A Taste Of Kvarner
Bearing in mind its mild climate, location and the nature of its landscape it is hardly surprising that Kvarner produces such an amazingly wide range of delicious foods.
From the warm waters of the Adriatic comes a wealth of seafood, some of which we had observed in the fish market at Rijeka; from the coastal areas come olives, vines, cherries, figs, almonds, asparagus, chestnuts, herbs and other fruit and vegetables whilst the more mountainous districts provide game, mushrooms, ham and the meat from the wild sheep.
One restaurant on the waterfront of Opetja was disappointing, but that apart we ate and drank exceedingly well that week, very well. Look out for the sign ‘Konoba’ denoting a tavern/restaurant.
Not far from Rijeka fish market and beside the Dead Canal on the corner of Wenzelova Ulića we found the Buffet Na Kantuna. It is a tiny restaurant with a larger seating deck close to the canal. This is certainly one of the places to visit to sample the freshest of fish. It might be an idea to choose from a variety of Marendice – small plates and share. It was a delicious meal, not at all pretentious, just good, simple cooking producing wonderfully tasty, dishes along with a good selection of wine and 13 different types of schnapps. Buffet Na Kantuna, Demetrova 2, Rijeka.
Another day we left the coast and drove up 365m to Kastav, an enchanting, well-preserved small hilltop town with city walls, ramparts and narrow streets plus a castle, the little church of Saint Jelana Križarica and fabulous views of Kvarner Bay. It’s renowned for its many cultural festivals and carnivals. In need of lunch and attracted by tables on the terrace we stopped for lunch at Kukuriku a restaurant and hotel. It proved to be a real find.
Owner Nenad Kukurin favours the slow-food philosophy of cooking creating exceptional dishes from local sourced ingredients each one a work of art on a plate. A mushroom dish was out of this world, as was the glass of crisp white wine that accompanied it. We also had a look in the hotel – the bedrooms as elegant as the food on the plates. www.kukuriku.hr
High on the hill in the Ucka Nature Park inland from Lovran, the pretty little resort where I was staying, we stopped off one day at the Draga di Lovrana to admire the views. The views from the terrace seduced us into stopping for a glass of wine and a meal.
The owner owns several fishing boats, and whilst meat does figure on the menu, fish is the speciality of the house. And so it was that for the first time in my life I settled down to a bowl of monkfish tripe with tomatoes – it was quite delicious, as were the dessert of baked plums in potato dumplings with sugared and buttered breadcrumbs served with sweetened sour cream.
The building had fallen victim to a terrible fire and was for the best part of 80 years a ruin, but in 2005 it reopened with its terrific restaurant and terrace plus four rooms and one two bed apartment; a perfect away-from-it all location. www.dragadilovrana.hr
Up till now we had been eating rather more traditional-style meals but we had had heard of a restaurant not far away that favoured the modern, experimental-style of cooking with flavours, combinations and textures not quite what you expect them to be. So one day we ventured along the coast to the pretty little fishing village at the far end of the Lungo Mare at Volosko and Le Mandrać restaurant for a late light lunch. Even the décor of the airy restaurant has a modern feel to it; I liked the cream walls and the tables dressed with blue water goblets and lilac colour napkins.
I confess to having felt slightly dubious about one of the dishes – a take on bacon and egg. But I have to say it was really tasty and as for the trio of chocolate puddings that followed – truly delicious. Chef/patron Dennis Zembo no doubt having been told that English was being spoken came to say hello. He had lived in England and had studied at one of the UK catering schools, subsequently working in London for a number of years. www.lemandrac.com
Island Food Producers
The day we visited Krk island and explored Krk town we also called in at several of the local food producers.
Cheese and Anchovies
Krk is noted for the quality of its cheese. We stopped off at the little village of Milohni
i and the Konoba Pod Murvu to taste and learn more. A platter of cheese, ham, bread and olives made an excellent snack. And whilst we were there we couldn’t resist a glass of the local homemade grappa made from walnuts, wild cherries or sage.
Pod Murvu is only able to produce some 200 of its award winning cheeses each year, as production can only begin after lambs have been weaned. It takes some seven litres of sheep milk to make one kilo cheese. After adding a starter culture the milk is left for an hour or so before being mixed by hand, heated and poured into a mould, where it is turned and the whey strained off. Some 24 hours later when the cheese has formed it is soaked in a brine solution for several hours before drying before the process of oiling and turning the cheese begins. This process can take several months at the end of which it is ready for the table. Pod Murvu, Milovcici 20, Malinska.
We also called in to sample the anchovies at the Seafood Grill, Bar and Fish Market. Each of the fish is hand filleted and packed in salt and pressed for several months to allow the curing process to take place. These were not the dark brown, very salty fish we know from tins. Some were served vinegar and lemon, others salted and others rolled round capers – quite delicious. Krajani d.o.o. Malinska Nenadići bb, Malinska
Ham and Wine
Also delicious was the ham we discovered at Mesnica-Market: delicate slices of Prosciutto ham carved off the bone; other meat perfect for cubing and using as lardons; and some perfect for slicing and serving as anti-pasti. It takes 12 -15 months to produce an air-dried eight kilo ham; only salt from the Mediterranean sea and local herbs are used in the process. Mr Zuzic deserves the awards he has won. Mesnica-Market, Krk, Zagrebačka bb.
Apart from the olive oil, for which Krk is noted this island also produces excellent wine, several glasses of which we tasted at Nada wine cellar in the ancient town of Vrbnik – built on the site of a prehistoric settlement 50m above the sea. Visitors can tour the cellar and watch a film about wine production as well as having a wine tasting – don’t miss sampling the Vrbnička Žlahtina wine, or their brandies, some flavoured with figs or herbs. They can also eat extremely well here too. It’s a lively place to visit especially in summer on one of the jazz nights. Vinarija Nada, Vrbnik.
We had supper that evening in the delightful family run konoba – Pod Prevolt at Milohnići, a small village about a 10 minute drive from Krk town and not far from Glavotok beach. Supper was delicious, beautifully cooked homemade surlice (pasta) and goulash; but it could well have been fresh caught fish along with vegetables from the garden. Konoba pod Prevolt, vl Drago Jurasić, Milohnići.
Back in Lovran we ate at the delightful little Bellavista, tucked away discreetly down a small alley – my favourite dish a simple platter of fried mixed fish; we also had an excellent meal at Restaurant Knezgrad on Trg Slobode 12; and look out for Najade an informal waterfront restaurant right beside the sea, and the wine bar Loza.
You eat well and healthily in Kvarner – wonderfully fresh ingredients simply cooked. And much to my delight after a week of good living in this beautifully region of Croatia I had only gained 1lb in weight.