Dining Out 25 minutes 28 March 2024

Croatia continues to shine with its growing number of MICHELIN Stars

Every year, the number of MICHELIN-Starred restaurants in Croatia increases, as does the number awarded a MICHELIN Green Star thanks to the country’s growing interest in sustainability

Renowned for its beautiful scenery, crystal-clear waters, nature, art, relaxation and entertainment, Croatia is also becoming an increasingly interesting destination for food-lovers. The number of MICHELIN-Starred restaurants grows year on year, highlighting the country’s burgeoning interest in cuisine, its creative vision and showcasing of local ingredients.
Croatia is, in fact, a veritable treasure trove of produce, boasting delicacies such as truffles, fresh fish, the country’s famous lamb, its cheeses and fine wines produced from native grape varieties. Superb ingredients are found in every region, and you’ll need more than one trip to the country to discover them all!

There are now eleven MICHELIN-Starred restaurants in Croatia, as well as three restaurants that have been awarded a MICHELIN Green Star. The country’s “Star-studded”’ journey began in 2017 with Monte, a restaurant situated in the historic centre of Rovinj, one of the most romantic and picturesque towns on the Adriatic with its maze of narrow alleyways surrounded by the sea. This family-run restaurant began life as a traditional Istrian inn when it was opened in 1985 by the parents of chef Danijel Đekić. Subsequently, Danijel and his wife Tjitske, a renowned sommelier, have transformed the restaurant into a gourmet oasis, passing on their love and dedication to their children Ilja (who works in the kitchen) and Simon (now maître d’ and sommelier).

The dining room here is as original and personalised as the chef’s cuisine, which focuses on top-quality Mediterranean and Istrian dishes. There are three menus, all named after colours – Red, Green and Blue. Lobster takes pride of place on the first menu, in dishes such as lobster with salad, avocado and strawberries; lobster bisque with fennel, lobster meat and trout roe; lobster dumplings with asparagus and hollandaise sauce; lobster medallion with carrots, peas and saffron; and lobster tail with artichokes, sauce vierge and a marinara sauce. This menu is a must if you’re a fan of this renowned shellfish, with so many different ways of enjoying its wonderful flavours. The Blue menu strikes a balance between meat and fish, tradition and modernity, and a sense of stability and passion. Dishes include premium Oscietra caviar with egg yolk cooked at 64°C and potato foam; marinated tuna grilled with sea urchin and aubergine emulsion; veal tartare, trout roe and wasabi foam; duck supreme and foie gras with red beetroot and cherries; and veal sweetbreads with mushrooms, celery purée and spring onions. The superb selection of local cheeses includes a delicious Istrian ricotta which is sometimes served with figs in balsamic vinegar and caramelised almond ice cream as a pre-dessert, while one of the most elegant desserts is the apple and rose ice cream made from rose petals, apple blossom and khataifi pastry.

The Green menu focuses its attention on vegetables, featuring dishes such as aubergine caviar with 64°C egg yolk and potato foam; tomato with aubergines, avocado, and white tomato juice; pepper with lentils, smoked pepper cream, and wild rice; goat’s cheese strudel with spinach leaves, pumpkin, flowers and petals; and grilled mushrooms with broccoli purée, mushroom caramel and walnuts.

The wine list also deserves a mention, both for its extensive selection and for the recommendations provided by sommelier Simon, a true poet of wine.

In 2018, Pelegrini joined the ranks of MICHELIN-Starred restaurants. This restaurant showcases the rich culinary heritage of Šibenik, which dates back to Roman times and was subsequently influenced by Venice, the Ottoman Empire and France. Today, Pelegrini’s philosophy revolves around a focus on the sea and its ingredients, such as mussels, oysters, sea snails, sea urchins and various types of fish. Pelegrini is much more than a simple restaurant. It is also a hub for gastronomic research that stands out for the way it works with small Croatian producers, and is renowned for its Chefs' Stage project, an international gastronomy and hospitality congress which provides young talented chefs with top-quality training in order to improve the country’s food sector for the future.

For chef Rudolf Štefan hospitality is a lifestyle and a way of being. “I live in my native city with my family, and I love what I do. For me, hospitality is a fantastic career which allows me to constantly improve, to travel and exchange knowledge and experience with colleagues from around the world, to implement new techniques, discover new flavours and pass on expertise to younger generations. Curiosity is fundamental for me – you have to be hungry for new knowledge in this job as this is a profession which is constantly evolving. But qualities that are even more important than curiosity are tenacity, patience and perseverance. Without these, there is no continuity and without continuity there is no success. These are the values that I share with my team and with the youngsters who are embarking on a career in catering. All of this makes me a very happy man!”

