Croatia’s Dalmatian islands have a rustic feel untouched by the 21st Century: just my cup of tea! Across the Adriatic from Italy and bordered by five other countries, Croatia forms a melting pot of culinary cultures dominated by seafood of the Mediterranean and the contrasting central European hearty schnitzel and strudel. The ice cream gives Italian gelati a serious run for its money: every street corner offering an array of flavours from Kinder Bueno to my favourite Lemon (not sorbet, but real creamy lemon ice cream: unbeatable!)
‘Everyone tuck in!’ and a visit to Narnia (Dubrovnik)
When in Dubrovnik, ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’, last year with my family; we stumbled across a pavement jam-packed with wooden tables; a canopy of white umbrellas above, the shiniest outdoor floor I have ever seen below and a picture perfect view of the harbour. Adding to the unpretentious atmosphere we were served up with large metal pots full of baby squids and giant prawns for everyone to dig in. Returning this year with my friends, having raved about it nonstop I worried that it may have changed for the worse and prices soared due to the recent wave of tourists. But no, to my delight the same vibrant bustling atmosphere and moderate prices remained and we enjoyed a relaxed taste of the sea. (Lokanda Peskarija)
Having read about Buza bar in the guide-book, we set off in search of this Narnia-like hole-in-the-wall. Unfortunately it seemed that it was more like Narnia than anticipated, in that it was only accessible to a chosen few. (In other words, we couldn’t find it!) However, the inquisitive Ellen decided to lead us back to the main square down a random abandoned street. Her inkling was rewarded as we found our hole in the city walls, ventured down some stone steps, which opened out to a striking land of rocks leading down to the crashing waves and the vast open sea. Choosing our table on the edge of the rocks, we sipped our cocktails and admired the stars.
An Atmospheric Dinner and a much Needed Five a Day Dosage (Korcula)
The above photograph is the restaurant Gradski Podrum. The location of this restaurant could not be more atmospheric, with tables dotted around a beautiful square and surrounded by the city walls. There was even a full band practice taking place in an adjoining square, topping of the ambiance.
After dinner, inquisitive as ever, we peered through an archway in the city wall to find a fruit and veg shop, the perfect remedy for pretending to be healthy on holiday! We picked our five-a-day-fix from the mass of colour in crates and ambled along the seafront trying (and failing) to elegantly munch away.
Final stop of the evening’s adventure involved climbing up a ladder, again rather inelegantly, to a cocktail bar on the top of a watchtower with a panoramic view of the sea and mountains of the neighbouring island one way, and the patchwork quilt of Korcula town’s terracotta tiles the other. A round of cocktails ranging from creamy White Russians to a bright blue concoction was the perfect end to a perfect evening.
Royal Treatment, Cocktails and Dancing in the Sunset (Hvar)
Further up the islands in the party town of Hvar, we did not completely abandon our taste buds to make way for dancing the night away (although we managed to fit this in as well on the island Carpe Diem club). Our friends who were already nestled in to Hvar life took us up a narrow street of steps to Dalmatino Restaurant. Following a rather dramatic episode a few nights before, they had built up a healthy friendship with the owners, resulting in us being treated not only with a charming setting on a terrace of a busy backstreet, but plenty of drinks to add to the merriment. This very typically Croatian meal kicked off with a bang: a shot of local rogacica (Carob Brandy).
During background reading about the country’s cuisine, one particular dish caught my attention: Dalmation Pasticada. This dish of beef cooked in vinegar, wine and prunes is enjoyed by Croatians on Holy Days and special occasions. The chef of this local restaurant (who we later discovered was the owner’s mother) gave the dish her own intriguing twist by adding orange, carrot and apple. The beef fell apart with a touch and the extremely rich sauce was complimented with hints of fruitiness. Accompanied by homemade gnocchi, faithful to the island’s Italian influence, this dish was a perfect illustration of the eclectic culinary culture of Croatia.
As previously stated, my entries not only observe outstanding food and drink, but also special locations. The final stop of my mini tour of Croatia was the much-loved Hula Hula Bar, host to the most stunning sunsets and best pre-dinner cocktail parties on the island. This chilled out bar, spread over the rocks of Hvar’s shoreline, provides sun beds and drinks during the day. Yet at 6pm the transformation begins and Hvar’s creatures of the night flock to soak up the evening sun and atmosphere with DJ’s, the constant spray of champagne and dancing in beachwear. With wooden platforms out in to the sea, the majority of visitors end up in the turquoise blue waters to cool down. It’s carefree, it’s fun, and it’s not to be missed!
For more information (locations etc) about any of the above recommendations, don’t hesitate to comment or contact me!