Frogs’ legs are not only a speciality of the French. Here in the Neretva Delta, locals prepare them in all kinds of imaginative ways, testament to the generations of unpretentious local cooks who have made best use of the produce freshly and freely available around them. Breaded, blanketed in bacon, bathed in all kinds of sauces or the essential element of any hearty stew, frogs’ legs, their taste not dissimilar to chicken wings, are a must-try almost everywhere in Neretva. Eel is another staple, ideally spit-roasted, also providing body and flavour to the Neretvanski brudet, the regional take on the stew usually layered with fish elsewhere around Dalmatia. Even stopping by one of the many roadside stalls here will have you anxious the try the juiciest of naturally organic oranges or watermelons. There’s a citrusy element, too, to the Žilavka white wine, produced nearby, south of Mostar just over the border in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
The best restaurants in Neretva
The expansive, functional restaurant adjunct of the three-star Hotel Metković can pack 450 diners into its waterside space – which is why it’s a popular choice for weddings. As a tourist, you’ll be more than adequately provided with decent versions of local classics, frog-and-eel brodetto, for example, as well as slow-baked and grilled meats – but if you’re only around the Neretva for a short time, you might be better opting for a smaller, family-run and more atmospheric spot in Metković and beyond.
Opened by Pavo Paul Jerković way back in 1990, the Villa Neretva has long been a reference point for top-notch local cuisine in the delta region. With son Cristian Franko Jerković as junior chef, this family team adds a distinctly local touch to the many dishes on the menu. Cooked eel comes with collard greens, the lasagne is no standard morass of pasta layers and mincemeat but a delicate concoction of (mainly) shellfish. Eel is also roasted on an open-flamed spit while frogs’ legs are served breaded, or part of a brodetto or risotto. As if this weren’t enough, the Jerković family showcases the many attractions of the region by laying on photo safaris, nature classes and visits to the mandarin harvest in autumn, as well as boat and kayak trips. There’s three-star accommodation plus a partner restaurant only accessible by boat
Set by the side of the delta, this family-run favourite is popular with visiting Croatians – tourists don’t venture too often this far north to Prud, just past Vid, pushed up tight against the border between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Not surprisingly, here the speciality is frog, best enjoyed as part of the signature dish, the brudet stew, also created with eel and spiced up with fresh peppers. There are other choices too, but here in the heart of the Neretva swampland, swamp cuisine is what you’re after.
Right by the Narona Archaeological Museum in Vid, just north of Metković, this rustic guesthouse prepares the traditional dishes of Neretva exactly as you would expect, over a roaring flame and white-hot coals. It’s not all frog and eels, although those are available too, in their many popular guises. Here coot also takes priority, grilled or, better-yet, concocted hunter-style. Veal, lamb, duck and octopus also get a culinary look-in. There’s fresh fish too, squid and sundry seafood. Home-made spirits and bitters help wash everything down at the end. You can be taken out on a boat, see how eels are trapped, go kite-surfing, horse-riding and mountain-biking, all arranged from here, and there’s a number of comfortable rooms and apartments on-site.