The Blog Archive Series is all about unearthing some of my blog posts from the past. This food and drink guide to Split in Croatia was written in August 2017.
The Dalmatian coast of Croatia is synonymous with breath-taking scenery and stunning beaches. It’s paradise-like status often hides the fact that the country is also home to good wines, delicious meats, cheeses, truffles, local fish and seafood and above all, the humble olive. Following my recent holiday in Split, the second largest city in Croatia, here is my foodie guide to finding your way around:
Head into the city centre and spend a morning browsing the ‘Green Market’ (pictured). Here you are spoilt for choice – watermelons, grapes, plums, nectarines, nuts, honey, meats, cheese, olive oil – the list goes on. Just around the corner, there are fruit stalls along the Riva promenade which sell freshly squeezed juices and smoothies. Pick up some breakfast here before you embark on a journey to the Marjan Hill or Kašjuni beach.
As a country known for its wine, Croatian restaurants are passionate and knowledgeable about pairing food with the perfect variety of grape and on two separate occasions (after we chose a cheap option to save kuna) it was suggested kindly that we chose another bottle which truly complimented our meal. At Uje Oil Bar we were thankful for their recommendation to pair our seafood dish with a bottle of Bogdanuša – a white wine made from grapes indigenous to the Croatian island, Hvar. A personal favourite, however, was the complimentary bottle of white we received from our Airbnb host’s grandma, which we enjoyed on our balcony on the first night (pictured).
Pasta and Risotto
Croatia is, of course, very close to Italy, therefore, pasta and risotto dishes appear on most menus. Enjoy simple classics, such as tomato pasta or vegetable risotto at a beach bar with a bottle of Ožujsko (the local beer) or head over to Diocletian’s Palace. Within these roman ruins (which date back to the fourth century AD) are narrow alleyways and cobbled streets filled with restaurants and bars. Spend a good hour just choosing where to eat, as you walk further and deeper into the Palace’s maze-like structure and notice how aspects of this UNESCO World Heritage site become part of the structure and charm of these restaurants and bars. Para di šoto is housed in old Roman baths, with cosy tables for two lined up the steps outside. Their homemade pasta with Dalmatian pancetta and truffles is like a luxurious carbonara – creamy and filling with a meaty bite from the crispy pancetta (pictured). Opposite is Kod sfinge vaneuropske zviri which boasts a menu of home-cooked family recipes. Dine on penne pasta with spicy sausage, young goat’s cheese and saffron or ravioli with prawns (pictured).
Fish and Seafood
With its location on the shore of the Adriatic Sea, there is an abundance of seafood in Split, which is on sale every morning at the ‘Fish Market’ in Diocletian’s Palace. One evening we visited the beautiful Dvor where we sat outside at a dainty white table under an olive tree in their garden, overlooking the sea. Alongside Dalmatian prosciutto and cheese, we feasted on octopus for our starter (pictured) followed by a whole sea bass cooked in a salt crust. The fish was filleted in front of us and finished with a generous drizzle of olive oil (pictured). It was lovely and juicy and accompanied perfectly with a spinach salad and Mona Lisa potatoes (roasted and seasoned with rosemary and thyme). Alternatively, you can leave Split for the day and embark on an island-hopping boat trip (did you know UberBOAT recently launched this summer?) Head over to the Krknjaši (known as ‘The Blue Lagoon’) and after snorkelling with the fish you can grab a spot of lunch at Restaurant Mali Škoj. Take a seat at one of the communal tables and tuck into a rustic but simple meal of whole grilled mackerel, bread and salad. The surrounding trees provide much-needed shade and there are hammocks where you can have a quick post-lunch nap.
A hidden gem in Diocletian’s Palace is Uje Oil Bar. With an original wall forming part of their wine bar, this is the place to go to if you want to experience olive oil like never before. Explore different varieties at their olive oil tastings or book a table at their restaurant where you can sample the likes of ice cream made with olive oil. My personal highlight was being served bread in a bowl made of olive wood and being encouraged to pour Brachia olive oil onto our plates, add a sprinkle of flower of salt, pepper and a dash of Dalmatian vinegar (all of which are already on the table, in case you would like to add them to anything else during your meal). We mopped up every last drop and it was divine. Don’t leave Split without visiting their nearby Uje Shop, where you can purchase the very same products if you want to recreate this moment at home.
The ice cream in Croatia comes highly recommended from everyone who visits. Slastičarnica Voćni Trg in Diocletian’s Palace serves flavours such as hazelnut and cookies and cream. You can also ask for your scoop to be dipped in melted chocolate which cools and solidifies over your ice cream – then find a seat in the square and watch the world go by or take a stroll down the Riva promenade.
Whilst soaking up the sun on Žnjan beach, you will spot sellers walking along the shoreline carrying stacks of cardboard boxes containing large rolls of pastry filled with chocolate and sugary doughnuts bursting with jam (pictured). Not necessarily your normal go-to food choice when you are perspiring in the 31-degree heat but at eight kuna (currently, the equivalent of one pound) they are incredibly popular. It’s also worth noting that at every corner you turn in the city centre, there is a Bobis Bakery – they stock everything from soparnik (a savoury pie filled with Swiss chard) to sandwiches and you will see many people walking around holding Bobis paper bags filled with goodies.
With incredible scenery, amazing beaches and clear blue sea, there is no doubt that Split is home to some seriously Instagram-worthy photo opportunities and we arrived with our cameras at the ready. Photos were taken of the views from the top of Marjan Hill and the waterfalls at Krka National Park, yet discovering the wonderful food that Split had to offer was an added bonus. Explore the foodie side of the Dalmatian coast this summer and you will see Croatia from a completely different and extremely tasty perspective.