|The second cake we cut that day!|
Traditional Romanian food isn’t exactly reknowned as one of the world’s great cuisines, and some of the stuff we ate while exploring the streets of Bucharest and castles of Transylvania was indeed pretty ropey, especially the plain fried fish dishes, and the tendency to serve gloopy polenta with almost everything.
But there were some highlights; Caru cu bere is a decent restaurant in central Bucharest, ornate and cavernous, and specialising in their native food, and we enjoyed a couple of meals there both before and after our mini tour around the region.
|March of the kitchen staff|
One of the staples of Romanian menus is the bacon and bean soup, often served in a bread bowl, though it has to be said that the bread itself was often pretty manky and perhaps not as freshly baked as it might be.
It's a pity, because soups and stews feature strongly on the menus of Romania, and some nice soft bread to mop them up would have gone down a treat. Part of the joy was the surprise when ordering a traditional Romanian stew and never knowing exactly what it would contain, though it's usually some combination of beef, pork, bacon and sometimes bits of sausage, in a tomatoey or mushroomy sauce. Which makes for perfectly acceptable food.
Also prominent are cheese and and cold meat platters, ideal for snacking on and a good accompaniment to an evening of drinking and smoking Sobranies, smoking in bars and restaurants still very much a part of life over there, of course.
The most interesting cheeses are the Blue Rocfort (the good news is that it's pretty much the same as Roquefort, and every bit as tasty) and the bark-smoked Brânza de burduf. Meat products include pigs intestine sausages, various pates, and cured lard, which lacks the heavy spicing of Northern European versions and therefore seems like a not particularly pleasant way to ingest high proportions of fat!
A little observation: Chicken is almost non-existent on Romanian menus, with the notable exception of their livers which are widely available - sauteéd, deep-fried, and served as a thin paté with cheeses and salads - which rather makes you wonder what they do with the remainder of the creatures!
|Smoky and Sausagey|
It's not really a country for serious drinking. The nation's domestic beer is largely limited to a few brands (Silva, Ursus and Ciuc are the most widespread) and these are brewed by multinationals anyway. Go for the porterish 'dark' or 'black' versions if you can, or Ciuc unfiltered as these have more flavour than the fizzy pale lagers.
Around Bran Castle, home to Vlad Dracule, you can buy 'Transylvanian' wine, only it's actually imported from neighbouring Bulgaria, which is probably a good thing, but it's not a Romanian thing.
Incidentally, my fear of flying notwithstanding, if you’re planning on going somewhere in Europe and using Budapest as a hub, you can do a lot worse than flying Malev Hungarian Airlines.
At a mere one degree below freezing and with no snow on the ground, Hungary is a tropical paradise compared to Romania. We found a couple of restaurants near our hotel which were outstanding, and though I have no Hungarian benchmark to compare them against, never having been to the country before, I’d highly recommend both
|A big fuck-off pan of Hungarian meat|