From the outside, Rosie O’Grady’s looks like any other Irish pub in Sofia… or is it? I don’t have any façade or interior photos because the place is in transition from restaurant to pub. It started out as a restaurant that opened on St. Patrick’s Day 2010. During those first few days, friends and customers suggested to Patsy O’Connor, the owner that the place felt more like a pub than a restaurant, so they decided to change the concept from restaurant with a bar. To a pub with great food.
I have been hearing good thing about the food at Rosie’s O’Grady’s. Mainly tales of the beef and how fantastic it is. Status updates on Facebook tote the deliciousness of a hamburger at Rosie’s. Being that I love beef and burgers you can say I was more than intrigued.
While beef is widely available in Bulgaria, it is not a food that has much cultural significance. Most traditional Bulgarian dishes are pork based. I never order beef in restaurants because the quality is low, many of the meat cuts are incorrectly identified on the menu and the chefs usually don’t know how to prepare it.
That being said, Rosie’s Chef John Jamieson is a fascinating person who knows his way around the kitchen. He had an abundance of experience in the UK, having worked at a Michelin starred restaurant and with Richard Davies, Gordon Ramsey’s former sous chef and headed the catering department at the a Hilton in the UK. He told me he was quite comfortable catering for 600 people, so you would think that Rosie O’Grady’s would be a cake walk, but the capricious Bulgarian market is anything but.
In my observations, there are a variety of restaurants in Sofia. Mostly traditional bulgarian places that serve the standard fair: grilled meat, cold salads, dishes baked in clay pots etc… The prices are cheap, the quality is uniformly average and the popularity is steady. Bulgarians are very proud of their national cuisine, a home cooked traditional meal is treat that should not be missed, but on a whole they are quite content to stick to the status quo when if comes to dining out, with the exception of pizzerias. All over Bulgaria you can find pizza, but it might not be what you are used to say from Italy or New York. Pizzarias are everywhere and some establishments are considered fine dining. Yet, in Sofia there are a growing number of people who fall into the nouveau riche category. They are desperate to break from Bulgaria’s agricultural roots and cuisine and assert their wealthy, by eating at international and ex-pat friendly establishments, like Rosie’s. The problem with them is that they tend to be infrequent visitors rather than loyal customers.
That being said, when I first went to Rosie’s Chef John gave me a soup sampler, which featured three soups, all of which were completely different from soups I have eaten in Bulgaria.
Top: Potato Leek Soup, Right: Carrot, Sweet Potato & Ginger, Bottom: Tomato Cream
The depth of the flavors were incredible and complex. When I was served the sampler, I had no idea what they were an needed to identify them, lets just say I got 2 out of 3. I was stumped by the carrot sweet potato and ginger, which I thought was butternut squash-esqe, but not quite. The most surprising was the tomato soup. There is a kick to it, which is quite pleasant, but I won’t tell you what the secret ingredient is, you will need to check out Rosie’s yourself. Despite all my raving about the soups, they are unique to the Bulgarians who have not experience food outside of Bulgaria. They are pureed cream based soups, while most bulgarian soups are hardy and chunky, closer to a stew. A leap of faith by the bulgarian market will be needed to keep these delicious soups on the menu!
After the soups, was the main event! BURGER! Chef John, told me a little bit about the effort that went into creating his burger. The beef is imported from Scotland through a local distributer. He then grinds the meat himself and seasons it with salt and pepper. These are no frozen patties from questionable parts of the cow, they are hand-made treats. served with his own special relish, the recipe of which I was not able to snag.
Both Chef John and Patsy, told me how they worked on all the aspects of this burger to make it the best in Sofia, which in my opinion, it is the best burger in Sofia. I only have one small complaint, the bun is too big, especially for women. My husband was able to scarf it down easily, but my sister and I had left over bread and messy faces.
My second visit to Rosie O’Grady’s, was for Eating, Gardening & Living’s monthly dinner
, which I posted on my Facebook fan page, so if you are interested in joining us in May please become a fan
. Unfortunately, we had a low turn out but that is my fault for making the dinner on a Friday. The number of people might have been low, but the quality was high. Drini and I decided to have the Shepard’s Pie, while Eddie opted for the Irish Stew and Emily had the burger. One of the most surprising aspects of the evening, which was that the food arrived together and hot! Genius. How often in Bulgaria do you order food and receive it together with everything hot. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Irish cuisine, it is always served piping hot, which I know from my mother, who is of irish decent, she won’t eat anything unless it is steaming to the point of burning the roof of her mouth.
This was my first time ordering Shepard’s Pie, which was one of Chef John’s recommendations. The caramelized onions, which rested on top of the potatoes were amazing, sweet and golden, while the carrots and other vegetables were properly cooked, not steamed or boiled to mush.
For dessert, we had a warm chocolate cake with a warm chocolate sauce, which was heavenly. I am not a big fan of chocolate, but if you could tell from the picture it was scrumptious.
Rosie O’Grady’s is a great place to go for some comfort food in a relaxed environment. Patsy and John are clear about the vision for this place, which is a pub with great food and they hit the mark. They interior is going through some transformation, as is the menu. I will return to Rosie’s again once they have everything sorted. You can find Rosie O’Grady’s at 26 Angel Kunchev (actually it is on the corner of Neofit Rilski).
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