During this period, decorations of red hearts and magical figures brighten the Baroque bell towers, a neo gothic cathedral, accompanying travellers as they visit the city’s museums, squares and parks before stopping for a well-earned gourmet break. In addition to the festive atmosphere that enhances a romantic stroll between sloping snow-topped roofs and evocative medieval buildings in the Gornji Gard district (The Upper Town), Zagreb boasts fifteen restaurants which feature in the Red Guide, including two renowned Bib Gourmand addresses and the even more famous Noel – the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the capital.
The Noel boasts a central location just a few minutes’ walk from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. According to MICHELIN inspectors, this is “a restaurant on the crest of a wave, with internationally inspired decor acting as a backdrop for superb dishes created by Goran Kocis, a prominent figure in the Illyrian gastronomic scene, who – while retaining his position as owner of the Noel – has recently handed over the reins in the kitchen to Bruno Vokal”.
This talented young chef with experience in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Dubrovnik has now been promoted to executive chef. His mission to create modern, imaginative and carefully considered cuisine showcasing top-quality local ingredients is demonstrated by two tasting menus (four or seven courses) which feature dishes such as Strukli with Istrian truffles; white fish with beans, yuzu and clarified butter; pork with cloves and cabbage; and original desserts such as chocolate with porcini mushrooms and hazelnuts. Each dish or menu suggested by the Noel is enhanced by an astute selection of wines which is unsurpassed in Croatia.
In the Lower Town, a pantheon of Croatian culture home to historical landmarks such as the Priest’s Tower, Illyrian Square and the neo-Classical buildings on Opaticka St, the not-to-be-missed culinary highlight is the Bistrot Pod Zidom . Awarded a Plate symbol in the MICHELIN Guide, this restaurant behind the main square has gained a reputation for good seasonal cuisine made from produce purchased daily from the nearby Dolac Market. Its fresh, colourful cuisine makes skilful use of the region’s many specialities, showcasing the work of local growers and producers in authentic dishes which change daily depending on market availability, much to the delight of the restaurant’s guests.
Croatia’s varied cuisine, which incorporates maritime and continental influences including traditional Adriatic and Middle-European recipes such as brudet, crni rizot, arambasici, scampi buzara, kotlovina, fis paprikas and Dalmatian pasticada also takes pride of place at the Bib Gourmand Tac, where the menu is announced to guests at their table. MICHELIN inspectors describe the cuisine at this restaurant, situated off the beaten track in a quiet residential area, as “Mediterranean in style, reflecting the Istrian origins of its owners”.
Another of Zagreb’s restaurants to be awarded the Bibendum symbol (in recognition of its good value for money) is the welcoming Agava, set into the side of a hill “from where you can admire a view of the lively pedestrian Tkalciceva Street while enjoying internationally inspired dishes, Italian home cooking and Croatian specialities”. After dinner, fans of street art can take a stroll to admire the nearby sea turtle, an amusing and unique optical illusion painted on the floor of a large terrace which also offers an unforgettable view of the Cathedral of the Assumption and its ornate Baroque bell tower inlaid with five kilos of gold.
Our tour of the best culinary addresses in the capital continues with Takenoko, a restaurant specialising in Japanese fusion cuisine. Situated just a stone’s throw from the National Theatre and the University, this restaurant with its gold and black interior decor serves an array of copious dishes prepared in various ways (wok, teriyaki, tempura, sushi and sashimi) and accompanied by a choice of cocktails.
Meanwhile, another example of Zagreb’s lively and eclectic culinary scene is ManO, a trendy MICHELIN Guide Plate restaurant with brick walls, polished parquet floors and industrial design features which provide the backdrop for the new, creative cuisine of Matija Bogdan. Having returned to Zagreb following years working in Michelin-starred restaurants across Europe, including in Antwerp and Paris, this chef is aiming to raise the profile of this renowned destination restaurant by serving his loyal guests inviting and original combinations such as smoked duck breast with Pag cheese panna cotta, red turnips and caramelised walnuts; beef ribs with celery, fermented kohlrabi, endives and pears; and saddle of venison accompanied by radish, shallots and a juniper emulsion.
Presented by Zagreb
Photos Hero Image: Advent in Zagreb 2/Turistička zajednica grada Zagreba ; Photo 1: Noel/Noel Zagreb; Photo 2: Pod Zidom/ Pod Zidom Zagreb; Photo 3: Takenoko/Takenoko Zagreb.