Earlier this year, I paid a visit to Bulgaria’s biggest tourist destination, Sunny Beach, on the Black Sea. Commonly referred to as Eastern Europe’s party capital, Sunny Beach has a friendly yet brash culture, with 24-hour bars and clubs that stay open until 6am. It’s not the kind of place I’d usually choose to visit, but I wanted to go somewhere relatively inexpensive and, according to a recent study by the Post Office’s Holiday Costs Barometer, Sunny Beach is the cheapest holiday destination in Europe.
We had an all-inclusive deal at Hotel Kuban Aquapark and Resort through Booking.com but we weren’t keen on the food in the hotel and as eating out in Sunny Beach is so cheap, we dined at restaurants most of the time. Sunny Beach is literally brimming with restaurants spanning popular cuisines including British, American, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Mexican and Turkish; in fact, the only cuisine I didn’t spot anywhere was Indian.
With so many restaurants to choose from, here are my top recommendations for eating out in Sunny Beach:
8240 Sunny Beach, Bulgaria
Widely regarded as the no. 1 restaurant in Sunny Beach, Khan’s Tent is nestled high in the hills above the main tourist resort, offering breath-taking panoramic views of Sunny Beach and the neighbouring towns of Sveti Vlas and Nessebar. There are no public transport routes to Khan’s Tent, so we made our own way there by taxi. Bulgarian taxi drivers are notorious for over-charging tourists, so get your hotel to book the taxi and confirm the cost for you in advance, or check prices with three different drivers before choosing which one to go with.
As the name would suggest, Khan’s Tent is a tent-shaped building inspired by the architecture of the ancient Bulgarian khans. You can either dine on the patio terrace or inside the tent, although I recommend sitting inside so you can watch the traditional Bulgarian dance show, which kicks off at around 10pm.
The à la carte menu features opulent European, Mediterranean and Bulgarian dishes. However, if you book your visit to Khan’s Tent through a tour operator, you can get a three-course set meal with wine for around 35-40 Lev. We ordered from the à la carte menu with a total spend of 95 Lev for two starters, two main courses and drinks.
Highlights of our meal included a colourful seafood salad, packed with fresh prawns, mussels, crayfish and squid…
I have to be honest, though – although the food was good, it wasn’t the best I tasted while in Sunny Beach by any means. This makes me question whether Khan’s Tent’s status as no.1 restaurant in Sunny Beach has more to do with the overall experience of visiting the Tent to admire the views and watch the Bulgarian dance act, rather than the food itself.
In my opinion, Djanny is the best restaurant in Sunny Beach, without a shadow of a doubt. It’s actually one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to. We were drawn to Djanny because of its beautiful outside dining area, complete with ornate fountains, intricately designed iron umbrellas and bubble wall water features. Words just don’t do it justice – take a look at the 360-degree shot below to see what I mean.
Our most memorable dish was a platter of Black Sea mussels in a creamy white wine, garlic and parsley sauce, priced at only 15 Lev per kilo.
The Shopska salad at Djanny Restaurant was the best we tasted during our time in Sunny Beach, and it only set us back around 5 Lev. Shopska salad is a mouth-watering mix of salted tomato, cucumber, onion, black olives, peppers and parsley, topped with grated Sirene cheese which has a creamy texture and slightly tangy flavour – almost like a softer, milder take on Greek feta cheese.
The squid also deserves a mention; succulent and juicy, in a sinfully crispy batter seasoned with salt and pepper and served with a buttery lemon sauce (approx. 11 Lev).
8240 Sunny Beach, Bulgaria (opposite Royal Beach Mall)
One of the top 10 restaurants in Sunny Beach according to TripAdvisor, there’s no doubt this place knows a thing or two about steak.
As we discovered, however, Jupiter Steakhouse also does a pretty decent English breakfast. For just 9.99 Lev (around £5), we had two slices of thick bacon, a meaty pork sausage, a grilled beef tomato slice, fried mushrooms, baked beans, mushrooms and two eggs on two slices of fried bread (toast is also available).
Normally, British food is the last thing I’d want to eat while visiting a new country, but with sore heads after hitting Sunny Beach’s bars the night before, it was just what we needed at the time!
The Funny Pub
Flower Street, 8240 Sunny Beach, Bulgaria
Located on Flower Street (the only street in Sunny Beach with a name – also the main beachfront strip), The Funny Pub is a family friendly pub serving traditional Bulgarian dishes, alongside British pub classics like burgers, lamb shank and fish and chips, alongside other international cuisines. Food is served relatively late into the night, with live music and cabaret to entertain you as you eat.
The barbecue pork ribs were colossal, consisting of a full rack of grilled meaty ribs smothered in a smoky BBQ sauce and served on a bed of French fries with BBQ and ketchup dips (25 Lev approx).
The grilled pork skewer (16 Lev approx) was just as monumental; thick cubes of lean, chargrilled pork served on a long metal skewer, also paired with French fries and served with a boat of BBQ sauce.
If you fancy something cheap to eat and you’re not feeling quite hungry enough for a big meal, pick up a pizza slice from one of the many pizzerias on Flower Street.
At just 2.50 – 3 Lev for a slice of hot, fresh pizza bigger than your head, youcan’t go wrong. I was particularly fond of Bella Rosa because it was conveniently located near to our hotel and they offered a good choice of toppings.
The Old Mill is just a short boat ride away from Sunny Beach in the quaint ancient town of Old Nessebar; established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Despite being relatively near to Sunny Beach, Nessebar is actually worlds apart in terms of culture and atmosphere; its winding cobbled streets, ancient ruins and old-world shops and restaurants stand in stark contrast to Sunny Beach’s 24-hour bars, wild clubs and tacky souvenir shops.
The Old Mill is a traditional restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining space. The menu features international, Mediterranean and seafood dishes, as well as popular Bulgarian dishes.
While some restaurants in Old Nessebar are priced above average in comparison to restaurants in Sunny Beach, The Old Mill was very reasonable. We ordered a Hawaiian pizza and a seafood risotto with drinks for just 34 Lev – that’s less than £20!
A thin, crispy base was smeared with herby tomato paste and topped with melted mozzarella, cooked ham and green chilli (at my request), with a pineapple ring at the centre – a tasty take on an authentic Hawaiian pizza – although I must admit, they were a bit stingy on the pineapple – and I would’ve preferred it cut into chunks and spread all over the pizza.
The seafood risotto was a heavenly concoction of plump Arborio rice in a silky, aromatic sauce interspersed with squid, prawns, mussels and clams, finished with a handful of freshly chopped dill and a lemon wedge.
Perched on the beach promenade, Morris restaurant is regarded as one of Sunny Beach’s leading restaurants. The seemingly never-ending menu features a number of classic Bulgarian dishes alongside fish, seafood, Italian, English, Mediterranean and continental cuisine.
Juicy jumbo king prawns were served with shells on in a light garlic butter with freshly chopped parsley and a creamy garlic dip (approx. 16 Lev).
Meanwhile, a fresh whole sea bass was grilled until the skin was golden brown and deliciously crispy, and the flesh meaty and tender. This was served with homemade chunky chips, boiled rice and sweetcorn – an absolute bargain at around 20 Lev!
What do you think you’d like the most about eating out in Sunny Beach?