Lapped by the Adriatic, Split only has a few sea-facing restaurants on its main Riva promenade or along the embankment running to its main port. Cafés, yes, snack bars, certainly, but for a full sit-down meal, most of the better choices are to be found by the marinas and smaller harbours either side of the city centre.
Long before Split’s seafront Riva was lined with contemporary cafés, the Adriana was an affordable pizzeria attached to an old-school hotel immediately behind. Times change: guest rooms now have air-con and decent TVs and the menu downstairs has expanded to feature significantly more seafood, meat and pasta dishes. The view, of course, is the same, Split’s palm-lined promenade and the Adriatic Sea a few metres beyond.
While crowds flock to the Riva promenade in the city centre and Bačvice beach nearby, Split’s ACI Marina is largely ignored. However, locals and the sailing fraternity familiar with the Dalmatian coast frequent superior restaurants such as the Adriatic Grašo. Certainly, they won’t find monkfish tails with grated black truffle, or brodetto with red scorpionfish anywhere else in Split. There’s no need to sell the sublime sea view to the regulars here, though first-time visitors have every right to gawp.
At a prime spot on Split’s main seafront promenade, Brasserie on 7 serves top-quality Dalmatian/European cuisine, always providing that little bit extra to suit the sublime setting. The steak is pistachio-crusted, the seabass fillet comes with a cauliflower soubise sauce and flaked almonds, and that’s shaved black truffles with the Korčula macaroni pasta. Not forgetting the brasserie element, Gallic touches include a charcuterie platter as a cold starter and the cakes and desserts are some of the best in town.
With its terrace gazing over the marina, the Re di Mare would once win plaudits for its location alone. Croatians, who make up most of the clientele, don’t come here for the view however, they come here for the seafood. Monkfish is done in several ways, one with truffle sauce, and the gnocchi are home-made and come with Adriatic shrimp, courgettes and smoked salmon. Catch of the day is also a sound option, as the reliable waiters will advise.
At the foot of Marjan Hill, overlooking a decent-sized harbour with the Poljud Stadium across the bay, the Lučica matches its location with a selection of sought-after dishes prepared ispod peke. This specifically Dalmatian form of cuisine involves slow-roasting a dish, invariably lamb or octopus, under a dome-shaped lid or peka, encased in hot coals. Ordering requires a day’s notice. Here you’ll also find veal and cockerel – and, of course, a view sweeping out across the Adriatic.
With its extensive terrace stretching up to the pristine boats bobbing gently in the marina, the Velum has that luxury feel about it, even though its prices are pretty reasonable. It would be easy enough to provide Dalmatian favourites and let the sea view do the rest, but here veal risotto, steak stuffed with gorgonzola and olives, and tagliatelle with smoked ham and sage merit further investigation.
There’s no mystery to the Stari Mornar. Tucked away on the Adriatic side of the Poljud Stadium, ‘The Old Sailor’ serves an almost exclusively Croatian clientele with the dishes they revere and rarely find these days on tourist-oriented menus elsewhere. Monkfish with prosciutto, breaded octopus and slow-marinated lamb all feature. Large family groups congregate at long tables that run right up to the water’s edge, enjoying the food, company and boisterous conversation, a scene you’re unlikely to see in the city centre.
Right on the ACI Marina, Zrno Soli (‘Grain of Salt’) is a relatively new arrival to Split’s dining scene. Fish dominates the menu, fresh, grilled to perfection, tastefully presented and professionally served. Diners here are happy to pay that little bit extra, justifiably expecting, and receiving, value for their money. Quality wines from Korčula provide the liquid accompaniment.