As one of the oldest city settlements in the Balkans, visitors to Podgorica, Montenegro, can expect their trip to reflect a rich cultural and culinary history, with Russian and Italian influences found all around the dynamic city. It is this diversity and subsequent fusing of cuisines which really sets Podgorica apart as a culinary destination. Here’s a list of 10 of the best restaurants in Podgorica which encapsulate this wonderful capital.
Salvador Dali, Džordža Vašingtona 87 Bulevar Revolucije | Photo Courtesy of Plantaže Vineyard
Perfectly situated in the heart of downtown Podgorica, Dali is a stylish and contemporary restaurant which is bustling almost every night of the week. Oscillating between two distinct ambiences, the restaurant’s interior is an opulent extravaganza of purple velvet chairs, ruby silk curtains and soft leather sofas, whereas the exterior is a modern, minimalist garden, ideal for people watching. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Dali’s cuisine features a diverse mix of influences, from Italian to Oriental. Sizeable potions are served here of salads, pastas, risottos and locally sourced seafood. Specialising in wine, Dali serves an almost interminable list of both local and international vintages, including a number of native Montenegrin wines from the Plantaže vineyard, one of the country’s most reputable wineries. The staff are well-trained on flavors and happy to offer advice on which wines to pair with diners’ meals.
Specializing in authentic Italian fare, Per Sempre is an elegant and unquestionably upmarket venue. With its grand piano, Renaissance style art work, and a wooden interior displaying the restaurant’s collection of fine wines, it has a decidedly vintage feel. Serving all the Italian classics, such as spaghetti carbonara and penne pomodoro as well as well as some home recipes, visitors can choose between a variety of rich and enticing flavours, with the impeccable presentation adding to the venue’s sophistication. With its fashionable terrace stretching out at the back of the property, visitors can enjoy a laid-back drink on mild Montenegro evenings. Per Sempre serves a variety of Italian and local spirits and beers as well as its carefully selected wine list.
Ask a local for a restaurant recommendation in Podgorica and they more than likely will say Pod Volat, a citywide institution famed for its grilled meats and tasty signature goulashes. Pod Volat serves a predominantly meat-focused menu of veal, lamb and goat, all cooked under hot coals for a real smoky, barbecue taste. Modest and unpretentious, the restaurant focuses on providing bona fide Montenegrin fare, sourcing their products locally to ensure an authentic taste. With a vast selection of wines, beers and traditional Montenegrin Amaro, a digestif liqueur made from a number of herbal ingredients including lemon balm and juniper, drinkers will find their perfect tipple to accompany any meal here.
Honoring Montenegro’s complex past and fascinating cultural heritage is Nostalgija, a traditional Yugoslav restaurant offering home-style cooking through recipes passed down over generations. Focusing on using minimal ingredients and maximum flavor, this rustic restaurant is a haven for winter-warming fare, such as succulent steaks, buttery mashed potatoes, fluffy rice dishes and filling vegetable soups. The traditional wooden interior and patterned wallpaper give the restaurant a living-room feel, and guests can be ensured a hearty and homely meal encapsulating the warmth of Montenegro’s past.
This charming Italian restaurant is a tiny gem in the north-east part of the city center, where guests can soak up a unique atmosphere and eat delectable pizzas. Exuding the atmosphere of a cozy trattoria tucked away in the Italian countryside, the interior is an assemblage of quaint checked curtains and tablecloths, antique-style furniture and exposed brick walls. Wonderfully intimate with a relaxed, at-home feel, Kalabrija has a unique ambience that can’t be found anywhere else in the city. Selling home-cooked pastas and pizzas, the smell and taste of which delight all of the senses, the restaurant offers excellent food in conjunction with a warm and cheerful atmosphere.
Sleek and modern, Maša is a restaurant dedicated to all things fish, and is a one-stop shop for anyone looking to eat fresh, top-quality seafood in Podgorica. Large and spacious, with high ceilings and a large glass front looking out onto the city’s busy streets, the restaurant has an airy feel and emanates an urban charm. Whether guests are popping in for a breakfast of croissants and homemade pastries, or staying put for a full evening meal, Maša manages to cater perfectly to any time of day. With a number of meat and vegetarian options available as well as seafood, the dinner menu is a varied affair catering to all culinary needs. For a sweet treat after the meal, Maša is also an ice-cream parlor offering a variety of homemade flavors, from strawberry to lemon sorbet. Guests can also enjoy a cocktail from the venue’s long list as an aperitif before their meal.
Mantra, Podgorica | Photo Courtesy of Plantaže Winery
An Indian restaurant which will delight visitors looking for first-rate spicy cuisine, Mantra is an atmospheric spot which doubles as a bar in the evenings. Creatively decorated with bright lighting, elegant lamps hanging from the ceiling, cushioned booths and intricate Indian carpets on every table, the venue has a modern and cool vibe which attracts a young professional crowd. Enjoy one of their well spiced curries and a bottle of wine from their vast selection before the lights are lowered; this is when the late night crowds arrive to enjoy a cocktail in Mantra’s fashionable setting. Offering regular band and open mic nights, Mantra remains dedicated to providing a variety of entertainment as well as delicious meals.
Just outside of Podgorica, on the shores of the beautiful Lake Skadar, and on the outskirts of the Lake Skadar national park, Plavnica Eco Resort stands as a venue well worth travelling to. This hotel and restaurant is dedicated to preserving the unique ecology of the surrounding area, and thus strives to be as environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible. The Plavnica restaurant is one of the region’s most visually stunning, with its elegant terrace overlooking both the lake and the dramatic mountain scenery. Impeccably designed with its sleek long tables, piano and oak wood bar, this classy place exudes a tranquil and calming atmosphere which simply can’t be found in the busy city center. Serving a menu of both Mediterranean and Montenegrin cuisine, and specialising in locally caught fresh and saltwater fish, Plavnica is a beacon for gastronomic excellence.
Lanterna is a wonderfully rustic Italian-style restaurant in the heart of the city center. With its stone walls and barnyard-style interior, and warm, low lighting, the restaurant is a perfect spot for a romantic meal for two. As the saying goes, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans’, thus it would be rude not to try the deliciously crispy stone-oven pizzas here, regularly hailed as the best in Podgorica, or even Montenegro. Serving traditional Italian cuisine as well as some mixed Mediterranean dishes, and offering regular live music nights, a meal at Lanterna promises to be a memorable and tasty occasion.
For a delicious Asian-inspired meal, Podgorica visitors should visit Zheng He, a venue which combines a predominantly Chinese menu with dished from other Far East regions, including Thailand and Vietnam. The long and diverse menu provides a number of Montenegrin takes on authentic Chinese meals, such as Yuxiangrousi, a sweet and sour pork dish served with bamboo and mixed vegetables, as well as mouth-watering curries, dumplings and soups. Tastefully decorated with stylish wooden panelling and sleek leather booths, the restaurant feels more like a brasserie than a Chinese restaurant, yet offers a subtle nod to Asia with its stylish artwork and ornamentation. A chic, urban and polished restaurant in which to taste a number of delicious oriental dishes.