Zinfandel's is an outstanding spot which transfers the elegance of Art Deco hotel, the Esplanade, built for the Orient Express back in 1925, to the dining room. Beneath the chandeliers, a pianist strokes the keys for a room overlooking the Oleander terrace. Dishes include duck, a daily selection of fresh fish, pan-roasted veal with foie gras or wild boar with a chestnut, truffle and pumpkin mousseline – the menu changes often to reflect the season. Sunday brunch buffet from noon runs the gamut – the best Croatian cheeses and sausage. Don't overlook in-house Le Bistro either, French in style and approach but with stand-out local štrukli.
Trilogija sits just above the Stone Gate. Cobblestones lead from the door and inside. Tables sit on individual landings under vaulted, brick ceilings. The cosy dining room includes a bar area where folks can snack on a steak-and-cheese sandwich with caramelised onions (60kn). The idea is that even if you're in a hurry you can still enjoy a quality feed and glass of wine. More time lets you sample wonderful natural ingredients. Daily specials change per artistic mood and supplies on hand; mains run from 75kn to 145kn. Entrée examples include sea bass in lobster sauce and beefsteak in port wine. As well, you won’t regret the black tiger shrimp risotto with mango and spinach. For dessert, try the ravioli with sweet walnut filling.
Long one of Zagreb's top addresses for seafood, Dubravkin put descended into the doldrums during the 2000s before being successfully relaunched as an upscale wine bar and restaurant in late 2010. Located in a wooded dell between the Upper Town and the Tuškanac woods, it features a cool minimalist interior full of dark-brown furniture tones and low-key lighting. Seafood remains the kitchen's strong point, and both the baked fish (420kn/kg) and a 12-course tasting menu (465kn per person) are well worth the splash-out. Otherwise choose between exquisitely prepared and presented mains such as monkfish in black-olive paste, rack of lamb or ox tail, all in the 130kn range. It's also a stylish venue for an intimate drink, with hundreds of wines to choose from and a tempting menu of nibble-snacks chalked up on a board beside the bar.
The grande dame of Zagreb restaurants attracts old money and new jet set, munching and mingling in the two high-ceilinged wooden-clad halls in a suburb below Sljeme. Top-rated international and traditional dishes from the continent and the coast are prepared with special care – from juicy barbecue meats and uplifting blood sausages to super-fresh tuna fillets and delectable swordfish carpaccios. Expect to see fresh lamb roasting away on spits in the yard on spring weekends. The pasta is made on the premises, while the wine list boasts more than 100 varieties. Reservations at weekends a must.
Opened in 2010 by former staff of the legendary Okrugljak, Carpaccio delivers stylish Italian-themed dining in a wonderfully convenient bang-in-the centre location. For starters, there's a generous list of carpaccios, with marinated Adriatic fish or salmon among the most succulent choices. There are plenty of vegetarian options among the risottos and pastas, and substantial steaks and veal cutlets among the meaty mains. Leave room for dessert: the house semifreddo and tiramisu are difficult to choose between. Chic black furnishings, reproduction Art Nouveau posters, and a soundtrack of Italian pop provide the backdrop. There is a lengthy list of quality Croatian and Italian wines, a reasonable number of which are available by the glass.
Since it opened in 1925 to cater to travellers on the Orient Express, the beautiful and opulent Esplanade has accommodated Alfred Hitchcock, Elizabeth Taylor, Queen Elizabeth II, the King of Spain and Louis Armstrong. Fabulous luxury and top-notch service are the name of the game at this art-nouveau gem beside the train station. After a complete refurbishment, it reopened in 2004. The lobby is a veneered wonder and clocks display the time in six world cities. Stylish guestrooms range in size and configuration, but all come with perks such as heated floors, goose-down bedding, mist-free mirrors and fancy toiletries in the marble bathrooms. The chef at Zinfandel's restaurant conjures up modern Med cuisine and Croatian traditional dishes, while Le Bistro does the best štrukli in town. Relaxation packages are popular: hot-stone and chocolate massages in the treatment and sauna rooms. There are also deluxe room service options like a Bath Butler, who'll draw the perfect, bubbled tub. Combine it with the Great Gatsby treatment for men: a cognac and a cigar. Even the pooch gets in on the action here. Pets receive a bone, a welcome letter and a bed when they arrive.
