Do you know Aubergine, the restaurant where you feel nice, relaxed, which proposes fresh menus, an amazing eggplant-based cheesecake and where the owners are super friendly ? Ivo and Deian, who accepted immediately to answer of our questions.
Aubergine is the only restaurant in Bulgaria, where the menu is paired with local craft beer. Situated in Sofia city centre, Aubergine offers a variety of distinctive tastes and a relaxing atmosphere.
When have you launched the new « Aubergine » ?
The new Aubergine opened on 11 March 2016, after 5 long and freezing months of reconstructing and literally resurrecting the place. We took the place on 19 October 2015. The previous Aubergine launched on 9 September 2011 (although it’s a symbolic date in Bulgaria, it has nothing to do with it (look for 9 September 1944)).
It had a very good fame and it was popular, however in the last years of its existence it hasn’t been maintained very well, and we’ve received a place that needed a lot of work and efforts in order to look the way it look now. You can see from the photos from the article, you quote. And that’s just the top of the iceberg.
In the past, you were not working on restoration at all. Why did you decide to leave your job and to « restore » a restaurant ?
We both have different backgrounds – Deian was working in a real estate agency, and I was working as a Executive Assistant of the Executive Office in bTV Media Group (one of the two biggest media groups in Bulgaria). We’ve no previous experience in the hospitality industry, but we’ve a passion for restaurants, cuisine, and hospitality as a whole.
In our minds, there’s only one way to run a thing like a restaurant : being dedicated 24/7 and being in the place. For us, it is even more important to be here all the time, in order to learn, how to manage a restaurant.
We’ve always known, that it’s impossible to work something else, while owning a restaurant, so the decision was made long time ago : simply put, find a place, quit the other job.
Who is your team ? Did you already know together ?
Our team is the whole Aubergine crew : us as managers (although, we’re waiters, washers, cleaners, delivery guys, etc.), the team of chefs in the kitchens, the waiters, the washers/cleaners. However, we (me and Deian) know each other since elementary school, almost 20 years.
We read that you do almost everything but what is one thing that each members of your team like to do (prefer) more than everything ?
True, we do everything. During the reconstruction period, we’ve been painters, carpenters, helping the construction workers, being really a part of them. There’s not a single thing in the house, in the restaurant, that has not been through our hands.
Even now, we’re helping all the time. We’re doing what we prefer the most : adding value (although it’s a terrible corporate term), creating something, giving live to a graveyard (cause this place was a graveyard), and really, we want to change and improve the culinary culture of our society.
What is the philosophy of « Aubergine » ? What do you want to share with your clients ?
The philosophy of Aubergine is very simple. We want to show that food can be tasteful, quality, and affordable. We want to offer quality meals, using quality products, and an interesting and remarkable tastes to our guests. We want to treat our employees good, respectful.
We’ve given them total freedom in the kitchen, and they did not disappoint us and our guests. They are young, experienced and extremely creative. Everything Aubergine is, is due to their efforts and abilities.
Have you lot of dishes prepared with aubergines (the vegetable) ? Tell us some 3 names of dish with aubergine included (1 appetizer, 1 main dish, 1 dessert) ? how do you imagine your dishes ?
We have a few Aubergine (eggplant) dishes. Being a seasonal restaurant, we’re trying to be flexible with our menu, offering new tastes, new meals, not only with Aubergine, but with all fresh and quality products, that we can get, prepare and offer to our guests.
Our top dish – the stuffed Aubergine in saffron tomato sauce is already well known. We’ve a very good spicy Aubergine dip, bruschetta with Aubergine, white cheese and caramelized walnuts with garlic. We’re producing our own sweet Aubergine jam, that always surprises our guests, but they all love it !
What is the thing which differentiates you really from some others restaurants in Sofia ? and that makes Aubergine Restaurant an unique place in Sofia ?
There are a lot of really good restaurants in Sofia, offering quality meals and experience. We’re similar to ones and different from others. However, we’re inspired from all of those, that are trying to offer something new and of quality. We call them our friends, and we’re competing with them, in order to improve ourselves, and improve this « culinary culture », that I’ve mentioned.
And it’s not only the venues, we want and keep honest relationships with our suppliers, based on mutual partnership and support (where needed and possible). We’ve always been looking not for the « best deals », but for the best products. However, Aubergine (as all the others) is unique. It’s unique because of its location (it’s a piece of paradise in the center of a busy and noisy city), of its meals, of its philosophy, of its attitude towards its guests. It’s about making things the right way, and not the easy way.
It’s the long path, the struggling, the efforts. It’s a warm, cozy, peaceful, friendly and comfort place, offering experience, not just food.
What kind of advices can you share with people for those they want to become entrepreneur and launch a product ?
It is too early to give advises. We’re not there yet. But, let’s try anyway… In our opinion, being an owner, being an « entrepreneur » is a shitty thing. It’s extremely hard, extremely tiring, there’s no personal life, there’s no time for anything, but work. Trying to maintain « your way », trying to overcome habits, attitudes, that are long time in place in people’s minds is difficult. Extremely difficult, sometimes impossible…
I know a French saying, that goes :
« The peasant does not eat what he does not know »
However, it’s rewarding. Looking at the empty plates, that are coming back from our guests, we know that we’re on the right track. We believe, there are few important things, that people should know, value and follow.
First of all, create something meaningful and valuable. Make a product, that improves something. That’s progress. Make quality. Make good content, and the people will consume it.
Second, be patient. We’re living in an age, that we want everything now, in the moment. We do not want to wait. But life, unlike technology, changes slowly. Habits change slowly, people change slowly, sometimes never at all.
Last, but not least, work hard. Think fast, act fast, work hard. Make small steps, make fast corrections, but act. And work. It’s the only way, we’re moving forward.
What is the new for 2017 ?
2017 we’re celebrating our first year as a restaurant. 2017 will be an interesting year, a lot of struggling, and lot of hard work.
We’re planning to change often, to improve, to develop new and interesting meals and tastes. We would like to offer our guests even more good experience with us. To make them cheerful, happier, to inspire them.
We would like to have a better peaceful, pleasant, and attracting summer garden, house. We want to show people, that we do care, that we’re one of them, and with efforts, everything can change for the better, and that the faith of each one of us is in our own hands. Personally, we would like to rest a little. To spend more time with the people that we had and we still have neglected in the last year and a half.
We would like to sit with our family, friends, loved ones, have a nice evening, have a nice weekend, have a charming holiday. To show them, that we’re what we are, because of them, that the outcome of our efforts is because of them.
Thank you Ivo and Deian.
More : Address : Sofia, 11 Karnegi Str/ 10:00am – 11:30pm / www.aubergine.bg / 0889 991 867 / Facebook / Instagram / Seats : 50 / Cuisine : International – Fresh – Handmade – Variety of seasonal dishes and weekend breakfasts /Credit Card or Cash / Summer garden.