Food, glorious food. That’s what we’re all here for, right? Well, Belgrade has all manner of sights, history and culture to wow the visitor as well. But the highlight for many may well be the gorgeous morsels of food that make their way down the oesophagus into the belly. A gastronomical paradise? Strong words, but you can let your tastebuds be the judge.
The usual Balkan fare is on offer in the city’s old town, but Belgrade’s standing as a truly cosmopolitan capital has seen a huge variety of restaurants make their way into town. All tastes are catered for in the White City. The country even manages to sate the vegetarians, despite what most articles on food in Belgrade may say.
Ćevapčići restaurants are ten a penny throughout the Balkans, and 90% of them are going to hit the right spot. Some are simply better than others, too, and To Je To takes the cake when it comes to Belgrade’s old town. Run by a family from Sarajevo, the restaurant is every bit as simplistic as ćevapi is supposed to be. Wooden benches and a pretty brief menu are on offer. Why clutter up a menu when you are just going to order the absolutely gorgeous ćevapi? Kajmak and onions are essential.
Is this the best breakfast and brunch spot in Belgrade? If it isn’t, there must be an absolutely incredible place that we haven’t seen yet. Red Bread is a modern little joint in Dorćol – one that gains points by sticking its neck out as a place where smoking is not allowed. The menu gives a nod to cuisine beyond the Balkans, too, with Canadian pancakes even making an appearance. ‘Refreshing’ is a good word, but ‘fantastic’ is just as good.
Belgrade’s Asian food scene is beginning to move beyond the many subpar Chinese takeaways that used to dominate, and Istok is at the forefront of that revolution. The name is the first giveaway (Istok is Serbian for ‘East’), and the restaurant was actually the first Vietnamese joint in the city. Considering the quality of food on offer, Istok is a tough act to follow for the next Asian restaurant.
You’ll have to forgive us, as our mouth is watering at the memories. If you are a fan of meat that seemingly drips from the bone, served up with juicy potatoes and all the tradition one can muster, Manufaktura should be your first port of call in Belgrade. Seriously, go here before checking into your hotel. There is more to traditional local cuisine than grilled meat, and Manufaktura is the place to go to sample some.
This one is a Belgrade classic. Little Bay gives one the impression of enjoying an evening at the opera rather than chomping away at some delectable fare, but you are most definitely in a restaurant here. The heavy red curtains and elegant interior mix very well with the strains of pianos and violins that fill the air in what may be the dictionary definition of ‘classy’. The food? It’s not bad either, which may be the biggest understatement on the site.
Lower Dorćol might be pushing the boundaries of the old town, but within those boundaries sits this Japanese restaurant. What’s that, a Japanese restaurant in Belgrade? That sounds like an unusual combination, but ‘unusual’ can often be used in a positive way. That is true here, and Marukoshi is one of the finest eateries in the city. We’ve made the mistake on many occasions of nipping in for lunch, only to find ourselves hanging around for multiple helpings of tonkatsu. There’s a whole lot more to Japanese food than just sushi, and Marukoshi is the perfect place to find out.
Another excellent choice on Skadarlija, Dva Jelena (Two Deer) has fed some of the most famous mouths in modern history. Everyone from Tito to former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher nipped in here to dine over the years. The interior may not have changed in that time either, and the paintings on the walls hark back to simpler times. Dva Jelena is worth visiting for the history alone, but the food more than holds up its end of the bargain. There is a nice mixture of traditional and more creative modern fare, allied with perfect service and no small amount of nostalgia.
The restaurants of Skadarlija are all worth visiting, but it is somewhat ironic that its most modern is undoubtedly one of its best. The street is defined by its historic Bohemian qualities, but Guli manages to succeed despite keeping its focus firmly on the future. The little garden is one of the more romantic spots in the city and it all still manages to feel intimate despite its touristic location.
If you thought a Japanese restaurant in Belgrade was unusual, wait until you hear about Radost Fina Kuhinjica. The vegetarian restaurant is one of the best food spots in the entire city, which may come as a surprise to those who only think of meat when it comes to the Balkans. A green garden obviously complements the dishes, and there are plenty of options for those who are looking to avoid gluten. Is ‘revelation’ too strong a word? Not quite.
Burgers have taken over the continent it seems, and Belgrade hasn’t missed out on all the fun. Burger House is a refreshingly understated joint just off the city’s famous Knez Mihailova street. What it lacks in seating it more than makes up for in food quality. This is convenient fast food at its very best – perfect for those in a rush but still patient enough to sit and enjoy a greasy, greasy hamburger. The English spoken by the staff is impressively lacking in accent, too, so don’t be surprised to be surrounded by fellow travellers here.