“Our menu changes with the seasons in line with what is available locally”, continues the chef. “We offer a modern interpretation of traditional Dalmatian dishes, inspired by the rich culinary heritage of our region and respecting the influences left by the Venetians, Turks, French and Austro-Hungarians over the centuries. Most of our dishes pay tribute to this country which we love with all our hearts.”
One example of this extraordinarily varied history is Pelegrini’s pasta with duck, one of the restaurant’s house specialities.
“This dish represents a kind of culinary journey through our region”, explains Štefan. “When you travel to the Krka National Park, just a few kilometres from Šibenik, the first thing you see are ducks. For this dish, we use every part of the duck, so there’s no food waste. Our recipe is based on Tingul, a typical dish served at banquets that is usually made from roast lamb or veal. This is a stew flavoured with herbs that uses every part of the animal to obtain a rich sauce – the type that makes you want to lick your fingers! We’ve all grown up eating this dish. Then we have roast duck breast with a liver gravy. There’s also a sauce made from a 60-day-old cheese that we source from OPG Ston, which is truly delicious.”
The region’s traditions are also evident in the restaurant’s pašticada (a Croatian meat stew), and in its various seafood salads, as well as the anchovies and mussels prepared “home style” but enhanced by the use of top-quality ingredients and expert culinary techniques.

At Pelegrini the concept of sustainability is an integral part of the restaurant’s philosophy: “Croatian cuisine is traditionally the cuisine of the poor, as is the case is so many places in the Mediterranean, so paying attention to the sustainability of ingredients comes naturally”, says the chef. “We base our menus on food that is available locally and produced by local farmers, growers and fishermen. In terms of waste, we try to do as much as possible to keep our environmental footprint to a minimum.”
Croatian wine is another of the restaurant’s strong points: “For us, our wine is so good that we have decided to showcase it via a series of events that we call Pelegrini & Friends. During these sessions, we talk about the unique history of our terroir, our grapes and our longstanding relationships with wineries such as Bibich and Grabovac. Generally, the Croatian wine scene has grown hugely over the last 15-20 years and we can now say with pride that we have some excellent wines produced from native and international grape varieties alike.”

“Nowadays, we are much more than just a simple restaurant as we are also a hub for research into and the promotion of Croatian produce”, concludes Rudolf Štefan. “For us, cuisine and good wine are a conduit for greater knowledge and a way of demonstrating our love for our land. Fortunately, our passion is recognised and our guests share this with us, coming back to the restaurant several times a year.”

Pelegrini - M. Rebernisak
Pelegrini - M. Rebernisak

In the same year, Restaurant 360 also made an appearance in the MICHELIN guide, gaining its MICHELIN Star in recognition of its modern, top-quality cuisine that provides its guests (as the restaurant name suggests) with an immersive, 360° experience. In fine weather, meals are served on the spacious terrace with its views of Dubrovnik’s beautiful rooftops, harbour, the sea and part of the coastline. Here, chef Marijo Curić, who has returned to his native city having gained valuable experience elsewhere in Europe, delights guests with his expertly prepared and beautifully presented dishes, in which the flavours and ingredients of Croatia blend happily with influences from other countries such as France and Italy. Guests can choose between two tasting menus. Antologija is its tailor-made menu featuring the chef’s signature dishes, which include marinated and pan-seared escalopes with kohlrabi and onion soup; mackerel, white turnip, potato mayonnaise and bonito sauce; sea bass with fennel, leek powder and beurre blanc; and a superb pigeon with Jerusalem artichokes, confit shallots and a caper sauce. Don’t miss the tiramisù made with crunchy biscuit, coffee syrup, caramel, vanilla and Baileys ice cream.

In contrast, the Republika menu showcases modern versions of historic recipes from Dubrovnik’s Renaissance period. Here, guests can enjoy Malo More with oysters, anchovies, onion cream, mussel and lime sauce and caviar; Peskafondo, a dish of fried, stuffed squid served with a citrus gel and smoky sauce; and Brodet 2.0 made with grouper, gnocchi, shellfish, clams and fish soup. Main courses include Komarda, a dish which plays with the contrasting flavours of lamb confit, broad beans, sheep’s milk yoghurt and lamb jus, while the creative Mantala dessert features carob biscuit, bitter orange mousse and mantala ice cream. Mantala is a traditional cake from Dubrovnik (a Slow Food Ark of Taste product) made from grape must (from the local plavac mali grape variety), orange peel and wholemeal flour. Mantala cake is traditionally made in the autumn, then covered with laurel or orange leaves and left to rest until it is eaten at Christmas. The recipe is said to date back centuries, with written evidence of its existence from as far back as 1532.

Made throughout the Dubrovnik region, it was exported to Italy in the late 19C, where it became known as “pane Schiavone” (Slavic bread). Restaurant 360 has rediscovered this traditional dessert and given it a new, creative and contemporary twist.
The wine list here is undoubtedly one of the best in the country, paying tribute to Croatia and the rest of the world, with personalised wine pairings which can also include cocktails. The service here is courteous and, of course, professional.

