The Best Fine-Dining Experiences in Zagreb, Croatia
Noel’s hallmark is innovation | Courtesy of Noel
Croatia’s capital may be known for its vibrant café culture, but the city’s dynamic fine-dining scene is rapidly making people look up from their coffee. Discover the best Michelin-star and gourmet restaurants in Zagreb.
ManO2 lies in Zagreb’s humdrum business district Courtesy of Man02
From centuries-old places to modern Michelin-star sushi spots, the best high-end restaurants in Zagreb are not to be missed. Once you’ve spent your day wandering the cobblestone streets and exploring the beautiful Baroque architecture of the Croatian capital, swap your walking shoes for cocktail attire and head to one of these innovative dining establishments.
Restaurant, Croatian, $$$
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Courtesy of Noel
Michelin-star Noel is all about innovation; here, a smaller list of mains leaves room for culinary experimentation. “We are trying to produce local flavours with modern European techniques, to get the identical tastes you would get with traditional preparation,” says chef Goran Kočiš. Portions are small but artistically plated. The sea urchin risotto with grapefruit is a must-try, as are the artisanal cocktails deftly made by award-winning mixologist Karlo Ferenčak, who uses local ingredients, sometimes prepared over months, to create unforgettable flavour combinations. The decor is moody but chic with a contemporary urban feel.
Styled like a design house showroom – sleek, modern, yet comfortable – Takenoko’s interior perfectly matches the precision and elegance of its food. With 17 years of service under its belt, this city-centre dining establishment was the first sushi restaurant in Zagreb. And while you may end up splashing out a considerable amount of Croatian kuna, you can’t put a price on that level of experience. The menu blends Japanese traditions with Mediterranean techniques and flavours, which sees appetisers range from gyoza and unagi aburi to plates of delicate Greek kataifi pasta. Alongside its huge selection of sushi rolls, Takenoko offers a host of creative mains, from wok-fried monkfish to wagyu and kobe beef steak skewers.
Located just behind Zagreb’s main square, with terrace views over the cathedral, Pod Zidom Bistro (meaning ‘Behind the Wall’) sits pretty in the heart of the city. Formerly a modest wine bar, this Michelin-recommended restaurant was brought to life by chef Jurica Jantolek, who wanted to push the boundaries of traditional cooking while still utilising local ingredients, which are often sourced from nearby Dolac Market. “Pod Zidom is the epitome of what good food means to Croatians,” says Andrea Pisac, anthropologist and author of Croatian Desserts (2019) and creator of the blog Croatia Honestly. “Not only local and seasonal – the food needs to be sourced from a producer you know,” she adds. The interior is bright with clean lines and features an entire wall of wine racks dedicated to locally sourced, boutique varietals.
Fidel Gastro has it all: a bold fusion-inspired menu, sleek industrial interior and notes of smooth jazz playing in the background. Give yourself some extra time to peruse and appreciate the eclectic menu – self-titled a “food revolution”. Here, you’ll find everything from zingy sea bass tacos and wok-fried beef steak to marinated duck breast and its signature carbonara (simple, but exquisite). Save room for dessert – the pumpkin tart is delicious. Though situated away from the touristic areas, don’t let the location fool you – a meal in this steampunk-meets-rustic restaurant is well worth the journey.
Michelin-recommended and multi-award-winning Bistro Apetit – located just off Jurjevska ulica – is a tranquil oasis in Zagreb’s old quarter. Floor-to-ceiling glass panels create a fluidity between the restaurant and the surrounding gardens, and according to Pisac, “This chic restaurant boasts one of the prettiest terraces in Zagreb.” Featuring a mix of Croatian, French and Italian influences, the menus, curated by chef-owner Marin Rendić, are regularly adapted to reflect the changing tastes of the seasons. When it comes to choosing your food, Pisac suggests that you “trust the chef to please even the most discerning eaters. Go for the tasting menu and open your mind to the bold combinations of chef Marin Rendić.”
ManO2 serves a pop of culinary colour in Zagreb’s humdrum business district. Opened in 2012, the restaurant offers exceptional service, but the neutral tones, wooden floors, semi-open kitchen and beautifully designed, curved wooden ceiling that hugs the dining area create a cosy, homely vibe. The food, too, sits at a similar crossroads, with chef Hrvoje Kroflin utilising modern techniques to bring forgotten traditional Croatian dishes back to the table. A firm advocate for working with smaller domestic producers, Kroflin combines locally sourced ingredients with bold, culinary concepts to elevate his dishes.
“We can’t mention Zinfandel’s without first mentioning the Esplanade, where it is located,” say Frank and Vera, who blog at Frank About Croatia. “Built in 1925, the hotel is a synonym for style, glamour, tradition and luxury.” The restaurant, too, embodies this old-world glamour with Art Deco chandeliers, a live pianist, a stylish champagne bar and the Oleander Terrace offering stunning views across the city. “With chef Ana Grgić in charge, Zinfandel’s is the best the Esplanade has to offer,” they say about the food. “Her dishes are creative, rich and charming, while the plating is second to none.” The menus change seasonally, but any time of year, the Sunday brunch buffet is a standout affair.
Nestled between Upper Town and the Tuškanac woods, Michelin-recommended Dubravkin Put “provides an upscale dining experience that’s both sophisticated and authentic,” say bloggers Mindi and Daryl from 2 Food Trippers. The interior combines dark tones with stark-white feature walls and elegant lighting, while the leafy terrace provides breathtaking forest views. Its Mediterranean-style cuisine feels both cutting-edge and traditional. As chef Vedran Petranović explains, “It is not necessary to exaggerate modernisation, but rather to offer high-quality olive oil, good meat and fish.” Dubravkin Put is the place to visit for seafood, with star dishes including the monkfish in a black-olive paste and the buzara seafood stew. Mindi and Daryl insist that “the signature black risotto, loaded with cuttlefish, is not to be missed.”
According to Frank and Vera, “Tradition, old-style recipes, fresh seasonal ingredients, generous portions and an extensive wine list make Okrugljak a favourite spot with locals.” With over 100 years of service, Okrugljak is among the oldest and most authentic traditional restaurants in Zagreb, with two wood-beamed dining halls that make you feel as though you’re eating with your extended family. Expect succulent dishes of Dalmatian prosciutto, beef-fillet carpaccio and fresh barbecued lamb, spit-roasted on the premises. Owner Božo Crnjac attributes the success of this Sljeme-based restaurant to the people who work here. “They maintain the values of Okrugljak; they are its backbone and its soul. Some of them, including me, have devoted their entire professional lives to this restaurant,” he says.