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Plovdiv: discovering gluten-free restaurants the Hemingway way

I had just arrived from Miami and had a few hours to pack again for Bulgaria. I was very happy because it was opening another country. I had never been to Bulgaria before and was looking forward to discovering the gluten-free restaurants in Plovdiv, my destination the next day.

I was flying with Alitalia and I knew that I would not be able to eat much on the plane. I got up even earlier so that I could prepare snacks for breakfast and lunch. 

I hadn’t had much time to rest after arriving from Miami, and I wasn’t yet adapted to European time. As I was not sleepy, I took advantage of the two flights (Barcelona – Rome – Sofia) to watch a documentary series called “Tales by Light”. I had downloaded it thanks to Isa’s recommendation. It’s great! I’m sure those of you who like photography will love it. Besides, when I watch series like this one, I feel like loading the car and going around the world!

Although I had a rather short connection, while waiting in terminal E at Rome airport (Italy), I went to see if there were any gluten-free restaurants at Rome airport. I found one called “Michellangelo Bistrot Roma” that had a menu with a gluten-free symbol next to some dishes. Although I didn’t have time to eat there that time, it’s good to know for future trips.

When I arrived in Plovdiv, I had another unexpected shock. The temperature! I was coming from the spring temperature of Miami. When we arrived in Sofia, it was -2°C and there was snow. I admit I liked it. But I didn’t expect it! Luckily I had warm clothes with me and I had passed by Madrid where it was also cold (10-13ºC)! Otherwise it would have been even worse.

Trifon, my representative in Bulgaria, was waiting for me on the way out. We had a one and a half hour drive to Plovdiv. He lives there and the customers we had to visit were closer. There we would meet Nikos (a colleague from Greece) the next day.

Before going to Bulgaria I had informed Trifon about my allergies and intolerances. Nikos also gave him a hand because he had also helped me when I went to see him in Greece.

When I arrived at the hotel everyone was already informed. They knew that I have coeliac disease and that I am allergic to fish and they had things prepared for breakfast – it’s perfect to travel with colleagues like that!

Once settled in, Trifon and I went for a walk around the city before going to the first gluten-free restaurant in Plovdiv where Trifon would take me for dinner.

Plovdiv is a very old city in southern Bulgaria. Trifon took me to see the old Roman theater. Very beautiful and well preserved! It reminded me of the one in Tarragona (Spain). It was a pity because it was already dark night and I could not see everything well, but in spite of the cold the city seemed very welcoming to me.   

When the time came, we went to the restaurant. It’s called Hemingway Restaurant and it’s at number 10 Gurko Street. Although it was not necessary because Trifon had informed them, before ordering I showed the gluten-free travel card in Bulgarian to the waiter. He showed me the pages with the allergens and, through Trifon, told me what I could eat.

I was very happy to discover the first gluten-free restaurant in Plovdiv. Travelling with colleagues like that, it’s best to take their advice! Trifon recommended me to try the ‘Šopska Salata’ (Shopska Salad), which is very typical of Bulgaria. It is a very mild salad with tomato, cucumber, onion, pepper and a white cheese typical of Bulgaria. It looks like Feta but does not have such a strong taste. All dressed with olive oil. Delicious! At the Hemingway they serve it with a piece of toast. If you order it, inform the waiter that you are celiac and they will bring it to you without the bread.

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As a second course, I ordered a risotto with chicken, spinach, asparagus, and celery that was also very good. At that time, I was already starting to feel tired. My body was still in Eastern time. Besides, I had gotten up at 4 am to get to the airport. Although I really wanted to try the gluten-free dessert they had (chocolate cake), I preferred to leave it there. I’d have a chance some other time.

The first gluten-free restaurant in Plovdiv I tried was very good. They also had very nice live music – perfect for dinner! We went back to the hotel and said goodbye until the next day.