Restaurant 360 - V. Arevalo
Restaurant 360 - V. Arevalo

In 2019, the Croatian capital Zagreb saw its first MICHELIN Star awarded to Noel, a restaurant situated in the heart of the city centre which, according to our inspectors, offers a guarantee of top-quality cuisine. Today, the restaurant focuses on seasonal tasting menus with creative names such as Spring Blossom, a menu inspired by the vegetables available at this fertile time of year, all of which are skilfully “reinterpreted” by the chef. Delicious options include the delicately fried artichoke served with fresh almond flakes and artichoke cream, which demonstrates the versatile nature of the vegetable kingdom.

Other tasting menus include the amusingly named “Pain a Rollin’ away”, which features crispy mushrooms with goat’s cheese yoghurt, Štrukli, a dish entitled “dig your own truffle”, white tea and Kombucha mandarin, poultry and sweet-chestnut doughnut, and duck with cinnamon; and the Find a deeper sense menu which Starts with a “forest drink” (mushroom consommé, Gaba tea and hazelnut oil), followed by mushroom tart, pumpkin terrine with quince, onion and juniper, and barbecued sunchokes with leek and black pepper consommé.

The wine list is particularly extensive, offering an enjoyable voyage through Croatia, Slovenia, France and Italy, alongside the opportunity to sample an excellent local artisanal beer.

Noel - Simun Situm
Noel - Simun Situm

This brings us to 2020, the year in which a new MICHELIN Star was awarded to LD Restaurant, part of a splendid resort on the island of Korčula with its unspoilt beaches and natural landscapes. Here, the restaurant is run by talented chef Marko Gajski, who takes inspiration from the rich culinary traditions of Dalmatia. The Italian, French, Turkish and Austrian influences that provide Croatian cuisine with its unique blend of flavours, aromas and colours are immediately obvious on his menu. His ingredients follow the seasons and his dishes feature produce available on the island, from delicious freshly caught fish to wild herbs and other seasonal delicacies harvested by hand. The restaurant also showcases a huge array of native olive oils from the island of Korčula and the Pelješac peninsula, the unique regionally inspired flavours of which explode on the palate. The restaurant’s outdoor terrace is a peaceful oasis protected by pine trees. Located just a few steps from the sea, it offers stunning views that extend out to the nearby archipelago and an immersive Mediterranean experience that has few equals.

“I Started working in this magical place in 2017”, explains chef Marko Gajski. “As soon as I met owner Michael Unsworth, I understood that our passion for the island and its varied culinary treasures would soon become a way of life. We have always been a strong, united and close-knit team. After just three years, we were awarded a MICHELIN Star which we felt recognised all the work we’ve put into the restaurant, and which brought us great joy. Today, more than ever, we are like an extended family and we’re happy to have worked together for many years now – our reciprocal respect is our greatest strength.”
“Inspiration surrounds us here – all we have to do is look around, and love and respect everything that Mother Nature gives us throughout the different seasons. My main inspiration is Croatian cuisine, which over the years has also been highly influenced by the culinary traditions of Italy, France, Turkey and Austria. For me, sitting down to eat is a time to forget everything and put all our problems to one side, so that we can focus all our attention on our senses – on that perfect combination of taste, smell and atmosphere. My aim as a chef is to create this magical moment for my guests.”

“Sustainability is very important to our business”, continues Gajski. “We work hard to promote the flavours, ingredients and traditions of this island. We share these sustainable issues with our guests, who also share our vision. Those who come here to eat love Nature and the planet and know that luxury can go hand-in-hand with sustainability.”
“For me, Croatia is the most beautiful country in the world, and I don’t just say that because I’m Croatian – it’s a fact!”, says the chef. “Croatia has more than 1,000 islands surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic. But we also have magnificent mountains, rivers and inland areas with fields and meadows, and our historical and architectural heritage goes back to Greek and Roman times. It stands to reason that our food is as complex and beautiful as our country.”
The menu features many specialities including prawn gyoza, one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. “I know that gyoza isn’t a traditional Croatian dish, but my passion and admiration for Asian food led me to create this recipe, which is gyoza with a Mediterranean flavour. We use every part of the prawn in a bid to reduce food waste – the meat is used as the filling, the head for the sauce and to make a delicious butter, and the shell as a powder to enhance the dish. We add oven-dried cherry tomatoes and kohlrabi that has been marinated in vinegar. This has become one of our most popular and most frequently ordered dishes, as so many visitors from all around the world come to LD restaurant specifically to taste our famous gyoza – we’re very proud of it.”

The chef’s interest in traditional recipes, which he reinterprets with plenty of creativity, is demonstrated in his Komiška pogača, a traditional bread that is stuffed with a tomato and anchovy sauce and which originates from Komiža on the island of Vis. “We’ve transformed this dish into an elegant Starter using sophisticated techniques while at the same time retaining the dish’s traditional flavour. The tomatoes are replaced by confit tomatoes and the onion flavour is created by the use of onion marmalade. The crackers are made with cooked dough which has been dehydrated and then fried. We also add caper powder, garlic cream and fresh oregano, the latter a very important ingredient thanks to its unique flavour which lingers on the palate. The dish is finished with some delicious, salted anchovies and olive oil infused with wild oregano.”
My aim is also to showcase small-scale local producers such as Eko Ško, an excellent producer of Korčula organic olive oil. They also offer a fine array of vinegars, as well as pickled wild herbs, and salted and marinated fish, and provide us with fresh herbs and vegetables during the summer season. I’m also a great fan of Bosnić dairy which produces different types of fresh and seasoned cheeses and Komparak farm which makes different kinds of honey and artisanal gin. We support these small-scale producers because we share the same philosophy of perfection and dedication.”

