Sunday 22 April 2012

An old-fashioned restaurant


In my 14 years here Romania has grown up and become less exciting and so have I. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than the Old Town in Bucharest where I have lived since 2000 which until around 2006 was edgy. Now it is a standard inauthentic piece of hospitality industry plant just like the centres of every other European capital. I except Minsk and Tirana but Minsk and Tirana are new cities with almost nothing old in them and no-one visits them except for reasons.

The Blanduziei  Restaurant a couple of hundred yards from the Old Town close to the porticoed front of the National Bank in Str. Academiei, and five minutes from my flat, is a refuge from the gallimaufry  of newly opened restaurants and bars, an oasis of civilisation in a sea of kitsch. Though unkind people might describe it is an oasis of kitsch which is also possibly true. It is a restaurant I walked past for eleven years before last summer I started going there and is just my kind of place. A pretty Romanian terrace with a good gypsy band and inside a brown and purple  chiaroscuro which looks nineteenth century. Although the waiter informs me that the Blanduziei under its present name dates back only to about 1970 he also says there was  a restaurant on this site from the 1870s and Mihai Eminescu the national poet ate there.  

The other night I ate a chicken breast and Bulgarian salad in the open air and chastely drank mineral water in the cool air, just warm enough to eat outside. Two other solitary men sit at tables in the terrace both wearing hats. The gypsies play Ionel Ionelule. I feel this could be the 20s or 30s, we could be characters in a story by Mircea Eliade.

Downstairs when I brought Ronnie and Rupert to talk about the books we are writing I felt like a Republican conspiring to overthrow the monarchy in the 1870s. Ronnie and Rupert though they are around fifty groaned at the  1930s musica populara – they were playing the wonderful Ioana Radu - and I remembered people  at school sneering at my pre-war taste in music. One of the many things I love about Romania is that people of all ages like the wonderful Romanian popular music of before the war. I hoped British people by the age of fifty would have learnt to like old music too but it seems my generation is blighted by bad taste as by original sin. I except myself from the first, the curse of 1970s ideas and tastes. 


  1. Anywhere paying Ioana Radu gets my vote!! Is this the restaurant with the windmill outside? i' trying to picture it. Don't think I've been there.... one for the list next visit but they have to play 'Mi-e dor de ochii tai' or I'll leave after my icre de stiuca!!

    Sarah :)

  2. Paying?? PLaying... aoleu... fingers like mici. Mention that music to me and look what happens!


  3. Unfortunately the Blanduziei closed down a few months ago - no doubt another victim of high rents and high property prices, the bane of modern life.