Whilst staying in Korça at the “Bujtina Sidheri”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/accommodation/200646-review-bujtina-sidheri, we learned that the hotel owner, Jovan Sidheri, cooks for the Prime Minister of Albania, but at weekends, works in the hotel restaurant. Sure enough, at the entrance was a photo of Jovan in his chef’s whites, with a visiting George Bush.
As we were staying at a weekend, we made a reservation for our first night, fearing it might be busy.
The small restaurant had lots of alcoves which created a feeling of intimacy. Unfortunately, four loud leather-clad bikers were in the next alcove at an unlaid table, knocking back bottled beer which detracted somewhat from the aura of peace and tranquillity.
Despite having booked, we were shown to a long table laid for six, but the additional place settings were quickly removed. A young man asked if we’d had a nice day and then told us his father was the personal chef to the Prime Minister. He said there was no menu as such, but suggested we start with soup, share a mixed salad, and follow with a meat dish each. On offer were lamb with potatoes and pork with nuts. This was ideal as they are our personal favourites. There was no mention of price, and a half litre of white wine and table water were suggested. We accepted and decided to go with the flow and not worry about price bearing in mind Albania was relatively cheap.
We waited quite a while until the wine arrived in a carafe, which wasn’t exactly chilled although the water was.
First up was a dish with three appetizers: warm butter beans in a tomato sauce, yoghurt with red pepper strips, and a tabbouleh-style salad. Unfortunately, there was only one spoon, which was in the messiest of the dishes. A basket had tasty, sliced bread and a lovely looking cob loaf. Before we had chance to do the appetisers or bread justice, the salad was produced, artistically arranged with pomegranate seeds and melon balls on top.
We were just a few mouthfuls into the salad when the hot soup arrived, so we put the salad plates aside. The excellent vegetable soup contained a large crouton topped with greenery and parmesan shavings. Once finished, we returned to the salad.
We’d nearly finished our salad when two pans were brought out. The first had two roulades of succulent lamb stuffed with carrots and accompanied by potatoes cooked in the meat juices, whilst the second had strips of tender belly pork with the fat cooked out, surrounded by pistachio nuts, figs and apricots. Fortunately, Roy couldn’t eat all his potatoes which went very nicely with my pork.
Both mains were hefty sized portions and we decided we wouldn’t be able to manage a pudding. This was just as well, as there was no further mention of dessert or coffee and we sat with the empty plates on the table for a long time. We later discovered that Albanians rarely eat dessert after dinner.
Whilst we were eating, the bikers moved on, the staff looked relieved and the table was set for dinner although there were no other customers all evening. We saw a couple of girls with aprons on and wondered whether Jovan had actually cooked dinner, as he failed to make an appearance.
Eventually, having ordered another carafe of wine to see us through the evening, we asked for the bill, which was handwritten and said, 1 lamp (sic), 1 pig. The total was 4,000 Lek which, at around £30, appears reasonable but was expensive by Albanian standards.
It was certainly an experience, but not, necessarily, one to be repeated.