Midway between Split and Dubrovnik, Korčula island peels away from the Dalmatian coast alongside the Pelješac Peninsula. The ancient Greeks called it Black Korčula, probably after the dense pine and cypress forests that once cloaked its soft hills. Today, vineyards and olive groves have replaced some of those forests, and Korčula is now one of Croatia‘s most popular holiday destinations. Coaxed by pretty towns and idyllic coves and bays, summer visitors dine on fresh Dalmatian cuisine and sample wine from local producers.
The jewel in the crown of Korčula‘s foodie scene, LD’s Michelin-star menu is curated by chef Marko Gajski (who’s also had stints in several top London restaurants). Guided by seasonal availability “above and below sea level,” this is assured fine dining amplified by its spot in the 17th-century Lesic Dimitri Palace. Visiting yachties can make use of the special takeaway service, ideally eating al fresco on the pretty terrace perched atop Korčula Old Town’s medieval walls.
Tucked away in the appealing little lanes of Korčula’s Old Town, Adio Mare has been going strong since the 1970s. The premises were originally part of a small boatyard, a heritage reflected in tools of the trade displayed in its interior; beyond stands a terrace overlooked by honey-hued townhouses and churches. This popular joint serves unpretentious Italian-influenced Dalmatian cuisine with an emphasis on seafood. The pasta is homemade, carnivores aren’t completely ignored, and much of the wine list features bottles either from the island or neighbouring Pelješac.
Up in the hills, nearly 10km (6mi) southwest of Korčula town, Maha styles itself as a “ranch” or homestead – almost where well-groomed cowboys might park their steeds and settle down for an almighty al fresco meat fest. There is fish and cheese, pasta and truffles, which can be washed down with a limited range of wine and beer. But diners really come for the meat: grilled veal and steaks, lamb and goat along with an advance-order peka, a Dalmatian speciality of slow-cooked meat and vegetables baked under a bell-shaped lid not unlike a Moroccan tagine.
With idyllic views from its sea-facing pine-shaded terrace, Filippi is another popular Korčula Old Town restaurant. Typical Dalmatian fare with, like many others here, a flair for seafood is the order of the day. Most ingredients are locally sourced, and the cooking tends to be solid and safe rather than bold or adventurous. The wine list features mostly local wines including some from Peljašac and nearby Hvar Island.
West of Korčula town and just off the main road that wriggles across the island, workaday Pupnat village might seem of little interest. Yet its family-run restaurant, Konoba Mate, has a rustic simplicity that mirrors its ethos of home-made food. This is honest local fare, from a “labourer’s plate” (essentially a Dalmatian ploughman’s lunch) to slow-cooked goat peka, braised veal cheeks and pašticada, a kind of beef stew usually reserved for festive occasions.
A few kilometres south of Korčula town, Maslina’s unassuming exterior and view-free terrace belies its hearty no-nonsense cooking and a reputation seemingly at odds with its appearance. Expect all the usual Dalmatian staples, including home-made pasta along with plenty of seafood and grilled meats. It also has a reputation for pogačice, small and moreish puff-pastry rolls – ideal snacking over a beer or coffee.
Huddled against an old church in the pretty coastal village of Račišće near Korčula town, Vala’s taverna-like charm is bolstered by a cosy terrace with views of the enclosed bay and beyond to the Adriatic. Straightforward cooking is on offer here with the usual grills and salads; you’re almost pushing the boat out with, say, scampi buzaru (a kind of stew) or black cuttlefish risotto. It’s very much a locals’ joint since the village barely registers on the tourist circuit.
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