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What's the Bulgarian cook for?

LET'S SAY you choose a restaurant out of pure curiosity, wanting to taste a particular national cuisine about which you know nothing. You'd expect to be served something new, original and tasty, right?
The newly opened Bulgarian restaurant Festina Lente, located in Bratislava's Trnávka district (towards airport) unfortunately fails in all three categories, even though (maybe because) it advertises authentic Bulgarian food prepared by an authentic Bulgarian cook.


NOT even Bulgarian in name.
photo: Ján Svrček

Festina Lente

Where: Bulharská 60
Tel: 02/4341-0905
Open: Mon-Fri 10:00-22:00, Sat-Sun 12:00-22:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Rating: 3 out of 10

LET'S SAY you choose a restaurant out of pure curiosity, wanting to taste a particular national cuisine about which you know nothing. You'd expect to be served something new, original and tasty, right?

The newly opened Bulgarian restaurant Festina Lente, located in Bratislava's Trnávka district (towards airport) unfortunately fails in all three categories, even though (maybe because) it advertises authentic Bulgarian food prepared by an authentic Bulgarian cook.

The menu does offer a few Bulgarian specialties such as stuffed paprika or cucumber soup, but the main fare includes fried or grilled meat, the stuff of thousands of Slovak restaurants. There is surprisingly little fish and other seafood, for which seaside Bulgaria is famous.

And it's not as if they do anything to help themselves. The garlic and onion soup we ordered was served not only slowly - considering the few guests present - but also cold.

We had decided to skip the meat dishes that covered several pages of the greasy menu and opted for the tiny selection of vegetarian food.

But the main dishes were no better than the soup. The anchovies and the fried potatoes looked sad on the plate because they had not been grilled nearly long enough.

The second dish we ordered, the Bulgarian specialty 'gýveš', is a traditional mixture of potatoes, eggplant, paprika and egg. But it was far too spicy, flavourless and greasy to be a highlight in any Varna resort.

The tomato salad had been drowned in a watery vinegar dressing, as if it had been prepared for a Slovak factory canteen. The desserts had nothing Bulgarian about them, with no baklava or any other super-sweet honey-nut cakes. Just pancakes with different fillings, and apple strudel, which I would have ordered, had it been available.

Nor are there any Bulgarian wines on the list. This is a curious omission, as the allegedly Bulgarian Bull's Blood, a toothsome medium-dry, is on sale for Sk79 ($1.80) in major Bratislava supermarkets. The only Bulgarian alcohol on offer was a cognac, which, now that I think of it, might have helped me digest the lunch.

The best I can say is that the food was edible, but prepared without zest, speed or talent. After observing the clientele for a while, we concluded that Festina Lente's guests are largely people who work within steps of the restaurant and for some reason are unwilling to venture further.

Festina Lente, a Latin rather than Bulgarian tag, means "make haste slowly". While the service was indeed slow, there is nothing about this disguised canteen to inspire haste in any prospective customer.

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