At the LD restaurant, the wine list is as meticulous as the cuisine. “Wine has been an integral part of our culture for over two thousand years”, says head sommelier Dinko Lozica. “Our wine list includes some of the best wines in Croatia, with a particular focus on southern Dalmatia, the island of Korčula and the Pelješac peninsula. Korčula is a micro locality which grows two exceptional native white grapes, namely Pošip and Grk, as well as the red Plavac Mali variety. We are proud to work closely with local producers and our sommeliers are famous for their creative pairings with the chef’s dishes and for their extensive knowledge of wine production and local history. One of the advantages of Croatian wine is that we have a huge terroir and over 60% of our total wine production comes from native varieties such as Grk, Pošip, Plavac Mali, Plavec Žuti, Malvazija and Teran.

Millions of tourists flock to our country every year and we are proud to be able to introduce them to our excellent wines. Studies have shown that our native varieties are very resistant to changes in climate and this characteristic will be a crucial factor for the wine industry in the future.”

LD Restaurant - Samoscanec
LD Restaurant - Samoscanec

Excellent wine and a warm welcome also await at the new MICHELIN-Starred Boškinac restaurant in Novalja on Pag island. Here again, the local region takes pride of place in the unique dishes created by the chef. According to our MICHELIN inspectors, Boškinac is an exclusive retreat in which to eat, sleep and relax in tranquil surroundings. The splendid stone buildings in which the resort is housed seem to have stood here for centuries, while each of the guestrooms has its own style and colour scheme inspired by (and named after) a local plant or object. All the guestrooms and suites have been fitted out with carefully chosen natural materials and furnished with hand-made pieces. Wine-enthusiasts will be in their element in the magnificent wine cellar, which has always been the focal point of the Šuljić and Boškinac families’ lives. Although cultivation methods have changed over the years, and the region’s dramatic wars have left their mark, the vineyards provide a symbol of hope for the future, with wine production having continued without interruption over the centuries.

The wine-making tradition has been passed on from the Boškinac grandfather to his grandchildren, who combine his traditional methods with the use of more modern technology. “As wine has been part of our food and culture for millennia, we decided to include Hippocrates’ famous quotation on the façade of our wine cellar: ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.’ At Boškinac we put into practice age-old traditions, reminding our guests that a good wine drunk in moderation, especially a red wine, really is beneficial for your health and spirit.”
The family’s elegant style combining sophisticated luxury with a desire to pamper their guests is also the hallmark of the MICHELIN-Starred restaurant, where the creative cuisine focuses on top-quality local ingredients, such as the famous lamb, fresh, sweet scampi, and highly scented wild herbs. Dishes are served with professionalism and a smile – the friendly welcome and attentive, individual service at Boškinac adds to the resort’s appeal.
Respect for the land and sustainability are two of the restaurant’s fundamental visions. “We change our menu depending on market availability,” Šuljić emphasises. “Pag is the micro-local source for all our ingredients. This is both our moral responsibility and our mission. We want to encourage the island’s inhabitants to dedicate themselves completely to the ingredients that surround us, both in terms of what they produce and what they use. Cooking responsibly and sustainably for us also means using every bit of an ingredient, with no food waste. We also support small-scale producers and farmers and harvest wild herbs from the local countryside. Lamb takes centre stage on our menu. We have prepared lamb in many different ways for over 20 years, using all the different cuts and offal from this extraordinary animal, with no food waste at all. And we’ll continue to do so in the future.” The menu also features skuta, a type of curd produced during the production of Pag cheese. “We buy ricotta, milk, whey and young cheese from the small Vidas dairy in Novalja. We buy lamb from the local butcher’s (Žakan, also in Novalja), scampi from local fisherman Gordan Peranić in Stara Novalja, wild fish from Palčić in Proboj and all our organic vegetables from Drita Dunatov and Dikla near Zara.”

As already mentioned, wine plays an important role in this restaurant. “Every year at Boškinac we produce around 50,000 bottles of wine and these labels are well represented on our wine list, which also includes a further 250 wines from Croatia. We Croatians are extremely proud of being a great wine-producing region.”

Boškinac - Pichler
Boškinac - Pichler

2021 is an excellent year for MICHELIN Stars in Croatia and another restaurant to win recognition is Agli Amici Rovinj, where chef Emanuele Scarello brings his vast culinary experience to the country, delighting guests with his unique and unforgettable cuisine. Respect for the region and its producers is fundamental to the menu here – the chef and his team work with carefully chosen, small-scale producers, artisans, farmers and fishermen who always guarantee the best local produce.

