Famed both for its lavender fields and status as Croatia’s prime party destination, the island of Hvar is also making waves with its world-class restaurant scene.
As you make your way through Hvar’s charming cobblestone streets, you’ll be struck by the diverse gastronomic offering: from traditional Croatian cuisine such as gregada (fish stew) and pašticada (slow-cooked beef in a rich sauce with prunes), to innovative international fare. Just don’t forget to finish it all off with some homemade rakija, Croatian fruit brandy.
Konoba Luviji is yet another restaurant setting that will make you think you’re in a fairytale, and comes highly recommended by Katarina Matković, who owns local handmade souvenir shop Forko. Much of the appeal comes from how old-school it is: whether you sit inside or out, the old stone walls ooze with charm. There are also no menus. Instead, choose from two appetisers and five main courses, which include items like fish or meat carpaccio and octopus goulash. Plus, the food is sourced locally, and the wine and goat’s cheese are homemade, too. “I love everything, but the goat cheese is a must-try,” says Katarina.
Up another picturesque staircase in town, you’ll find Black Pepper, which describes itself as “local creative food” on its menu. There, you’ll find items ranging gtom tuna covered in sesame seeds and a chickpea cream to steak in truffle sauce. But Antonjeta Rosso Domančić, a local resident who rents out apartments in Hvar and who says Black Pepper is one of her favourite restaurants in town, recommends granny’s octopus stew, a 100-year-old recipe. To make your culinary experience complete, she suggests following that up with Black Pepper’s homemade ice cream with almonds and dried figs.
If you’re looking for a relaxed and romantic ambience in the centre of Hvar port, you’ll find it at Mediterraneo Restaurant, which has been around since 1953. You’ll also find plenty of local, authentic and locally sourced food options, explains Nathalie Schnell, their PR manager. “Every day, you’ll find fresh grilled fish, such as dorado (mahi-mahi) and sea bass, in addition to octopus salad and fresh salmon carpaccio,” she says. For non-fish fans, choose steak or hand-made gnocchi, one of Nathalie’s favourites. On hotter days, you may want a lighter meal, like a Greek or caprese salad with a glass of local white wine, Zlatan Posip, or red wine, Plavac, she suggests. Of course, don’t skip dessert: Nathalie recommends the homemade chocolate cake or chocolate sphera with ice cream on top. As for who’s behind the culinary scenes, the main chef is a woman named Marija Mravak, who has been with the restaurant for around 10 years.
On the other side of the island, in Jelsa – which is less touristy than Hvar Town – you’ll find Me & Mrs Jones, a restaurant specialising in local and Mediterranean cuisine. And, yes, it was apparently named after the song, but was previously known as Konoba Napoleon. The presentation of the dishes is so beautiful, it’s worth the visit in and of itself. From tuna or beef steak to caprese salad and mussels in white wine sauce, there’s something to suit everyone’s palette. Plus, dining with a view of the harbour and Adriatic Sea is yet another bonus of eating at Me & Mrs Jones.
U Smokve is another restaurant in Jelsa to try when you’re exploring the island’s northern shore. While looking out at the water, start out with some grilled sardines on sticks, followed by an order of courgette tagliatelle or falafel salad. Or try one of the picture-perfect pizzas, like the pizza u smokve, loaded with fresh ingredients from Hvar: everything from dried tomatoes and rocket to courgettes and goat’s cheese. You can wash it all down with a glass of Bogdanjuša white wine or refreshing mineral water infused with rosemary, cucumber and lemons. For dessert, try a slice of Instagrammable purple cake (hint: it’s made from blueberries) and some walnut rakija.
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle, take a short hike and find your way to Robinson Restaurant, secluded and situated between Hvar and Milna. Not only will you find authentic Croatian dishes, but also a quaint beach while you eat under a centuries-old olive tree. “Our traditional dish is hvarska gregada – called Crusoe’s Pot on the menu – which is a kind of fish stew with potatoes and onions prepared in a traditional way,” says Lea Ive, the wife of the restaurant’s owner. To go with your meal, you can try the homemade red or white wine. As for when the best time is to visit? “Robinson Restaurant has the most beautiful sunset, especially if you want to have a late lunch,” says Lea.
You’ll find another idyllic setting at Pachamama, where visitors can dine on the shady terrace and look out at the Adriatic Sea, then go for a swim afterwards. Food-wise, Pachamama caters to carnivores, vegetarians and vegans alike, and the menu changes daily depending on the fresh fish, meat and vegetables of the day. There’s also tuna pâté, as well as fresh olive oil that they make themselves from their 120 olive trees.“We make Croatian dishes, like buzara and gregada – types of fish stews with big pieces of fish inside, typically from the island,” says Manuela Delise, on of the chefs. “We love what we do,” she says. “People like to come to Pachamama because the energy of the place is very easygoing and gives you a peaceful feeling, like being at home. It’s something I can’t explain – you just need to come feel it for yourself.”