My experiences of Bulgarian food had largely been very positive. The quality of the ingredients was mostly very good so I was interested to see how well they married up with a 'fine dining' experience.
I have long been a fan and advocate of Trip Advisor so naturally when I wanted to find a good restaurant on my recent trip to Bulgaria I checked here first. I had expected, mistakenly as it turned out, that the #1 rated restaurant (at the time of writing) would be in the centre of Sofia. It was in fact on the shores of Lake Pancharevo which, as luck would have it, was en route to Samokov where I was staying. Even if it had been out of the way, then I would certainly have made the effort, if I'd known what a good experience it would prove.
We arrived, without a booking, late afternoon / early evening. We were greeted cordially and offered a choice of tables as they were not busy. The decor is modern and tasteful. The side that overlooks the lake is comprised almost entirely of large glass panels allowing for plentiful natural light. It is the setting, in combination with its decor and ambience, that are its outstanding features.
I had a starter of king prawns, mashed potatoes and a caramelised sauce which, although unusual as a combination, was excellently done. I followed with a main course of steak, fried potatoes, mixed grilled vegetables and asparagus. The only negative of the meal was the asparagus which had been either boiled or steamed within an inch of its life. Our waiter agreed that this was not 'right'. Whilst disappointing this was a minor trifle.
We decided not to have dessert but concluded with coffee and the remnants of the wine on the outside terrace. As throughout the meal, nothing was too much trouble for the waiting staff, who brought out our drinks as well as cushions and ensured we were comfortable.
By Bulgarian standards Lebed is expensive but well worth the money. I would certainly have been poorer without the experience for the money it cost.
I can imagine spending a long summer's afternoon sitting outside enjoying the food, wine and ambience of the surroundings. I am fortunate that I can say I have eaten better food but I can seldom claim to have had better dining experiences. Nestled on the shores of the lake this restaurant can contend with the best dining experiences around. After all, dining has never been simply about food.
As its Bulgarian name suggests, Swan, exudes elegance, grace and charm. If you're in Sofia and you need to detour to enjoy this I unreservedly recommend you do so (after all, overcooked asparagus never has or will be a 'deal breaker') Should you have the chance to do so on a warm, sunny day then you will have been even more fortunate than I was.
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