There’s no à la carte, but instead two tasting menus with a focus on economic and environmental sustainability, on which dishes showcase the chef’s homeland (Italy and its Friuli region) together with the best ingredients from Istria. The restaurant is housed in a beautiful building on the stylish seafront promenade in Rovinj’s modern marina – a delightful place to eat with a large terrace and stunning views of the blue sea and the verdant islets off the coast. At nightfall, the illuminated church of St Euphemia adds even more charm to the setting.

The restaurant’s iconic dishes particularly enjoyed by our MICHELIN inspectors included scampi, spaghetti with sea herbs and barbecued beef served with almonds, as well as the excellent lemon risotto with paprika – a truly delicious Mediterranean dish.
Sommelier Cristian advises guests on their wine selection from the excellent choice of top-quality Croatian labels (all available by the glass), which includes fragrant Istrian Malvasia, Dalmatian reds and a sparkling aperitif wine from the Plešivica region. The end result is a true fine-dining experience which is much enjoyed by the restaurant’s international clientele.

Agli Amici Rovinj
Agli Amici Rovinj

Also awarded a MICHELIN Star in 2021 is Nebo by Deni Srdoč, a restaurant situated on the fifth floor of the brand-new Hilton Rijeka Costabella Beach Resort & Spa in Rijeka, which boasts breathtaking views of the Adriatic, the coast, and the unspoilt island of Cres. The dishes tell the story of Croatia’s culinary history, featuring traditional ingredients and regional specialities alongside more exotic fare to create a modern and creative menu that is full of colour and flavour.

Meals Start with a selection of amuses-bouches that might include black olive crunch, tuna pâté, smoked trout roll, trout roe, fermented broccoli salad, fermented pumpkin cream, tempura carp and smoked eel. Main courses feature dry-aged Simmental beef and original dishes such as the “Turbotour way” (aubergine, pine nuts and basil), and free-range duck served with plums and millet. One of the local specialities is Kvarner lamb served with its own jus, delicious local sweet chestnuts and curly kale.

The region is also represented by venison from Gorski kotar, a beautiful region of unspoilt woodland- this dish is served with mushrooms, pomegranate, parsley and hazelnut. The dessert on this menu is elegant and delicate, featuring celery, kefir, almond and cinnamon. Highly professional service and a wine list that also features labels from outside Croatia complete the picture.

Nebo by Deni Srdoč
Nebo by Deni Srdoč

In 2021, a new MICHELIN Star was also awarded for the first time to Alfred Keller, a restaurant that is part of a luxury resort overlooking charming Lošinj bay. The island of Lošinj boasts an incredible biodiversity and a climate that is so mild that it is known as “the island of vitality”. In this idyllic spot, the salty sea air mingles with the scent of Mediterranean herbs and pine trees, and sunny days end with romantic sunsets. Designed by Austrian architect Alfred Keller, this villa has since been renovated and extended many times and is now home to the modern Alhambra Boutique Hotel, which includes this elegant restaurant named after the architect. Overseen by highly experienced two-MICHELIN-Starred chef Christian Kuchler, Alfred Keller showcases authentic produce in its dishes which are prepared by creative resident chef Michael Gollenz (who has experience working around the world) using haute-cuisine techniques.

“I’m originally from Hochburg-Ach in the district of Braunau am Inn, which lies on the River Inn that marks the natural border between Austria and Germany”, says chef Michael Gollenz from the Alfred Keller restaurant. “I was lucky enough to grow up in a small country house with lots of fruit trees – we grew apricots, bilberries, apples, peaches, hazelnuts, grapes and plenty of other fruit, so I learned how to recognise and appreciate natural flavours. I knew exactly what I wanted to do when it came to choosing a profession and I specialised in cooking, bread-making and butchery. During my training, I learned to respect food and how to transform ingredients in a professional way. I spent five years of my career alongside two-MICHELIN-Starred chef Stefan Heilemann, and then, out of the blue, received a phone call from Stefan’s friend, Christian Kuchler, who offered me a job. This involved a new project in Croatia, in a 5-Star hotel overlooking a beautiful bay. I had never been to Lošinj before, but I had visited Poreč and Pola with my family. When I saw the place, I fell in love with its beauty. I almost immediately met local producers of olive oil, cheese and fish. At the time I knew nothing about Croatian cuisine but seeing the quality of the ingredients, I understood straight away that I would be able to do a good job here.”
“In addition, and although I’m not originally from here, I do have incredible childhood memories of Croatia – this was where we came on holiday as a family when I was a boy. My menu is based on the freshest, top-quality ingredients that Croatia has to offer, from fish from the Adriatic to beautifully scented lemons. I’ve adapted my style of cuisine to local tastes, as I’ve understood that the heavier flavours of French cuisine would not be particularly suited to this location. I often travel to discover more about the country’s traditional cuisine and two of my favourite local dishes are lamb with potatoes and carrots prepared peka style (under a bell-shaped dish covered with embers) and ledeni vjetar cake with strawberries. I like the latter so much that I’ve created my own version for the restaurant.”

