After almost two months in the countryside and in the mountains, Cluj makes a welcome change for a couple of days. Although I’ve visited the unofficial capital of Transylvania a fair few times by now, it still does a good job at surprising me. After some serious hiking in the Apuseni Mountains, me and my hubby – who is flying back home as I write – felt we needed to feed ourselves well. Below is a little culinary tour of Cluj, suitable for vegetarians as well – spending time in the countryside and in the mountains means eating considerably more meat than I’d normally feel comfortable with. So we resorted to restaurants with veggie options – which isn’t at all difficult in Cluj.
The first thing we did upon arrival was head to Samsara Foodhouse, which I had previously declared to be my favourite restaurant in Cluj. As said, we felt like eating something vegetarian and healthy, and Samsara happens to be the most amazing veggie/vegan/raw restaurant I know. We’re not fulltime vegetarians and the words ‘raw’ and ‘vegan’ can sound a bit off-putting to me, but Samsara has made them sound much more accessible to me. Their menu is incredibly varied, and if it didn’t say vegan next to the (very good) pictures (the dishes look as good in real life), I might not even have noticed the mushroom soup and the foccacia with bell pepper hummus were vegan. My favourite dish is their tagliatelle with forest mushrooms, cream and parmesan – the mushroom and spinach lasagna and roasted aubergine dish (a bit like a melanzane) follow closely. We supplemented our main courses with a gorgonzola, walnut, grape and rocket salad.
Samsara Foodhouse | Stephan Ludwig Roth 5
After our copious dinner, Wilbert felt he needed some coffee to revive himself, so I took him to Kaja Tanya, another favourite of mine in a quiet spot off Strada Universitatii. Their menu is simple but good – they do really nice savoury pancakes with a choice of fillings (I tried spinach and cheese) and serve traditional food as well. It has a very homely feel and everything is very affordable.
And then there was breakfast at Union Square, at Piata Unirii. Perhaps not altogether imaginatively named, but the menu is worthy of praise. We both opted for the scrambled eggs with baby spinach, toast and parmesan sauce, which we wolfed down before I could take a picture – that says something. It doesn’t just mean we were hungry – it was among the most delightful breakfasts I’ve ever had. And because I felt I could have another one, we both ordered cappucinos (decaf for me) and cheesecake with forest fruit sauce. Which was another good decision – between every two bites I had to declare how heavenly it was. Cheesecake has a tendency to get dry and crumbly when overbaked – this one was smoother than you could imagine. And then there was the orange cake smoothie and the above average quality of the mint tea. I usually avoid places on central squares because they tend to be unoriginal, but I’ll have to pass on my judgment this time. Union Square doesn’t have a website, but it has a facebook page – although it will change its name in the near future, and part of the menu. The waiter promised to keep the cheesecake on it though.
Union Square Caffe | Piața Unirii 14
If you’re an early riser and Union Square is still closed, its next-door neighbour Bujole provides a good alternative. I had an omelette with green asparagus, goats’ cheese and semi-sundried tomatoes and was pleased.
Bujole Caffe | Piața Unirii 15
Olivo is on another main street (Eroilor Boulevard), but its menu struck my fancy so I decided to give it a go. I wanted to see if their truffle and mushroom tagliatelle could compete with Samsara’s. It was good – but I’d still opt for Samsara in the end for this dish. It had some nice additions though – green asparagus and a variety of seeds among them. Olivo is a small cozy place and the menu looked interesting enough, and they roast their own coffee – it’s definitely worth trying.
Olivo Caffe | Bulevardul Eroilor 7
This was our first breakfast in Cluj after Wilbert’s arrival – it made a good start to our holidays. Camino is situated in a 16th century palace so definitely has the looks. We loved their omelette with sundried tomatoes (and other ingredients I can’t remember right now). Their cappucinos are the size of a bath. They also have six vegetarian pasta options.
Camino | Piata Muzeului 4
Did you know Romania is one of the world’s largest wine producers, and sixth largest among European wine-producing countries? Probably not. Romanian wines definitely deserve more attention. We’re convinced by now, so we set off to find some good bottles for Wilbert to take home (I made him promise to save them until I get home). We bought a bottle of Rara Neagra from the Durcari vineyard at Bruno wine bar (thank you Sânziana for the recommendation!), and found the divine white Epicentrum we had at Samsara earlier (Aligote & Muscatel-Ottonel) at Crama Noastra. And when I walked to the swimming pool through Parcul Central this afternoon, I passed another interesting-looking wine and delicatessen shop, bearing the lofty name of Comtesse du Barry. I didn’t buy anything there but could see a tempting selection of cheese through the window.
Bruno Wine Bar | Strada Constantin Daicoviciu 1
Crama Noastra | Str. I.C. Bratianu 35
Comtesse du Barry | Str. Emil Isac 14
I am confident Cluj has much more to offer for a glutton like me. But this has been a good start, and hopefully it will be for you, too!
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