Dubrovnik, dubbed the Pearl of the Adriatic, is not just famous for its Game of Thrones landmarks, but also for its culinary ones. If you’re looking for the best restaurants in Dubrovnik, Marija Turkalj Matičević of Dubrovnik Food Story has the answers.
Marija Turkalj Matičević and her sister, Ana, run Dubrovnik Food Story, a company that hosts gourmet food tours. Not only does Matičević have a passion for food and cooking – something she attributes to her mother and grandmother – but she also knows where to find the best meals in the city. From low-budget eats to fine dining, whether you’re craving traditional Croatian food like kopun (rooster), or are in the mood for fresh seafood in an exclusive environment, Matičević knows just the place. Here, she shares her thoughts on the best restaurants in Dubrovnik.
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Pantarul, a few kilometres from Dubrovnik’s Old Town, is a family-owned restaurant that was opened by Ana-Marija Bujić, a food blogger and the author of two cookbooks – which are also for sale on the premises. The food is based on local ingredients with a farm-to-table concept, so the menu changes seasonally. Along with trying their homemade bread or pasta – or their five-course fish or meat tasting menu – you can sample a glass of Croatian wine. “My favourite dish is slowly braised ox cheeks,” Matičević says.
Although this restaurant, Taj Mahal, has an Indian name, it’s actually a Bosnian restaurant, Matičević points out. “Local people like Bosnian specialties, which are – of course – influenced by the cuisine of the former Ottoman Empire,” she says. Along with meat specialities, there are also plenty of vegetarian options. If you’re looking for suggestions on what to order, Matičević has several recommendations, including fritters with kaymak (thick cream cheese), burek (roasted rolled meat pie), cheese and spinach pie, and čevapi (traditional grilled sausages of minced meat) in somun (flatbread) with kaymak and raw onion. Taj Mahal has two locations, one in the Old Town and one in Hotel Lero outside the city walls. “And last, but not less important, is the warm hospitality,” Matičević reflects. “They will also offer you their traditional after-dinner drink – quince liqueur – and you shouldn’t say no.”
If you’re looking for a traditional, yet unique, Croatian restaurant in the Old Town, try Kopun. Matičević says that although the family-owned eatery is in Bošković Square, it’s far enough from the main street to feel comfortable even in high tourist season during the summer months. “They make an effort to present authentic Dubrovnik cuisine that’s inspired by ancient recipes from old Dubrovnik cookbooks,” she says. In Croatian, kopun means castrated rooster, which was one of the most known dishes in the Renaissance period of the famous Dubrovnik Republic. “Plus, the food is good value for the money when compared to some other very expensive restaurants in the Old City,” Matičević says. “You have the chance to try something different and unique.” Other than the signature kopun, she recommendas šporki makaruli – also known as ‘dirty macaroni’, which is homemade pasta served in a beef sauce flavoured with cinnamon, red wine and bay leaves.
If you want to sample some local food, Matičević recommends Moskar on the restaurant-laden Prijeko Street. Although it is small, with only a dozen seats inside and a handful outside, that’s what she says makes it so charming. “I like it because of the cosy atmosphere and the menu, which is not too big but includes all the local food that foodies need to try when they come to Dubrovnik,” Matičević says. “I recommend trying pašticada – slowly cooked stewed beef flavoured with smoked bacon, cinnamon, bay leaves and cloves – and mussels prepared buzara style – in a sauce made of tomatoes and white wine.”
If you’re in the market for some fine dining, Proto Fish Restaurant makes for an ideal place to go. “It has a lovely roof terrace on the main street in Old Town and has a long tradition of offering the best quality catch-of-the-day fish,” Matičević says. “Fish soup and the sea bass baked in salt are something you should try.” In addition to top-notch service, she says you’ll also find wine expert Siniša Lasan, who was crowned “Best Croatian Sommelier” in 2019 by the National Sommelier Championship. “These are some of the things – beside food – that make this restaurant so special,” Matičević says.
Out of the Old Town, you’ll find the charming Konoba Dubrava in the village of Bosanka on the top of Srđ Hill. “If it is not too hot in the summer, it’s best to take the cable car first, then have a nice walk along the hill to get there,” Matičević says. The restaurant is most famous for peka, or sač, which is meat and potatoes baked under an iron lid, almost like an ancient oven. “They also make their own bread, baked under an iron bell,” she adds, noting that locals usually visit Konoba Dubrava when they are celebrating something. And if you’re feeling musically inclined, you can get to know some of the national music and learn to sing traditional Croatian songs.
Restaurant Konoba Dubrovnik is located in the village of Lozica, about a 15-minute car ride from Dubrovnik, and is open from June to October. “For us, this is a hidden gem,” Matičević says. “Although they only have a few dishes on the menu, the thing that draws you is the family atmosphere.” Pricing-wise, she believes it’s “very reasonable, and much cheaper than many restaurants in the city.” Aside from getting value for money, Matičević notes that the best things about the restaurant include: the fresh meat and ingredients, the big portions of food and the owners who act as though you’re guests at their home. “If you can’t decide what to eat, have the veal liver. Or, if you’re very hungry, try the beefsteak with fried onions on top,” she suggests.
At the top of Srđ. Hill, you’ll find the Panorama Restaurant & Bar, which can be reached by cable car (about 10 minutes) or by hiking (about 45 minutes). No matter how you get there, it’ll be well worth it, Matičević says. “Some restaurants don’t have to compete with anybody, as they have their location – and this is one of those places,” she says, “It has the most amazing view of Dubrovnik and the sunset on the horizon.” Of course, in addition to the view, the high quality of both the food and waitstaff are also the best in the city, she says. “They seem like a small army that’s drilled to please you as best they can during your dinner.” Food-wise, Matičević suggests trying the lamb chops or lamb shank in Dingač wine sauce with mashed potatoes – or just going there for dessert and ordering the apple pie.
If you want to venture out of the city, Matičević suggests Konoba KING, located in Plat, a seaside village about a 20-minute drive away. “It is a family-run restaurant serving simple dishes with local and fresh ingredients,” she says. “It is truly an off-the-beaten-path place, but more and more people are hearing about it, which has made it very popular and busy these days.” Once you arrive, you’ll see the cosiness of the restaurant, as well as its inviting terrace and open fireplace – where the owner, who is also a chef, will prepare fresh grilled fish, steak or shrimp for you. “Local people like it for its simplicity, huge portions and fair prices,” Matičević says.
Another restaurant outside the city walls is Glorijet, only a few kilometres from the Old Town. Since it’s next door to the fish and farmers’ market in Dubrovnik at the main port, Gruž, the restaurant is the first to get the best fish and produce for the day, Matičević says. “It is very popular among locals for brunch – what we call marenda,” she says, “If you go to it regularly, you will always meet and chat with the same people.” A nice perk is Glorijet’s friendly owner, who’s happy to offer you items not on the menu, such as certain types of fish or beef tartare. The brunch menu varies according to the season, and for the price of 50-100 Croatian kunas (£5.50-11) – which includes wine – you will be full, she says. “Stuffed peppers, tripe, sarma [minced meat in sour cabbage leaves] and slowly cooked veal risotto are some of the things you have to try.”
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