“In the restaurant, I serve local produce prepared using French culinary techniques and influenced by flavours from around the world”, explains Gollenz. “I focus not just on flavour, but also on paying constant attention to reducing our carbon footprint. Some of our ingredients do come from abroad and as they are now part of our culinary identity, they can’t really be replaced, but they form a relatively small part of our menu.”
One of the restaurant’s unmissable signature dishes is its Adriatic fish with Sardinian fregola pasta. “We have served this dish at the Alfred Keller restaurant ever since we were awarded a MICHELIN Star. I use three local ingredients in this dish – lemon, aromatic herbs and fresh fish, all combined beautifully to enhance their individual flavours.”
“I’m constantly amazed by the variety of native herbs on this magical island and I love using these in my dishes. From the leaves of the pepper tree to rosemary and scented thyme, Lošinj is like a huge garden – it’s the dream of any chef.”
The chef’s signature dishes include scampi tartare in a mint Thai sauce, Adriatic fish fillet with fennel and Baranjski kulen IGP sausage (also known as Baranja sausage, made from minced pork and flavoured with ground chilli pepper, garlic and pepper, then aged and fermented), and paprika beef ribs in a BBQ sauce. In addition, the excellent oxtail ravioli with Istrian truffle and foie gras was particularly enjoyed by our inspectors.

The wine list, overseen by sommelier Filip Veselovac, embraces the same philosophy combining a focus on the region while at the same time looking to the future via a selection of wines that showcases the winemaking history of Croatia and the region. It includes 660 prestigious labels that ensure a top-quality wine experience. The selection also extends to outside the country, following ancient wine routes and exploring wine regions in both the Old and New Worlds, yet always steering clear of the more obvious and well-trodden paths.

The atmosphere here is elegant, welcoming and intimate, with a colour scheme that plays with warm and neutral tones. The dining room is full of natural light thanks to the large panoramic windows looking out at Čikat bay below.

Alfred Keller - Ivan Brcic
Alfred Keller - Ivan Brcic

2021 also saw the first MICHELIN Green Star awarded in Croatia, demonstrating the growing importance of sustainability in Croatian gastronomy. Zinfandel's is situated in the Hotel Esplanade in the country’s capital Zagreb, a charming hotel that offers travellers all modern comforts and amenities. Here, guests can enjoy a top-quality gourmet dining experience thanks to talented chef Ana Grgić Tomić.

Highlights on the menu include fillet of sea bass in a thick orange and saffron sauce served with cauliflower cream and fresh cauliflower; fillet of cod with black garlic, lemon marmalade and Brussel sprouts; duck breast with apples, roasted plum foam, honey and aniseed; and typical Istrian fuzi with truffle cream. Traditional štrukli (or zagorski štrukli) also make an appearance, served with an elegant glazed cream. Sustainability is of the utmost importance here: Zinfandel's was the first restaurant in Croatia to be awarded “Zero Waste” certification and chef Ana Grgić has been a leading ambassador for the WWF Fish Forward campaign for many years.


In 2022, a second MICHELIN Green Star was awarded to Konoba Mate, a Bib Gourmand restaurant where a friendly welcome goes hand-in-hand with excellent value for money and a focus on sustainability. Konoba (the Croatian for “tavern”) was opened in 2000 by a married couple: Mirjana, a talented “old school” cook, and Mate, who describes himself as a “peasant at heart”. Over time, the family grew and their work developed, as they moved from cultivating the land to raising livestock, and then to producing and seasoning artisanal hams.

The restaurant’s trusted team includes Mate and Mirjana’s daughter Biljana, who is both a chef and a pastry chef, and who is known as “the sorceress” for her ability to create delicious desserts and dishes, which she often flavours with aromatic wild herbs. She keeps the traditional cuisine of Croatian grandmothers alive in her dishes. Other indispensable members of the family include son Matij, a chef and a master at the grill, who has also opened his own beach bar in Pupnatska luka, and his wife Ana Farac, an agricultural engineer and the manager at Konoba Mate. Ana also works in the vegetable garden, tending it as though it were her own child: she strongly believes that in order to eat well, fruit and vegetables should be grown using natural methods.
Biljana began her working life in Val Gardena in Italy, where she stayed for four years. She then returned to Korčula to open the restaurant of her dreams. The island guided her hand, with its wealth of ingredients such as goat’s cheese, sustainably produced meat, almonds, basil, oranges and much more besides. At Konoba Mate, almost everything brought to the table is homemade or home produced: the bread, elegantly presented in a white napkin; the excellent pastas served with different sauces, each more delicious than the last; the goat’s cheese, extra-virgin olive oil, vegetables and the desserts.

