A meal at Birmingham’s first Bulgarian restaurant

Regret of things not done is a terrible burden.

And I left the newly-opened Bulgarian Village Kitchen with a heart heavy with such regret.
Regret that I hadn’t sampled more of the items on a fascinating menu.
Meats grilled over charcoal and dishes cooked in clay pots.
Various cheeses and cured meats.
Glasses of rakia, a potent fruit brandy.

Bulgarian chips topped with a white cheese similar to feta (yes, chips and cheese are apparently a thing in Bulgaria).
And, among the more outlandish items, tripe soup and chicken hearts in butter.
I shall return, however, and extend my knowledge of this Balkan state’s cuisine, which has Greek and Turkish influences but also its own personality.

The place

In a large space in a modern building very close to the Alexandra Theatre, Bulgarian Village Kitchen is full of rustic charm.
There are pictures of Bulgaria on the walls. Lots of artefacts hanging there, too.

The tables are covered with rough hewn patterned cloths. They are set with clay jugs.
Bulgarian music plays in the background and, on the evening I visited, a match featuring two of the nation’s teams was showing on a TV screen.
The majority of the customers were Bulgarian.
Service from the husband and wife team who own the restaurant was delightfully friendly and helpful.

The food and drink

First, let’s explain how Bulgarians seem to eat.
The tradition is for groups to occupy a table all night, deciding on dishes as they go along.
In between, they chat and drink.
Next time, this will be my plan. Especially the drinking bit because the Bulgarian beer I drank was very pleasing.

This time, I began with a selection of three salads.
Qatiq was a tangy delight – strained yoghurt with the feta-like white cheese and notes of garlic and dill.
A rough puree of aubergine, peppers and tomato had a lovely smokey depth.
Courgette with yoghurt and dill was gentler and soothing.
As was a combo of roasted red peppers with garlic.
The flatbread that came with these salads was gorgeous stuff – fluffy and full of flavour.

Afterwards came a generous plate of a salami called lukanka – made with pork and beef, air-dried in the mountains and flavoured with sweet spices such as (I think) cumin and fennel seeds.
A main course of stewed marinated pork shank stripped from the bone and served in a red wine sauce also pleased.
The meat was supremely tender and tasty, the sauce was deep.

Mashed spuds had earthiness.
Next came a biscuit cake – a sort of grown-up trifle that wasn’t over-sweet but was nevertheless indulgent.
There’s also a short wine list, a choice of beers, soft drinks and, obviously, rakia.

Need to know

Prices are very reasonable – my main course cost £9.80 and the salads £3.90 each.
Maybe construct a meal from smaller plates.
Or go mad with the grills, adding sides such as the cheesy chips or a spicy chutney called lutenitza.
Veggies could eat heartily.
It’s child-friendly.
Takeaways and deliveries are offered.

Bulgarian Village Kitchen
Westside 2, 20 Suffolk Street Queensway, Birmingham B1 1LW. 0121 572 7878.