What to eat and where on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast
Every twist and turn through the Dubrovnik old town seems to lead to a restaurant or wine bar. From historic courtyards set with colourful sunshades, to candle-lit tables clustered under stone archways. And that’s before casting your net wider to take in the marina and peaceful spots beyond the ancient gates. This is a city that takes enormous pride in its local cuisine. Here’s our guide to what to look out for.
From the very first meal of the day, you begin to see the Mediterranean influence on the culture of southern Croatia. Just as in Italy, breakfast in Dubrovnik isn’t complete without an espresso.
If you want to head straight out and explore, you won’t be short of bakeries to grab delicious pastries from along the way. Top spots to look out for include Mlinar on Stradun. For a sweet start to the day, it has to be Strukli – a light, flaky strudel filled with local cheese or fruit. Or, for something simple to eat as you wander, try Burek sir, a coiled pastry filled with spinach and sir cheese that’s a little like spanakopita.
If you’re taking things at a slower pace, seek out a sun-soaked terrace for a leisurely marenda. Not quite breakfast, not quite lunch, pick from platters of local meats and cheeses as the city whirrs up to speed around you.
You’ve explored the cathedral. Circled the city walls. Scaled Mount Srd for Instagram-worthy views along the coast. You’re probably feeling more than ready to sit down and savour some Croatian specialities.
Like cuisine just across the Adriatic, the main ingredients here include plenty of fish and seafood, extra-virgin olive oil, locally grown fruit and vegetables and fresh herbs. It’s a recipe for simple dishes brimming with flavour. For lunch, keep things light with a Dubrovnik classic: octopus salad (salata od hobotnice). The meat is stewed for two hours to make it deliciously tender, and often served in a light marinade of olive oil, tomato, parsley and red-wine vinegar. Look for tiny LAJK restaurant in the old centre, or head just outside to Restoran Porat. You could also sample fresh Adriatic oysters, served raw or tempura-style, or delicate tuna sashimi.
After an afternoon discovering more Dubrovnik treasures, such as tiny Lokrum island with its monastery and botanic gardens, look forward to an evening of Croatian culinary delights.
A multi-course meal might traditionally begin with soup – usually a hearty vegetable broth or a lighter fish consommé. Next, don’t miss the chance to try cuttlefish risotto or spaghetti, which might also include seafood such as squid. The inky black colour isn’t just striking to look at, but gives the dishes a creamy texture. Prora restaurant at Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik, with its tables set under stone archways beside the sea, is perfect for romantic meals on warm summer evenings.
Dinner with drinks: Dubrovnik restaurants don’t need to look far beyond the city to fill up their wine lists. Choose white wine from Korcula island, or Plavac mali red – delicious with cuttlefish risotto.
If you’re visiting during the colder months, you’ve got the perfect excuse to try peka – a traditional cooking method where lamb or fish and potatoes are cooked under an iron lid stood on glowing embers. You’ll need to plan ahead though, as restaurants usually need a few hours’ notice to prepare dishes this way. One of the best spots to try lamb ‘under the bell’ is Konoba Konavle in Konavle, a short drive from Dubrovnik. A word of warning – peka is usually quite a feast, best enjoyed with a group of friends.
Something deliciously different
Leave the old town through the east gate and stroll five minutes along the road to Villa Orsula Dubrovnik. This former aristocrat’s home is one the best luxury hotels Dubrovnik has to offer – with a restaurant well worth leaving the city walls for.
Victoria, with its romantic terrace overlooking the harbour, is proud to be the first fine dining Peruvian restaurant on the Adriatic coast. Local ingredients and Peruvian recipes are a natural fit, with fusion dishes including zesty ceviche using fresh Adriatic tuna.