Located on the Dalmatian coastline, Dubrovnik boasts breathtaking scenery, historic architecture and white sand beaches. Lord Byron once referred to the city as “the pearl of the Adriatic”, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a holiday maker’s paradise, with something for everyone, but there’s so much more to Dubrovnik than just the aesthetics. One of the best features of the city is its culinary landscape, which we will explore in this article.
Being a coastal city, Dubrovnik’s staple dishes are focused on seafood. Shellfish, tuna, squid, sea bass, pilchards, mackerel and octopus all finding their way into traditional local recipes. Oysters form a firm favourite in many of the city’s high-end restaurants. Fresh oysters are brought in from the oyster beds of Mali Ston, which is located 60 kilometres from the city. Dubrovnik was heavily influenced by Mediterranean culinary trends due to its Italian ancestry. Its cuisine involves plenty of fish, fresh vegetables, olive oil and homegrown herbs. Fish is most commonly grilled with local olive oil and seasoned with garlic and lemon, resulting in a delicious yet simple dish.
Famous starters include local delicacies such as black risotto and spaghetti in squid ink sauce. Thin slices of Dalmatian smoked ham often find their way onto lists of appetisers. Soups are also a beloved staple and are based on broth with added pasta, or dumplings and vegetables. The meat from the soup is usually served on the side and goes especially well with mustard. Stuffed mussels, octopus salad and shrimps are all common favourites of restaurant menus. Popular snack foods include burek sir, which is similar to spanakopita. The snack is made by wrapping spinach and sir cheese into a pastry tube, which is then coiled and baked.
In terms of meat, lamb is a favourite and is typically served either boiled or baked and flavoured with herbs. Meat stews such as Dalmatian Pasticada are also popular and are typically served with gnocchi. A signature stew specific to the area is green menestra, which is made with cabbage and smoked meat. Another delicious local speciality is Croatian Lamb Peka. The mouthwateringly succulent meat and vegetables are prepared by placing them under a bell-shaped iron dome with olive oil, garlic and wine, and the baking dish is then buried in glowing embers to cook for up to three hours. The tradition of preparing food in this way goes back to the ancient traditions of the Dalmatian people. Traditionally the fireplace was at the heart of every household. Please note that if you order this dish you should give the restaurant a few hours notice for preparation.
Famous desserts include strukli, which is essentially strudel and is filled with berries or apple, or, as a savoury option, with local cheese. Rumour has it that strudel actually originated in Croatia. Dubrovnik’s most celebrated dessert, however, has to be Dubrovački Rozata,. This is a creamy caramel pudding that is destined to make the mouth water. It can be found in most good restaurants throughout the city.
Traditionally speaking, Croatian restaurants come in two forms: restoran and konoba. Essentially, the restoran type are higher-end restaurants with a more sophisticated menu and appearance. Konoba have a warmer, family-run pub-style atmosphere. However, many restaurants in Dubrovnik have now taken up the term konoba to appeal to travellers. Therefore the distinction doesn’t always stand and it is better to decide on a place to eat based largely on what the menu has to offer.
Dubrovnik offers a vast range of eateries, especially for a city of its size. Despite having a population of only 40,000, the city boasts more than 60 restaurants, with somewhere to cater to every budget. There’s also a great variety in terms of the cuisines on offer, with vegetarian, French, Mexican and Asian restaurants emerging across the city. Whatever your personal tastes, you’re sure to find something to make your mouth water.
As with most cities, especially those with a large tourist industry, the closer you are to the centre the more expensive the restaurants are. If you want to sample delicious and authentic local cuisine for low prices, then you’d better look for something a little off the beaten track, away from the tourist traps. Porat Restaurant & Bar is one such place, offering a variety of delicious local dishes for affordable prices in a simple setting. Frequented predominantly by locals, Porat is the type of place where Croatians go to enjoy authentic Croatian food.
High End Cuisine
If you want to sample high-end cuisine while visiting Dubrovnik then look no further than the Nautika Restaurant. The well-established eatery features an outdoor dining area with beautiful views over the coastline and showcases innovative cooking techniques with creative flair. The dishes find their roots in Dubrovnik’s long culinary history, and the menu features contemporary takes on traditional recipes. The chef, Mario Baunda, is well known for his salt-encrusted fish, which is flambeed at the table. While the restaurant is a little on the expensive side, they offer a reasonably priced lunch menu for those on a restricted budget.
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