There are really only two things I know, or thought I knew about Bulgaria; that they are the biggest exporter of roses in the world, and that they nod assent horizontally and dissent horizontally.
Neither of these gems of information were of much use during my visit to Taverna Olimpio, a Bulgarian restaurant that has been open since April 2015.
The menu gives you all kinds of interesting information about the country and its cuisine, not least of these being the fact that it is a Bulgarian tradition to open the appetite before a meal with some of the local firewater.
The menu is extensive, and begins with salads, including the Bugs Bunny salad, consisting of cabbage, carrot and parsley, which is not doubt ideal for people suffering from some strange affliction.
It was just one example of the sense of humour that reflects the character of the owner, Alexander.
Bulgarian cuisine would seem to include a lot of cheese, feta cheese (or ‘sirene’ as they call it), which turns up transversally at just about every stage, except, thank God, in the wine list.
Clearly no part of the animal is wasted in Bulgaria, and so there were various dishes specializing in pigs’ ears, chicken’s gullet, lung or heart, which I politely avoided to focus on the platters of various spiced meats and vegetables, which are cooked and presented spitting hot on your table in the traditional clay ‘sach’ made from eco-clay in the Ródopes Mountains, with the salad piled on top and garnished by the omnipresent cheese.
Going back to the wine; the list thankfully informs you which grape is employed, and also which of the four main regions the wine comes from, i.e. the Black Sea, the Danube, the Tracio Valley, the Valley of the Roses or the Struma River.
There are some amusing names here too, such as a white from the Salty Hills, and there is also a page of Rumanian wines, including some from the D.O. Dracula.
The omelet section grabs your attention, being heralded as ‘a pair of eggs’, which sounds more manly in Spanish, and there is also a bread section, with oven hot unleavened bread served on a platter and stuffed with ‘sirene’ (I think I’m getting the hang of this language).
The place was full of Bulgarians, which is a good sign I think, and the three TV screens introduce you to the Bulgarian language while you contemplate various artifacts and examples of traditional dress around you.
These include wagon wheel lighting, woven table cloths, wooden benches and various wine bottles; always a sure sign that priorities are observed in my book.
Taverna Olimpia is in Cardenal Benlloch, 58, and in the square across the road, right next to the Bulgarian Consulate, is a shop specializing in local produce, in case you’re suffering from feta famine.