Week 55 : Primaria (Bulgaria)

One thing I really like about doing this blog is that people are genuinely interested and enthused when I tell them about it. This week’s visit is a result of this following a conversation back in August with a friend of a friend called Elena who happens to be from Bulgaria. As soon as she found out about the blog she offered to take us to eat Bulgarian food and we  finally got round to it early in December.

When Elena offered to take us to a Bulgarian restaurant I immediately thought we would be going to one of the places on Boddinstrasse in Neukolln which I refer to as ‘Little Bulgaria’ as there are a few bars, shops and restaurants all in a row. Elena was amused by this presumption because these places are apparently frequented by the kind of muscled, gangster Bulgarians with more money than taste who benefited from the vaccum created by the fall of communism filling it with violence, threat and corruption. Apparently there is a ‘folkclub’ here where money buys you whatever you need; women, caviar, champagne, probably cocaine, and for the right amount of euros they will float white handkerchiefs around you while you dance so you feel like you are in the clouds!

Instead of hanging with Berlin’s Bulgarian mafia we went to a cute little restaurant on Boxhagenerplatz called Primaria which is named after the original owner Maria. It was more Berlin than bling in style being simply furnished with exposed walls, wooden furniture and candles making it feel warm and inviting. We drank Czech beer while we looked at the short mainly vegetarian menu waiting for our guide to arrive to tell us what to order. No Bulgarian beer was available.

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starter plates: grilled peppers, aubergines and snejanka

When she arrived, Elena explained to us what was good on the menu and how Bulgarians usually ate a meal starting with a shot of slivova. We duly followed instructions and ordered our starters with a shot of plum and apricot slivova each. For mains we went for pork pelmeni which Elena explained were Russian in origin and not traditionally Bulgarian but they were very popular in restaurants there. We also ordered Sirene pro Schopski which is a one pot dish of cheese, sausage, tomato, pepper and a fried egg. We opted for a bottle of Mavrud Bulgarian wine with our meal, described by our guide as decent but not usually the best wine out there – she was quite correct.

We enjoyed the starters, sharing some of Elena’s choices too. Richard especially liked the salty, creamy schopska cheese that was liberally sprinkled over the salad of the same name. The grilled aubergines and peppers were well cooked and tasty, the creamy snejanka tzatsiki-like dip was good, and our shots went down well. The mains were okay; the one pot dish was pretty good and  delivered on taste but in my opinion it was a bit overpriced for what you got. The pelmeni were perhaps a little watery and not a patch on the ones we had at the Russian restaurant we visited here. The thing that was lacking for us was a better choice of meat dishes.  Elena told us they were indeed absent from the menu and there would have been more choices if we were eating in a traditional restaurant in Bulgaria. We assumed that the restaurant was tailoring its menu for a more vegetarian Berlin diner and didn’t feel as though meat dishes would sell so well here.

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Pelmeni with pork

All in all we enjoyed our meal, although it was not particularly cheap and not somewhere we would rush back to. What was  was best about this meal was having someone to guide us through what we were eating and provide some background knowledge and local information. We carried on drinking with Elena in a nearby bar after dinner and made a new friend that evening as well as plans to visit little Bulgaria one day and dine with the mafiosa if we dare. This blog is becoming much more than a project to us with many positive effects on our lives than just eating some good meals.