If you’re planning a holiday to Croatia this summer here’s our essential guide for what to eat and drink on the beautiful Dalmatian Coast.
What to Expect
In my brief experience of Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, island hopping from Dubrovnik to the blissful island of Korčula, lesser known Mljet and the town of Split in 2014 and returning the explore Supetar and Bol on the island of Brač, and Trogir’s old town (on an idylic ‘island’ connected to the mainland by a bridge) in 2016, the awe-inspiring clear blue sea and culinary gifts of the country’s coastline has left a lasting impression.
Due to the Croatia’s turbulent history the food has gained an eclectic mix of influences, from countries like Italy, Hungary and Turkey. Think the best that Italy has to offer, and add traditional meat dishes and fresh seafood in abundance, and you have Croatia in a nutshell.
What to Eat
If you’re on the coast, head to the best looking harbourside restaurant and order the Seafood Platter – you won’t be disappointed. We picked a restaurant in the bay of Supetar that was bustling all day long, our platter for two (pictured above) came with mussels, sardines (and not the type out of the tin), scampi, white fish, blue fish, tuna steak, shark, squid (not for the fainthearted, tentacles and all) and a selection of grilled vegetables doused in garlic.
If you’re looking for something a little tamer, seafood can be found served in delicious pasta dishes. The best pasta we experienced was in Trogir, in a restaurant called Kamerlengo – situated in a cosy courtyard complete with its own outdoor grill for the fish and seafood (many Croatian restaurants come with one). Our green tagliatelle came in a subtle tomato and garlic sauce, and plenty of mussels, clams, squid and scampi.
Tip: When you order scampi in Croatia think less fish ‘n’ chip shop battered affair and more langoustine, complete with shell. More fun this way.
If you’re after a hearty, traditional dish then look for Pašticada, a beef stew with red wine sauce, prunes and often bacon – a dish that originates on the Dalmatian Coast. Ours was served with gnocchi but you can eat it with pasta. Then there’s Ćevapi, much like kofte this is a minced beef skinless sausage also popular in Bosnia and Serbia. If in Split, check out a restaurant called Fife, on the seafront. Other traditional meals include salted fish, or Bakalar, caught in Norway, dried, and shipped over to Croatia, and stuffed peppers with mince meat and rice.
Tip: Share a range of traditional dishes – unless you’re fluent in Croatian meals often have unrecognisable names so it can be somewhat of a gamble to pick just one, plus you get to try more this way!
Every island, town and city we visited in Croatia was dotted with Italian pizzerias, but don’t think because you’re in Croatia you should try something different, you’d be missing a treat. The pizza in Croatia comes on beautiful, soft dough and with fresh ingredients like artichoke, salami and prosciutto. These are pizzas with a punch.
Tip: We loved the local Dalmatinski pršut prosciutto, easily found in local supermarkets and perfect for pre-dinner snacks on the balcony.
If you’ve still got room for dessert you can find Pancakes with dark chocolate served with cream or ice cream, and look out for cake shops in Trogir, selling artistic creations from dense chocolate orange cake to a fresh lemon cheesecake.
Tip: Don’t leave without trying the ice cream, if only to appreciate the effort they put into the display.
What to Drink
A beach-friendly beer has to be Ožujsko – the lemon ‘Radler’ version is a refreshing alternative and only 2% alcohol so great for long days in the sun.
As wine-lovers we headed to the supermarket to stock up on a few local bottles and, well… panic ensued. Croatian is a hard language, with few vowels to speak of, and basic French, Spanish or Italian won’t help much here. Without a sauvignon, merlot or shiraz in sight we used our (very) small knowledge of local wine and even more guess work, and made some good (and not so good) choices. Never spend under 30 Kuna (roughly £3) in a shop, that’s all I’m saying. If it’s white you’re after, try Pošip, our failsafe Dalmatian vino primarily grown on the island of Korčula, or a Graševina. If you’re on or near Brač then try Plavac Mali, a red that’s a great accompaniment to Pašticada.
Tip: Google some basic wine varieties and their region before you go, so even if you don’t understand a word on the bottles at least you can decipher what’s local and give it a shot.
Make sure you taste (and leave room in your suitcase for) the olive oil that’s grown in the nearby hills, sometimes flavoured with herbs like rosemary or garlic and chilli. Not to mention the olive wood bowls, platters and decorative kitchen items found in gift shops. I could’t resist an adorable Parmesan cheese grater complete with olive wood box. And the olive oil can be found in local handmade soap too, take one home so that you’ll be reminded of Croatia long after you’re returned.
How to get there…
You’ll find most budget airlines fly to Split from London airports (we used EasyJet from Stansted to Split and Wizz Air from Split to Luton for the best deals). Once you’ve reached Split Airport you can take the local bus 37 to Split and stay in the city, or venture further by heading to the port and taking the ferry – it takes 40 minutes to reach Supetar on the island of Brač. You can take a boat trip from Split to Trogir but the best (and cheapest) method is the 30-minute coach journey from Split port, taking you straight to the city.