Dining Out 6 minutes 13 March 2023

Strong family ties at the Konoba Mate, restaurant in Korčula

Croatia at its most authentic and traditional: home-made bread and pasta, carefully chosen ingredients sourced from small producers (such as delicious goat’s cheese), and warm, friendly service.

With enthusiasm and a friendly smile, this family offers its guests an enjoyable gastronomic experience, showcasing the most typical ingredients of this delightful corner of Croatia.
The restaurant is situated on Korčula, an island that delights visitors with its timeless beauty and age-old traditions. The island shares its name with the historic fortified town situated on its eastern coast, where imposing walls and streets laid out in a fishbone pattern not only allow air to circulate freely but also protect inhabitants from the strongest winds.

Korčula’s most important historic monuments include the Gothic and Renaissance-style St Mark’s Cathedral, the old town and its massive walls, as well as the 15C Franciscan monastery and its fine buildings on Badija island.
Korčula is also renowned as the birthplace of the famous traveller Marco Polo in 1254. And although the Polo family house in Venice has disappeared and is now the site of the theatre, the house on Korčula remains intact, as does the memory of this visionary and courageous explorer.
We highly recommend heading out of Korčula to visit another of the island’s highlights, Konoba Mate restaurant, situated just 11km outside this fascinating town. Awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand and a Michelin Green Star, this restaurant serves delicious and authentic local cuisine in dishes that have been lovingly prepared by an entire family for over two decades.

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.

Konoba Mate - Team
Konoba Mate - Team

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 on 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 an 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 Rožata, 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 two home-produced goat’s cheeses – a fresh cheese flavoured with pepper, and a second mature cheese in olive oil – as well as a selection of cow’s cheeses (including one that has been matured in a sheep’s stomach and is particularly full of flavour), served with green tomato chutney, grilled aubergines in garlic, a few slices of lightly smoked ham, pâté, quince jelly, capers and olives.

“Given that we are a restaurant open mainly during the summer season, it’s amazing how many of our partners, such as chefs, waiters and other front-of-house staff, return to work with us year after year”, says Ana Farac. “This makes us happy because it means that we have succeeded in creating a real sense of family here. Every award that we receive (especially the Bib Gourmand and Michelin Green Star) is also thanks to them. We are passionate about what we do: we think that if you don’t love your work, then you’re not going anywhere! Experience has taught us that results come if you are open to learning and taking a few risks. We strongly believe in courage, which has guided us ever since we first opened”.
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.”

And waste? It comes as no surprise to learn that waste is banned at Konoba Mate. “We never waste any of the ingredients that we harvest or produce. We also make the most of every part of our ingredients, including those that are often overlooked. Whatever we don’t need immediately in the kitchen, we will preserve to ensure that it can be used over the following months. 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”.


One of the reasons for the success of Konoba Mate is the fact that this is a family business: “We all care about each other, we spend a lot of time together and we believe that this is the key to our professional success. This shouldn’t be taken for granted – we are not just a business or a commercial enterprise, but people who are united through thick and thin. This deep connection makes us special”.

Ana can’t help but turn her final thoughts to Croatia itself. “We are proud to be Croatian and we all have a deep sense of belonging”, she concludes. “Croatia is a wonderful country, rich in natural beauty and traditions. We are constantly aware of the country’s past and we preserve it and live it in order to pass it on to future generations. We feel that this is our responsibility. When our guests tell us that the dishes that they enjoy at our restaurant take them back to their childhood and their grandmothers’ cooking, our hearts fill with joy and warmth: we feel that our mission is complete. This is our mantra: ‘Think of a dish inspired by tradition, keep it simple, fill it with love and serve it with a smile in order to bring back happy memories and keep them alive’.”

It is safe to say that what was once a small tavern with just a few tables has now been transformed into one of the most popular places to eat not only on the island but also across Croatia. We highly recommend a visit to this delightful restaurant where delicious food, a sense of family, Croatian traditions and sustainability all combine to create a unique and charming setting.

Grilled lamb
Grilled lamb
Hero image: Josip Regovic - Konoba Mate

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