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Plovdiv: The sincerity of other restaurants led us to the safe path

After eating a good plate of gluten-free pasta at the Soul Kitchen restaurant in Sofia, we went to get the car to return to Plovdiv. This time I would sleep in a different hotel than the one I had slept in February. This gave me the opportunity to discover new gluten-free restaurants in Plovdiv.

Trifon had booked me a room at the Holiday Inn Hotel at 109 Vasil Levski Street. On arrival at the hotel, Trifon accompanied me to check in and explained my allergies and intolerances again so that they could be taken into account at breakfast the next day. They were very kind because after an hour they called me to my room to confirm that I would have gluten-free breakfast the next day. With Trifon, traveling gluten-free in Bulgaria was very easy.

We had a lot of work and agreed to spend the afternoon preparing quotations and the next day’s meetings. Around half past six in the evening, Trifon came to pick me up for dinner. He had been doing some research and, right in front of the hotel, there was a restaurant where he had been told that they could serve us gluten-free food. This restaurant was called Porkys BBQ and it was right across the road.

When we sat down and they brought us the menus, I took the opportunity to show the waiter the gluten-free travel card in Bulgarian. He took my phone showing the card to show it to the cook.

We had to get up and leave because they couldn’t make sure everything was done right in the kitchen.

The same waiter, recommended us to try another restaurant that was about 500 meters far away, in the same street of the Porkys BBQ. This other restaurant was called Efir 100 Seafood and Barbecue. Here there was a double risk for me: fish and gluten… when we entered, we repeated the same ritual and I showed him the celiac card in Bulgarian. We didn’t even sit down there. The waiter told us they didn’t want to take the risk. “Me neither…” I thought…

Any of the gluten free apps we usually use gave other options… When we left the restaurant, we knew where we were going for dinner. We would go to the only gluten-free restaurant in Plovdiv that we knew was safe.

We called a taxi and went to the Hemingway Restaurant we had gone to the first time in Plovdiv in February – it would be a good opportunity to have that gluten-free dessert I was missing last time! While we were in the taxi, I was thinking about what to eat. First of all, it was clear to me: the gluten-free ‘Sopska Salata’ (if you don’t indicate it, they bring it with toast). This is perhaps the salad that I have eaten most pleasantly in my whole life… it is very light and easy to eat. Besides, it doesn’t have any taste that is extremely strong. It’s perfect to start a meal!

As main course, I had to wait until I got to the restaurant, as I didn’t remember what they had. There were some lamb meatballs with mashed potatoes that were marked gluten-free at the end of the menu. When the waiter came, I showed him the gluten-free travel card in Bulgarian and asked him to confirm that the meatballs were safe. When he came back from the kitchen he confirmed that I could eat them.

Those meatballs were delicious! I had never eaten lamb in the shape of a meatball before. It was very interesting! When I saw that dish, I was very happy because after finishing it I would still have room in my stomach for that dessert that I didn’t take in February. This time I wouldn’t leave without having that gluten-free cake! 

While we were having dinner, we toasted with Rakia and Bulgarian wine to celebrate the success we had had in the meeting with Kristian in Sofia. It was being a very positive trip and we had to celebrate. The live music in the restaurant invited us to enjoy the dinner even more. I wish I could have shared it with Isa too. Another restaurant to go back to with her! 

And what better way to celebrate than with a good piece of cake? When we finished the main course, the waiter asked us if we wanted dessert. This time he already had the “yes, I do” ready. I asked him about the gluten-free desserts, although I already knew it would be the chocolate cake he had left “for another time” in February.

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Yes yes, that dessert was my thorn in Plovdiv. I love to eat and a dinner as good as the one they serve at the Hemingway has to be closed with a good dessert. The last few times I couldn’t because it coincided with my return from Miami and I wasn’t in good shape. Now I was in full condition to enjoy that cake. Besides, the trip was going very well and we had to celebrate.

The gluten-free chocolate cake was a perfect size. With a base of soft cake with nuts and two or three layers of chocolate on top, it was covered with cocoa powder similar to tiramisu and a truffle with a mint leaf as if it were a feather in a hat.

Simply delicious!

Very satisfied with the dinner, and with the day in general, we returned to the hotel. The next day we only had one meeting in the morning before returning to the airport.

I went down to have an early breakfast in order have some time left before leaving the hotel to answer a couple of emails I had received the previous afternoon. When I got to the dining room, I noticed that there were little signs with indications on some of the plates. As I approached, I read that it said “gluten free”. Awesome!

I had doubts about the indications on one of the posters. It was not clear to me whether “gluten free” meant baked potatoes or bacon. I asked the waitress but she was so hesitant that, although I had a piece of bacon on my plate, I preferred not to eat it just in case. I served myself a nice plate of cooked ham, an egg (boiled too) and went to my table to wait for the gluten-free bread. Like many gluten-free breads, the bread was a bit hard, but with the ham and egg I was able to eat a good breakfast.

The company we were meeting was a little far away and before we arrived we received a call from the client we had visited the day before urging us to change our offer. That would be enough to get them to accept the order. Perfect! We promised him that before lunch he would have it in his mailbox.

When the meeting was over that day, all we had to do was go back to the airport, but first we had to prepare the offer for the client who had called us before entering the meeting and, most importantly, eat lunch!

We stopped at the same Happy Grill on the motorway we had stopped at the first time in Plovdiv. This time, they had a new menu with the allergens indicated by numbers. I had to avoid the 1 and 4. Trifon saved me from having to show the coeliac card in Bulgarian. When the waitress came, he took the initiative and explained everything in Bulgarian.

After a few minutes, the waitress came back to our table telling us that they would prepare my dish separately, on an express grill that they hadn’t used yet. Perfect! Traveling with local colleagues is perfect. But it’s even better if they care about you as much as Trifon did.

I ordered the “Streaky pork” with baked potatoes. It felt great! I was so glad I could eat this before I got to the airport. Again, I was flying with Alitalia and couldn’t eat anything until midnight when I got home… a pity that some airlines are not prepared for short flights!

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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