After a long morning of driving to Rila Monastery and marvelling at the beautiful colourful frescoes surrounded by mountains, trees and snow, it was time for lunch. Although there are reviews of restaurants at Rila Monastery itself, the ratings tend to be low. There looks like a donut(-type) shop behind the monastery which had popular queues, but it isn't lunch and we didn't really feel like queuing.
There's 3 well rated restaurants (on Google at least) on the road toward the monastery. They are Magic of Rila, Gorchim and Хан Дяволски води (something like the Devil's Waterfall, as it is near a waterfall). Our driver took us to Magic first which he recommended. It was closed. He took us them to Devil's Waterfall which he also said was good (although many restaurants in the area are similar). That was closed too. So finally he took us to Gorchim ("the bear one") which he and his customers haven't tried before. I wasn't too fussed as any of the 3 seemed alright.
It's "the bear one" because there is a large wooden sculpture of a bear out the front to greet cars. The terrace part is shielded which is great to sit when it's cold outside, although less so because it counts as an outdoor smoking area. Only moderate English was spoken, but certainly good enough to get by.
The main dish of the area is to try local trout, farmed up there in the cold mountainous waters of the river that runs by many of the restaurants.
- Tripe soup 3 lev - very mild flavour of the tripe and ended up being very milky, and tasting like a savoury milk. A bit disappointing;
- Mushroom soup 2.98 lev - very good and lots of butter;
- Grilled trout 10.5 lev - grilled well with soft flesh, although some parts of the skin were a bit too burnt. A simple dish;
- White cheese of the Shope region (white cheese, eggs, tomatoes, pepper) 5.69 lev - from the picture I was expecting a tomato stew with cheese. In fact the dish was quite different as a big mass of white cheese (very salty like feta) with some tomato slices on top. I thought there was some red pepper from the picture but it was a big chilli pepper added on top instead. Quite disappointed at what it ended up being;
- Tsar's pot (mushrooms, bacon, lukanka Bulgarian salami, mashed potato, sour cream, yellow cheese) 7.9 lev - strong ham bits with a lot of cheese, similar to a very hammy pasta carbonara;
- Flat bread with yellow cheese 2.6 lev - very nice with salty cheese.
Overall wasn't too impressed with the food here. If I ever find myself back, I'd try for one of the other two.