: blonde or brunette chalga singers with fake lips and breasts and promiscuous stage behavior. Around 9:00pm, a live band of Bulgarian Roma started playing old Bulgarian ballads and folk songs. I gave my good friend Connie a quick lesson in our dance moves, and she promised to join me and my cousin for a Bulgarian dance class at our embassy next Thursday (that should make a great blog post!)
We had a great time at the Crazy Cock! The waitresses were sexy and weren’t in a hurry to serve us. The owner of the place didn’t really come to greet us although we were the first and the only guests for the first two hours. He was also the band’s drummer and the restaurant’s loudest customer. But other than that, our party was merry, the conversations were flowing, and the dinner lasted almost four hours! Overall, it was a pretty authentic experience!
At the end, my friend asked me why most of the online reviews were negative. Well, I told her, you would expect that the only Bulgarian restaurant in London would try to present the country in the best possible light with Bulgarian-quality food and Western-quality service. Instead, this was a very typical Bulgarian place – with all its positive and negative connotations.
To my dear friends I can just say, thank you for embracing Bulgarian culture and cuisine! I hope you enjoyed it!
You want to read more about my favorite Bulgarian food? Look at this!
Or read a very detailed account of our dinner (with a very lovely introduction for me), from the food expert-blogger Connie!