“Our chef Biljana is famous for two incredible signature dishes”, says Ana Farac. “Goat meat is particularly popular in Korčula and young people in particular love grilled meat. And so, in mid-October we organise a sort of festival for which Biljana prepares a special recipe: she sautés goat meat in a pan with vegetables to make the meat tender, then transforms it into a type of filling for home-made gnocchi. The combination of gnocchi and goat meat results in real comfort food that celebrates the rich abundance of autumn.”
“Her second iconic dish is a dessert, which is not surprising given that these are her first true love”, Ana continues. “This dessert is a praline infused with lemon verbena cream. The lemon verbena and chocolate are also a perfect combination. Lemon verbena is a herb that has been used for centuries in this region for its relaxing, soothing and health-giving properties: when combined with delicious chocolate, it acts as a real tonic for your wellbeing.”
Other dishes not to be missed include Težačka plitica, a traditional platter of artisanal bread, goat’s cheese, smoked ham, olives, aubergines in olive oil, capers and aubergine pâté – a gourmet version of the traditional lunch once taken by labourers who used to spend the day far from home working in the woods or the vineyards.
Also excellent are the home-made pasta sautéed in butter, cream and fennel, “spiced up” with a touch of chilli pepper, and the smoked ham omelette with asparagus, picked nearby by the family.
Fans of Dalmatia’s culinary traditions should not miss the traditional Pašticada. In days gone by, this dish was prepared for important religious festivals and special occasions. The dish consists of a fillet of beef marinated in vinegar with carrots and pancetta ham, which is then browned in a pan with onions, carrots, apples, plums and spices. A splash of wine is also added, and the dish is cooked slowly to create a delicious sauce. It is then served with home-made macaroni that have been rolled over wooden sticks, an ancient method that is said to have been brought back from China by Marco Polo.

Another traditional dish is Rozata, a medieval dessert originally from Dubrovnik and popular all over the Adriatic, which is made from eggs, sugar and milk all whipped together and then cooked slowly in a bain-marie. The dessert is made even more delicious by adding caramel sauce, making this the perfect end to any meal.
If there are two or more of you eating at the restaurant, don’t miss the typical cheese platter which offers sheep and goat’s cheeses served with green tomato chutney, grilled aubergines in garlic, a few slices of lightly smoked ham, pâté, quince jelly, capers and olives. One of the key words that sums up this restaurant’s approach and philosophy is sustainability, a common thread that links ingredients, a way of life, cooking techniques and the choice of production methods.
“Our motto is ‘eat locally, think globally’”, continues Ana. “We are constantly taking personal responsibility as restaurateurs for our impact on the environment and the planet, and we make real efforts to reduce our ecological footprint to a minimum. For this reason, we choose local ingredients, most of which we produce ourselves in line with traditional methods, in so doing avoiding any form of industrial production. This is certainly not the easiest route, but it’s the one that our heart tells us to follow.”
“For us, sustainability is not only an indispensable part of our cuisine, it is also a real way of life. If you live and work on an island a long way from anywhere, as we do, you understand that sustainability and self-sufficiency are vitally important and not just passing trends. For those of us living on the island, sustainability is 101% essential. We await each season here as something new and exciting, and we make every effort to get the most out of nature. From seasonal fresh fruit to the greens and herbs that grow in the wild and those cultivated in our garden, we know the right moment to harvest everything, as well as the best ways to cook the ingredients and the most subtle seasoning in order to retain the ingredient’s original flavour. Good food comes firstly from knowledge, and we know how to use these ingredients to create delicious dishes which are exciting and never ordinary.”

Waste is banned at Konoba Mate and the chef makes the most of every part of the ingredients used, including those that are often overlooked. “For example, we preserve vegetables in our own home-produced olive oil, and we make passata sauce from our home-grown tomatoes. This is all part of our way of life on the island”, concludes Ana.
It’s fair to say that was once a small tavern with just a few tables has been transformed into one of the most popular restaurants on the island and even in Croatia itself. Make sure you allow time for a stroll around the small harbour at Korčula, where the crystal-clear water is so clean that you can spot sea urchins on the sea bed.

Konoba Mate
Konoba Mate

In 2023, Korak, a large winery situated in one of the country’s wine-producing regions, was awarded both a MICHELIN Star and a MICHELIN Green Star. Here, the younger generations of the Korak family have renovated the premises and updated the cuisine created by their grandmother. At the helm of the restaurant, which is surrounded by mature linden trees and which boasts breathtaking views of the vineyards, is chef Bernard Korak. His vision is based around the unwritten rule that “if it’s not in season, we don’t serve it”. Over the years, this chef has created a network of trusted growers, hunters and foragers, bringing life back to the local community. His passion has persuaded many producers to take over plots of land that were in danger of being abandoned and he has encouraged his suppliers to grow produce using organic methods that respect the land, so that he can create dishes that are not only tasty but also made from healthy ingredients. His dishes showcase delicious local produce in playful combinations of colour and texture which add a layer of complexity to his cuisine, creating a gastronomic identity that is as unique as a fingerprint.

