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.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gastronomy Near Šibenik

Croatia Online Torcida Spit

Donje Polje, near Vrpolje lies on the back road from Šibenik to Trogir and this main road reveals a number of excellent restaurants as you get near to Šibenik. Arguably the best of the lot, and always packed with locals is Torčida. The speciality is meat roasted on the spit – suckling pig, lamb or turkey (hen is “tuka”, cock is “pivac” and they have different flavours) - but you can also get excellent “peka” and grilled meats. Half a kilogram of meat and a portion of roast potatoes is probably more than enough for two but you’re likely to be able to find room for seconds.  Make sure you also order plenty of delicious roast potatoes (pečeni krumpir) and the excellent and very mellow house red wine. The health conscious might want to trim off some of the fat though it was delightfully crispy when we ordered the lamb. If you’ve room for the pancakes, Tiramisu or cakes afterwards, so much the better. The vast terrace overlooks rolling fields and on a winter’s day it’s also very cosy in the equally huge interior. All very good value with plenty of ambience and easy parking but it’s not for those in a hurry.

Torcida is open 8am to midnight daily  all year round and you’ll find contact details and a map on the website.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Vodice Revisited In 2009

Croatia Online Vodice

Hemmed in by drifts of snow in England, our Croatia summer tour of 2009 seems even further away! The thought of a swim in a warm sea provides great motivation to catch up on the trip on Croatia Online.  We’ve covered a number of subjects in earlier postings, and updates on Tribunj, Biograd, and Seget. Now it’s Vodice’s turn.

Vodice is the next town on from Šibenik as you head towards Zadar. A classic Croatian tourist town, with plenty going on and several large hotels, it’s a one hour’s walk from the altogether quieter town of Tribunj (see Croatia Online - Tribunj Revisited).

Many of the hotels have been painstakingly renovated with Hotel Punta providing a slightly more secluded 4 star option than the larger and arguably smarter but more family holiday orientated  Hotel Olympia. Both of these are former Yugoslavian package holiday destinations so it’s good to see that there’s still room for some entrepreneurial initiative in the form of the newly built Villa Radin, just next to Punta.

This 4 star, 12 room hotel is open in summer and maybe outside the season for conferences. The first thing that strikes you is the lush green grass, amidst which is a terrace and a path leading to the outdoor swimming pool, and then the sea. Radin also takes its food very seriously – creative cuisine and gastro illusions are frequently mentioned and the menu is, by Dalmatian standards, very imaginative, thanks to a chef from Zagreb. All in all, Villa Radin makes a refreshing change from its larger neighbours and was already fully booked when we visited.

There’s no shortage of restaurants and bars in Vodice too. The Hookah bar, in the Olympia Hotel Complex, is a good place for after beach entertainment, and if you want to get away from the beach bustle for dinner in the evening, head towards Santa Maria restaurant, a short walk from the sea front. Here you’ll find food with a Mexican twist and an ambience that reflects the eccentric and artistic nature of its owner!

Vodice has the nightlife too. Hacienda, on the main road just outside the centre of town, has a national if not international reputation, and there are two clubs in the same building on the sea front, by the ACI Marina

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Happy New Year

Croatia Online Sibenik Snow

Just another week or so until we get back into full stride after a hectic end to 2009. In the meantime we’d like to wish all our friends and readers a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2010.

Readers might be surprised to learn that today’s photo was taken in Šibenik on the Croatian Dalmatian Coast in February 2009. It’s not often that snow falls, let alone settles, on the coast.