Monday, January 25, 2010

Restoran Fortica – Jelsa on Hvar Island – Classic Dalmatian Food At Its Best

Croatia Online - Restoran Fortica Jelsa

There’s a danger of summer 2010 arriving before Croatia Online catches up with its summer trip of 2009! However, inspired by our friends at Secret Dalmatia, and spending the day capturing the highlights of Hvar Island for another project, we couldn’t fail to bring one restaurant to the attention of our loyal readers. Restoran Fortica was probably our favourite restaurant of an action packed trip that covered a large part of the Dalmatian Coast and islands, from the Makarska riviera in the south, to Zadar in the north. It stood out, not because it has a very different style of cooking – essentially it provides classic Dalmatian fare – but because what it does, it does extremely well.

Tucked away in the back streets of Jelsa’s old town, Fortica is the perfect place to escape the bustle and heat of the summer.  The large terrace is walled on all sides and broken up by raised areas and plants. Above you are vines, and all around are lanterns waiting for the customers that arrive at dusk. It’s cool, relaxing and spacious and the plastic furniture is not at all out of place with the purple cushions that pull together the green tones of the vegetation and walls on on side, with the various hues of purple and magenta on the walls and terraces on the other side. Norah Jones occasionally competes with the church bells and the rotivator in the field next door, but on the whole, the ambience is one of relaxing harmony.

The food is great too and even the mixed salad, at 20 kunas (about £2), is worth writing about – the freshest tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, cabbage, olives and capers, all beautifully brought together with a perfect dressing with a strong hint of garlic. Dalmatian cuisine is one of simple flavours and, when it works, it’s delicious. Our main course was described as grilled fresh mackerel and cost 60 kunas. In some restaurants you might get one mediocre fish and a few potatoes. In Fortica it’s easy to imagine  these two huge specimens racing around the Adriatic the same morning. And they’re accompanied by a very tasty bean stew, chips, roast potatoes, aubergine and pepper, and another good but not overpowering touch of garlic.

Fortica is not short of those little finishing touches that distinguish the good from the average – the house wine is excellent, the modest bill arrives in  a pretty embroidered serviette, excellent olive oil is put on the table as a matter of course, rather than the inferior variety of oil served up in many restaurants unless you ask, and the elegant but understated (except in size!) plates have Hvar’s lavender motif on them. Add a chef who obviously enjoys making people happy and a waitress who has that rare quality of quiet and relaxed efficiency, and you have a dining experience that’s worth searching out. It’s hard to find a downside but short ladies will need stilts to flush the toilet!

Find it in the old town by the church. Opening hours vary according to the season, and it’s closed in the winter (approximately mid October to Mid March)  but in high season its open from 10 am to midnight.


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