Self-taught chef Bernard Korak worked in Zagreb for two years before gaining experience alongside Slovenian chef Ana Roš in the three-MICHELIN-Starred Hiša Franko restaurant. Here, he learnt the importance of sustainability and an anti-waste philosophy, which transforms cooking into an ethical commitment towards the planet. During this time, he decided that he too would devote himself to sustainable cuisine. In a short space of time, he became Ana Roš’s sous-chef and during the winter months, when the restaurant was closed, he continued to learn and specialise. One of his most formative experiences was with Massimo Bottura at the three-MICHELIN-Starred Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. During this important stage of his career, Korak continued to fine-tune the green philosophy which is so important to him today.

The menu at Korak is inspired by the Plešivica region and its bountiful produce. Its wide array of ingredients includes raw cow’s milk from a nearby farm, which is used to make fresh cheeses, curd for tortellini and sour cream for the creamy homemade butter that is brought to the table at every meal. Wild herbs, picked in the surrounding region by the chef himself, and freshly caught river trout and pikeperch from Crna Mlaka also make an appearance. Depending on the time of year, the menu features dishes such as confit of red beetroot, hazelnuts and cherries with hazelnut butter; tortellini with salted seasoned curd, tomato essence and saffron; and grilled artichokes with almonds, blue crab, green garlic, preserved lemon and wild asparagus.
“Sustainability is without a doubt the main focus at our restaurant – our creativity is fed by ingredients that are produced with love and respect for the land. This isn’t so much a point of arrival as departure”, emphasises chef Bernard Korak. “We have two small kitchen gardens that we are planning to extend. Most of our menu is based on fruit and vegetables that we grow ourselves, while all the herbs, flowers and wild plants that we use are harvested from our gardens or the area around the restaurant. We also forage for truffles and mushrooms in the Žumberak Nature Park. All the ingredients that we don’t produce ourselves we source from trusted growers and farmers who are, above all, our friends. The human connection is fundamental to our way of working. And if we can’t find ingredients from any of these nearby sources, then we close. We only cook ingredients that faithfully reflect the Plešivica region.”

“We choose our suppliers for their commitment to sustainability. For example, we source our trout from the family-run Ribnjaci Vrabac trout farm in the Žumberak-Samoborsko Gorje Nature Park. This fish farm is situated at the source of the Kupčina river, which provides the farm with its clear, pure water. The cow’s milk that we use comes from small-scale local farmers in our village and it’s worth noting that the beef on our menu comes from old dairy cows – the cows are not bred specifically for meat, and they have a happy life. Our eggs are laid by our own hens, while the pigs that provide our charcuterie are supplied by neighbours who feed them with food waste from our kitchens. We also buy snails locally. Our region has always been a sustainable one, as people here have produced their own food in a respectful and healthy way for generations. All we are trying to do is maintain these traditions through our commitment to sourcing local ingredients.”
“As you’ll have realised by now, our menu is continually changing – sometimes even on a daily basis, precisely because we have a micro-local and seasonal focus”, the chef continues. “A dish only stays on our menu for a few days. One of our most popular dishes is tortellini, which we serve in different ways and with various fillings. Our menu is 80% pescatarian and can easily become vegetarian at certain times of year, especially in the summer months when our gardens and the nearby woods are overflowing with produce. Vegetables take pride of place on our menu – wild asparagus in spring, artichokes in early summer, tomatoes and aubergines later in the summer, and mushrooms in autumn and winter.”
The restaurant also serves the Korak family’s wines, which are produced in limited quantities in collaboration with an award-winning winemaker. “Our winery is one of the main boutique wineries in Croatia”, the chef explains. “We are an organic winery with six hectares of vineyards, and our family has been growing grapes and making wine for generations. Our grape varieties include Riesling, Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, and Syrah, from which we produce the full range of still, sparkling and macerated wines without adding sulphites.”

In keeping with local tradition, among the most interesting wines is the Korak sparkling wine, made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes fermented in large wooden barrels. After the second fermentation, the wine is left on the lees for three years. The cool climate of Mount Plješivica lends freshness, while the long contact with the fine lees adds interesting complexity to this sparkling wine, making it perfect for fine dining.

The Korak Rhine Riesling is also well worth tasting. Rhine Riesling is a popular variety in this region and the Korak family has succeeded in creating a top-quality wine that is highly expressive, with the region’s hot days and cold nights endowing the Riesling grapes with a perfect balance of sugars and acids. After maceration on the skins and fermentation at controlled temperatures, the wine is aged in large wooden barrels. The result is a wine characterised by floral and fruit notes, both on the nose and the palate, with a pleasant acidity and a distinct freshness – the perfect way to toast life in this wonderful region!

Korak - Mario Kucera
Korak - Mario Kucera

Today, Croatia has 10 MICHELIN-Starred restaurants in total, including the MICHELIN Green Stars awarded to Korak, the Bib Gourmand Konoba Mate and Zinfandel’s.

This increase demonstrates the variety of cuisine that travellers and food-lovers can now enjoy in the country, with options ranging from fine-dining restaurants to more affordable eateries, all of which share a commitment to excellent service, top-quality local ingredients, attention to detail and authentic flavours.

Croatian cuisine continues to shine and we are certain that its future will be even brighter thanks to its superb produce and the creative skills of its chef!

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