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AUTHOR'S CHOICE

Balthazar (Map pp54 5; §212 1460; Str Dllinbrava Rosie 2; mains €15) Bucharest's best ,nid hippest restaurant. A dreamy, creamy interior with subtle lighting lures in hungry lood aficionados. The exquisite French/Thai lusion menu boasts delicate prawns dished I In banana leaves, and a divine wine list. Indulge yourself on the fairy-light lit terrace 1 with the city's A-list guests.

Bistro Vilacrosse (Map p60; §315 4562; Pasajul Macca/Vilacrosse; mains€3) This place bor-i rows its style from Parisian side streets, and I has Edith Piaf warbling in the background, wood floors and gingham tablecloths. Escape the city heat and crowds in this glass-l domed passage while sipping fresh coffee .ind eating a mozzarella salad with (French!) fries, a warm baguette of your choice, or steak. Bizarrely, a red English phone box is the entrance to the toilets!

Bistro Atheneu (Map p60; § 313 4900; Str Epis-COplei 3; mains €12) An old favourite. Its high-duality food and friendly, French-inspired .itmosphere draws large crowds, as does lis serenading musicians who play most evenings.

La Taifas (Map p60; §311 3204; Str Georges Clem-pnieau 6; mains€10) Gets glowing reports for its

I oast lamb with rosemary trimmings. Set in d central, shady area, the service is good and the atmosphere friendly.

Café de la Joie (Map p60; § 315 0937; Str Biblio-IkII 4; mains €5) A delightful culinary treasure hidden in the basement of a concrete office block off Piata Universitátii. The candlelit bistro oozes soul, with jazzy French classics playing in the background and a changing menu chalked up on the blackboard.

Mediterráneo (Map p60; § 211 5308; Str Icoanei 18 20; mains €10) The home of the best Sunday lunch in Bucharest. It's an expat favourite, with Italian- and Mediterranean-inspired cooking.

Smart's (Map pp54-5; § 211 9035; Str Alex Donici 14; mains €10) Serves European bar-style food such as meaty beef steaks doused in sauce, .ind. giant salads. It's an institution in Bucharest, so book ahead.

II Gattopardo Blu (Map pp54-5; § 212 7886; (alea Victoriei 115; mains €15) It is named after Visconti's film The Leopard and is famous for its unique and historical setting inside the Writers' Union house (Uniunea Scri-itorilor). It serves exquisite seafood dishes, juicy steaks and adventurous pastas.

Valencia (Map pp54-5; §312 8196; Str Dr Leonte 12; mains €7) Wash down fluffy calamares, hot spicy peppers, patatas bravas (Spanish dish of roasted potatoes, chilli sauce and mayonnaise) and tortilla, with jugs of authentic Sangria in this lovely restaurant south of the centre (opposite the municipal hospital).

ROMANIAN

Boema (Map p60; § 313 3783, Str CA Rosetti 10; mains €7) Swathed in sheepskin rugs, handsewn tapestries and plumes of dried plants, this Romanian restaurant is a rustic treat in the city centre. The fcorf (soup) is excellent and the menu is flexible.

Menuet (Map p60; § 312 0143; Str Nicolae Golescu 12; mains €7) Featuring heavy, old-style furnishings, Menuet dishes up excellent Romanian cuisine, including the crispiest, gooiest and tastiest ca$caval pane (fried cheese) around.

CarucuBere (Mapp60; §3137560;StrStavropoleos 3-5; mains €7) Bucharest's oldest beer hall (dating from 1875) and worth a visit for its lavish, Gothic-style decor if not for the average food and slow service. Roma bands play loudly most days from noon.

La Mama (Map pp54-5; § 212 4086; Str B Vacarescu 3; mains €3-6) Deservedly packed every night because of its hearty Romanian dishes, lively atmosphere and super cheap prices. Tuck into fresh salads, steaming bowls of soup, and meat or fish mains.

Bureibista (Map pp54-5; § 210 9704; Calea Mojilor 26; mains €6-9) Good-value traditional dining. Try the cheese croquettes and garlic mushrooms while brushing off the persistent roaming folk band.

Bureibista Pescaresc (Map pp54-5; § 212 5429; B-dul Nicolae Titulescu 39-49; meals €15) There's live fish to choose from, as well as good fish bor$ and herb-crusted salmon, inside this fishermen-themed, dark-wood sister restaurant.

Casa Doina (Map pp54-5; § 222 3179; Jos Kiseleff 4; mains €10) Its gorgeous terrace garden pulls in the great and good of Bucharest. Expensive but exquisite Romanian dishes are served by waiters in penguin suits in the garden adorned with tinkling fountains and serenading musicians.

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BUCHAREST •• Entertainment 73

■>" 1 (i ^iiiiiliii ti|(j,i',iriil Romanian li"i • i iih n.iiliihiihil Kiiiiuiiiian dishes m h i iii iiiiiip (Mulled aibbage or vine '••ni i ¡i.. iiiii|i,inied by nuïmàligâ (Roma-iii.-in i m ilcni) .nul meat dishes.

Count Dracula Club (Map p60; ©312 1353; Spl liiili'|)i'iiilrii|i'l 8a; mains £10) Only for kids or Isltsi h lovers. Eat your Romanian staples - or exotic pheasant, venison or wild boar -surrounded by 'human skulls', pickled bats, and blood-dripping walls. Dine in the coffin-clad chapel for the full house-of-horror experience.

Nova Brasilia (Map pp54-5; © 231 5540; Str Radu Belief 6; meals £3) This is the city's queen of coffee. Choose from frothy cappuccinos, cold iced coffees and indulgent mochaccinos. There are also divine cakes and pastries to torment you.

Picasso Café (Map p60; ©312 1576; Str Francezà 2-4; mains €4) The art theme may be overdone but it's a nice city haven for reading the paper and drinking coffee. There's a small selection of salads and cakes.

Café & Latte (Map pp54-5; © 3143834; B-dulSchitu Mâgureanu 35; mains £3) A friendly joint full of students and actors. Along with a decent latte you can munch on toasted sandwiches and cakes.

Quick Eats

Sandwich Factory (Map pp54-5; © 230 3923; Piata Dorobanti 28; meals £1-3) Rejoice! From baguettes to bagels, sandwiches to salads, lunchtimes have been transformed!

Red Lion (Map p60; ©315 1526; Str Academiei 1a; meals from £1) Ignore the delirious delights of the pretend outdoor terrace with plastic lawn, plastic sunflowers and wooden benches - focus instead on its pizzas.

Self-Catering

Piatà Amzei (Amzei Market; Map pp54-5; Piata Amzei; S sunrise-sunset) This open-air market has the juiciest selection of fresh fruit and veg in Bucharest.

Piata Gemeni (Map pp54-5) Another open-air market, within spitting distance of the Youth Hostel Villa Helga hostel, off B-dul Dacia.

Pâtisserie Parisienne Valerie (Map p60; Calea Victo-riei 63) A French-style bakery selling delicious cakes and pastries.

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