‘I had gained enough experience in the corporate world,’ explained Darko, ‘while Vedran had achieved as much as he could over there. I suggested with our combined knowledge we should open something back home in Dubrovnik’.
Originally that something was an idea for a Thai restaurant but few go to Dubrovnik to eat kaeng khiao wan or phat khana mu krop. Plus authentic ingredients would have been near impossible to source. Having also worked at hotels in Dubrovnik, Darko knew all about the supply chain here in southern Dalmatia. What if you were to combine pristine swordfish, say, with the flavours of the Far East – or rather, what if Vedran were to devise a series of recipes in which sashimi-quality tuna, fresh that day, were to be complemented by sprinklings of crushed cashew nuts? Or crispy-skin salmon with steamed rice and roasted vegetables?
That, in a nutshell, is Azur.
By keeping the menu down to some 15 dishes and keeping a sharp ear out for global trends – and maintaining the concept of sharing dishes for groups of friends – the Azur team is able to offer variety while still operating out of a modestly sized kitchen. Vedran can accurately judge how many sides of swordfish (pan-seared in black- curry sauce, sir?) he’ll need on any given evening - Darko now has a handful of local suppliers on hand for coconut milk or lemongrass. Items such as salmon ceviche tacos literally fly out of the kitchen on a busy night in July.
Table capacity, as Azur slowly but surely snakes around the block, has increased to around 80 while kitchen space has been doubled for the 2016 season. A swift and savvy waitstaff means that any given table can be given over to three or four sets of diners over the course of the evening, as opposed to the serve ’em slow and keep ’em there approach adopted by other establishments around the Old Town. You won’t be rushed at Azur – but your food will come pronto.
Baking their own bread, providing their own spicy charcuterie from another holding in Kopački Rit northern Croatia, the Azur boys keep as much in-house as they can. New dishes are tested on a regular basis, while a sister operation, Azur Zhuhai, is thriving in Vedran’s old stomping ground of southern China.
‘Every year we say that we’ve achieved as much as we could have expected when we started,’ concluded Darko. ‘And every year we better it. We’re aiming to make this restaurant a Dubrovnik landmark, an established venue for destination dining.’