Brian, the owner of The Irish Harp in Bansko, has made his mark on the culinary scene here for many years now. So I was delighted when he invited me to try the cooking of his new chef. Seeking feedback is always good for any business, so I highly appreciate Brian’s desire to listen to, and please, his customers.
Disclosure: This is a paid-for review and, whilst I never recommend anything I do not enjoy, please bear this in mind when reading this.
For as balanced, and as independent opinion as possible, I invited David Ware. David is a Bansko season pass holder and regular. And he is a keen foodie with a passion for great meat.
Feeling at home
The warm welcome to the Irish Harp is still there. Brian personally greets most customers. His new staff comprise of two new waitresses. They know how to make you feel at home. But it should come as no surprise that they have both worked in the hospitality business in the UK.
What is more, Brian offers pick up and drop off services for customers who don’t fancy a ten minute stroll from the gondola lift. The snow on the ground at the moment is no impediment to getting yourselves to The Irish Harp. We did enjoy the walk there in the snow but, I confess, we were super happy to use the free taxi service for going back home later in the evening.
The atmosphere and decor are as good as any pub in Ireland, you will definitely feel at home. The drinks contribute to this – Kilkenny and Guiness on the tap as well as Hobgoblin. The Irish Harp has the biggest collection of whisky of any venue in Bulgaria; a true whisky emporium.
When live music starts, courtesy of the Lizzard, then the “craic” starts. The Lizard plays the guitar with sensitivity and expression. Wonderful interpretations of English (and Irish) classic pop and rock classics.
The Lizard is an old favourite of mine but his craft has been honed by playing for years not only in Bulgaria, but in South Africa as well. The group of fellow British folks next to us were digging the songs; smiles, singing and dancing.
After an obligatory beer to start, we had a look at the new menu. It is not too long and focuses on dishes that you really want.
The starters include soup of the day; Ceasar salad; smoked salmon salad.
Between us we chose the avocado with prawns starter, goat’s cheese with green salad, chicken wings with blue cheese sauce a nice accompaniment to the beer.
The mains are just what you need after a day of exertion on the slopes. A proper burger (a popular choice that night); Irish beef stew which was the choice on the table next to ours and I could not help overhearing that they were very happy with their choice. Chilli con carne is also featured and we were advised that this is proper chilli hot.
Real Irish steak
What you wouldn’t expect in Bulgaria though is a high quality steak. Because beef is just different here. You may be surprised to learn that Brian makes all the effort to ship over proper beef all the way from a producer in Ireland. So we were determined to try the rib eye steaks.
A succulent and soft cut of beef, rich in flavour, that was cooked exactly as I ordered – medium rare. Be mindful that in The Irish Harp they cook it to the English cooking standards. That is to say, that many Bulgarian restaurants generally over cook meat.
We both agreed this is a top-notch steak. Probably the best I can remember having. Do not begrudge the price of 55 leva. It is great value for this cut of meat imported from Ireland. Our steaks were also served with all the sides you would expect – mash, onion rings, mushrooms. The pepper sauce was memorable.
If I was nitpicking, I would like to see wholegrain mustard being offered — but this is just me.
The excellent Bulgarian red wine from Midalidare with it’s fine tannins and medium body was the right choice to accompany these steaks.
Although we were quite satiated, the review wouldn’t be complete without the pudding. So we ordered cheese cake and tiramissu. Both were excellent.
All in all, a wonderful night out with proper food cooked from excellent ingredients. When you are tired of the precooked meals and pizzas in the tourist places and you want a taste of home, then you should book The Irish Harp.
- 00 359 89 995 6667. – Free pick up and drop off service.
- Address: 51 Banderitsa St.
Booking in the Bansko App (it’s free): http://bit.ly/BanskoAppAndroid or iOS: http://bit.ly/BanskoApp