There were 3 restaurants that came up on a search for Bulgarian delights in London - one quite near Sue in Willesden that had some dreadful reviews, a second place in Harringay and Arda 2, which we settled on based on a recommendation from Allison's Bulgarian neighbour.
Suzanne rang ahead for our Wednesday evening jaunt. The nice man who answered the phone was most apologetic, unfortunately there would be no live music tonight, but he was very much looking forward to seeing us!
Allison, Paul and Umbreen accompanied us to Finsbury Park, a short walk from the tube along the Seven Sisters Road to the garish orange of Arda 2. It proved to be a good indicator of the decor inside - the most glorious bright green illuminated bar, stage with stacked synthesisers, glitter ball, orange walls, the must have Bulgarian flag and TV tuned to Europap satellite channels. Marvellous.
Having been given a prime spot in the middle of a reasonably sized restaurant, thoughts turned to beer. Two Bulgarian varieties to choose from. But alas, none in stock. And no Bulgarian wine either, the guy who delivers to Arda 2 had apparently decided to stay in Bulgaria a couple of days extra and they were low on the authentic alcohol. So we reverted to type, ordering Peroni and Corona (and a couple of Perriers). The menu was extensive but with help from our waiter, we opted for a couple of large salads and a Pepper Burek to share.
The salad with eggs was the Ovcharska, and another plate very much the same without the egg and pieces of salami, was Shopska (or Shepherd's salad). The pepper burek was very tasty, a roasted red pepper, smothered in feta and then deep fried.
These starters would have been perfectly adequate for the 6 of us, but then the extras started to arrive, our waiter was keen to ensure that we had the full Bulgarian experience, bold claims of this is the best food in London. Ok, well, we'll give it a go. Two plates of fried cheese arrived of the yellow and the white variety, I'm guessing cheddar and feta. Very tasty, who can argue with melted cheese in batter?
And to finish off the course, a lovely plate of beef tongue.
It wasn't as revolting as it looks, but the only way I can describe it, shredded tender beef with a fuzzy coat. I don't think we discovered any life long fans of tongue amongst us that night.
By this stage,we were starting to feel full. Little did we know, the main course, the Arda special, would make sure of it. Again, we left it to the discretion of our host to bring us food. And boy did he deliver. Two ENORMOUS platters of meat arrived. Pork in a multitude of forms (burgers, kebabs, steaks, ribs) on a bed of beautifully sauteed potatoes. And a second dish of lamb meatballs, ribs, steaks etc with chicken (in case we were still hungry) with mountains of roasted vegetables. The true meaning of a meat feast, all nicely cooked, seasoned well and tasty. God knows how a vegetarian would cope in Bulgaria with this typical fare, fried cheese I suppose!
Think that's the end? Oh no. I didn't think we could actually fit any more in our stomachs, but our waiter then appeared with a platter of desserts. Homemade cake, which looked very much like wholemeal sandwiches but tasted good. Watermelon, berries, grapes and the familiar creme caramel which seems to be prevalent across Europe. Pleasant way to finish what had been a fantastic meal.
Bulgaria turned out to be a real surprise, more meat than we could possibly eat (please, no more, I don't want any steak for at least a week), great value for money (£18 a head including tip!) and a very attentive waiter. An excellent night all round!
Value for money *****