I posed with my camera ready to take the shot. I knew it would be coming, as it seemed every act provoked a similar response. The dark haired woman in the sequined costume had completed the intertwining of the long red velvet ribbon around her body… and let go, falling head-over-tail from the roof to the floor below before stopping herself at the last moment in the warm embrace of her life-saving ribbon. SNAP! Mia turned with the consistent gob-smacked face as the previous acts.
High above the resort town of Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, nestled in the hills sits Khan’s Tent. This is a restaurant that does things slightly different than the average restaurant. And don’t let the name fool you; it’s far more than a mere tent.
We first heard of this place after researching dinner options online, however there was relatively little detail about what a night there entailed. We decided to book direct via their website and take a taxi. Our driver told us it was 50 lev return (€25). This was outrageous, as the place is no more than 10 minutes from Sunny Beach, but we soon learned that the Sunny Beach taxi drivers are notoriously expensive to the point of down right thievery. There is serious price-fixing going on and some kind of secret bond where taxi drivers almost never go below their “standard” rates. So we grudgingly paid the price. Luckily our taxi driver, while a robber, was also very thoughtful and lent us a mobile phone to call him when we were ready to be collected at the end of the night.
Once we reached the car park and stepped out of the vehicle, we were bombarded by scenic panoramas from all sides. To the southeast was the sea and Sunny Beach, and to the east were rolling hills and a glorious sunset.
The other conspicuous landmark was the unique restaurant building. It’s architecture inspired by the tents of the ancient Bulgarian khans.
We made our way up the stairs on the side of the white tent building to the roof. The views were gorgeous and as the sun was swallowed by the Bulgarian hills. The orange radiance lit the sky with a beautiful summer glow. Meanwhile the lights started twinkling in the busy Sunny Beach streets below.
We headed inside and met the charming owner who explained how the night would proceed. Most guests buy tickets through a tour operator and are transported via coach to the venue. Guests are then seated on one of the many tables around the restaurant, which are arranged in a semi-circle facing the dancing floor and stage.
Tickets usually include the coach, one bottle of wine per person (yes, per person!), a 4 course meal, soft drink, live music and a Las Vegas-style show that would actually rival some of the genuine Vegas shows we experienced.
The meal started around 8pm, and for a set menu I was pleasantly surprised with the food quality. First up was a delicious Shopska salad. This has become a personal favourite of mine with its juicy tomato, crisp cucumber and melt-in-the-mouth goat’s cheese.
This was followed by fried potato croquet. Mine was cold and the breadcrumbs were slightly soggy. In my experience it’s not the way a traditional croquet is meant to be served, and I left that course untouched. But the kids hoed theirs down. That was all I could fault with the night.
The main course was more than filling - a grilled chicken with mushroom sauce, rice, potatoes and steamed vegetables. I would have been happy for the kids to have the same meal, but they were given a much more fun option - chicken nuggets and chips.
Lastly, much to the kids delight, we were served an ice cream cake for dessert. It took me back to primary school parties and surprisingly set a party mood.
A live band played a wide variety of classic tracks and Mia took the first opportunity to get on the dance floor. We got the crowd warmed up and others soon joined us. Boy, did those kids dance and dance and dance. It warmed the cockles of my heart.
At about 9:45pm the lights dimmed and the guests were ushered back to their seats for the show to begin. We were in for a treat. Wow, what a show!
After a colourful dance number, we were first introduced to a flexible gymnast who wowed us with stunts and feats of strength high above the ground.
More dancing preceded the next act of incredible balance and strength with a performer balancing an array of objects from his mouth.
Next was a lady who hung from ribbons with poise and grace...
Followed by the first gymnast, this time paired with a gentleman to perform more amazing feats.
After more dancing, an extremely skilful juggler showed what his balls could do. Oh, and he really liked to shake his tooshie at any chance he got.
More dancing preceded the final act. A performer who could not only balance on a seemingly impossible, death-defying tower of cylinders, but then turn a full 360 degrees on them.
The show finished with a final dance and after a hearty round of applause, the band played more tunes late into the night.
But I cannot leave out the funny Charlie Chaplain style act. He ended up being my favourite because Caius was chosen to participate in the show. My quiet little son never knew what was happening because, as far as he was aware, the Charlie had stolen someone’s phone and was offering it to the crowd. When Caius stuck his hand up, keen to get his mitts on that phone, he was pulled from his chair and before he knew it, was participating in the act. For my shy, reserved son, I was beaming with pleasure and recorded the whole episode for you.
The show finished around 11pm and my children jumped out of their chairs to dance with the other jovial guests who had finished their bottles of wine by that point. It was a lot of fun indeed.
The children’s steps got slower and slower and they seemed to be spending more time laying on the ground than prancing around, so Josh called our taxi driver and we made our way home.
The restaurant was on its 4th night of the new season and only holding 70% capacity, which to me looked pretty full. I’ve been told that as of June they are usually at 100% capacity every night, so please make sure you book as far in advance as possible. You can visit their website for more information or book with a local tour operator.
What a fun and entertaining night! Yes, it was a massive tourist event.Yes, you pay tourist dollars. But boy, was it worth it. The food was good, there was plenty to drink (or you can purchase more if a bottle of wine and soft drink is not enough) and the show was superbly entertaining.
But I’m always going to remember the performance Caius gave in front of the packed audience. He was cool as a cucumber and cute as a button. And just in case he forgets it as he gets older, I’ll be sure to remind him with the video of his breakout show when he reached the big time in Bulgaria.
Regardless if you make it in the spotlight or not, I’m confident to say a visit to Khan’s Tent will be a highlight of your holiday in Sunny Beach.