The next day I didn’t come down for breakfast! Although they would have prepared gluten-free food for me, I preferred to sleep more and eat the cookies I had brought with me from Spain. That day we had to visit a customer 2.5h away from Plovdiv and it would only give us time to make that visit.

The day went very well and the meeting was very profitable. I like this kind of meeting very much because you know a lot of people. The bad thing is that you don’t always get a chance to visit the places you go.

When we returned to the Grand Hotel Plovdiv, around 2pm, we agreed with Trifon to meet again at 6pm. The first thing I did was call room service to have my food sent up. I explained to them that I had to eat “bez glutena” (gluten-free) and asked them for a cooked ham omelette. After a while, they called me from the kitchen to tell me that in Bulgaria cooked ham was not 100% ham and they could not assure me that it was gluten-free. They recommended that I make a mushroom omelette. Done! I ordered a mushroom omelet with tomato. I had some bread rom Spain too. I already had another one of the gluten-free restaurants in Plovdiv to add to the list.

I prepared a couple of offers and went to sleep again to finish adjusting to the new schedule.

At 6pm, Trifon took me back to the city centre to see other streets and old houses. It was already dark again, so none of the photos I could take would come out right because I was carrying the same camera I used for the photos of the gluten-free restaurant in Madrid that specialized in croquettes I had tried when I returned from Miami.

That night Nikos would have dinner with us. While we were waiting for him, we decided to go to a rock bar for a drink. Trifon explained to me that he really liked “campari”, a red, bitter-tasting appetizer. Very bitter! But it was good.

Although there were other gluten-free restaurants in Plovdiv nearby, for example the Happy Grill, Trifon had booked again at the Hemingway. Nikos liked that restaurant and I had loved it too. It was perfect to go back there! Again, I ordered the ‘Šopska Salata’ and as a main I decided to choose meat.

I ordered a lamb with pumpkin cream, mashed potatoes and chickpeas which was delicious! Besides, it was slowly cooked in the oven and was very tender – you hardly had to chew!

Again, when it was time for dessert, I was too full for that gluten-free chocolate cake. However, we took the opportunity to toast all three with “rakia”, a liquor similar to the typical Bulgarian brandy.

The next day we had a very important meeting with one of the biggest companies in the country. Driving back to Sofia, we stopped for lunch at a Happy Grill in a service area. I showed the Bulgarian celiac card to the waitress and she made a “oh, that’s hard” face. Trifon explained everything well and the waitress went to the kitchen to look at the allergen menu. She came back recommending three options: shrimps, chicken or sausages. Shrimp was out of the question because I’m allergic to fish. I had two choices left!

Trifon, who always has good advice, advised me not to take risks with the sausage because sometimes they add flour in it. He was absolutely right! Once decided, he talked to the waitress about making me chicken fillets with baked potatoes and a little salad.

We took advantage of the meal to prepare the meeting well.

When we arrived in Sofia, the meeting was quite hard, but very profitable. We met in person, which was the important thing, and we presented our technical solution by answering all your questions.

On the way back to the airport I almost missed the Alitalia flight because there was so much traffic. It was a pretty hard flight because they didn’t have any food for me and I didn’t have any cookies or so.

This was my first experience in Bulgaria discovering gluten-free restaurants in Plovdiv. Soon I would return to Sofia to close the project of the last meeting.

You can see the pictures of the trip here.

BY CLICKING ON THE MAP OF GLUTEN FREE RESTAURANTS YOU FILL SEE ALL RESTAURANTS WE DESCRIBED IN THIS POST LOCATED IN THE MAP OF GLUTEN-FREE PLACES:

AND HERE WE LEAVE THE CELIAC TRAVEL CARD IN BULGARIAN:

P.S.: Please keep in mind that in this blog I share my trips, anecdotes and experiences about gluten free travel around the world. It is possible that, in any of my trips, I go to some restaurant not trained by the associations where the risk of being contaminated with gluten exists. I kindly ask you to also take into account that the list of references can change. Please, always double check before eating in the restaurants we recommend. Thank you very much!

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