Posh but relaxed, Gallo offers seasonal and organic Mediterranean cuisine in a quiet courtyard set apart from the busy traffic of Hebrangova. Outside is a herb garden; sheets of pasta hang in the classic interior. It's dear, but in no way extortionate – starters are in the 80kn range, mains at 120kn. Truffles are sprinkled wherever possible and the risotto mare i monte with porcini mushrooms is worth a return visit. A choice of some 70 Croatian and global wines may accompany your meal.
Bistro Apetit offers superb standards of food, wine and service – standards imposed by Austrian chef and owner Christian Cabalier, previously of Vienna’s Cantinetta Antinori. One key to its success is the location, hidden in a hedged garden on a tranquil residential street, just a short walk north of the city’s Gradec old quarter. The cooking mixes the best of Croatian/Adriatic cuisine with the contemporary European main- stream. At 70kn-90kn for a starter and 120kn-160kn for a main, Bistro Apetit is by no means beyond the average pocket, and there are always some truly outstanding dishes on the seasonally-changing menu. And the desserts are truly heavenly.
Noel is sizzling hot new restaurant dedicated to the flux of contemporary trends in gastro-cooking. Orientated towards a smart, swanky crowd, the menu mixes the best of Croatian cuisine with European experimentation, with multilayered mains like the pork belly with shrimp, parsley, and passion fruit hovering around the 150kn mark. Portions here are small but well garnished, and more extravagant diners can opt for the taster menu - options include four, six or nine courses costing between 220 and 450kn. The decor is polished, and the attentive staff boast military timing.
The brightest spot on the gentrifying Tkalčićeva thoroughfare, Agava offers a professional and cosmopolitan approach to dining. It comprises a cabin-like main interior and the terrace below. The menu features starters such as mushroom carpaccio at 45kn; a good choice of pastas and risottos from 70kn, and a dozen or so mains (baked octopus 90kn; roast duck breast 105kn). Before your dish arrives, a side basket of warm focaccia bread sprinkled with rosemary keeps hunger at bay. A fair selection of Istrian and Slavonian wines may complement the meal; plums in red wine (30kn) provide a suitable dessert.
Located in the Radnička cesta business district, Tekka attracts a sharp-suited clientele, and has cultivated the elegant decor and uber-attentive staff to go with it. The recently revamped menu is near impeccable: sushi here is a masterful blend of flavour and finesse. For something with a bit more novelty, order from the Adriatic-Asian fusion section. The wine-list, featuring several Croatian award-winners, is well-tailored to the menu. It’s neither central or cheap, but as one of Croatia’s best sushi restaurants, it’s worth the pilgrimage.
Having spent several years building a solid culinary reputation in Zagreb's northern suburbs, the Bistro Apetit team have opened a branch in the centre. Bustling, busy but also moderately smart, Apetit City is intended for lunching city folk as well as more romantically inclined evening diners. The menu charts a course between modern European and traditional Croatian cuisine, including much that looks deceptively simple or old-fashioned – the fried calf livers with gorgonzola (85kn) are superb. Steaks and fillets of fish also feature on a list of mains that hover in the 90kn-145kn range.
Well prepared Central European fare at moderate prices attracts a mixed bag of local and overseas patrons. You can dine on the covered patio terrace accessed through an ivy-clad passageway off Teslina; the winter alternative is a massive dining hall with vaulted stone ceilings. The service is swift and the cuisine heavy on meat. Highlights include the succulent lamb; veal and potatoes under peka (traditionally baked in a coal oven); and more unusual options like pork fillets with dried plum sauce. Of the lighter alternatives, go for trout with almonds or grilled local wild mushrooms. It's a popular spot at lunchtime, so be prepared to wait for a table.
Though called an Italian restaurant in local tourist brochures, Mano is actually a high-end steakhouse fit to bring your best girl to for an anniversary dinner or the business associate you're trying to impress. A better description of Mano – 'hand' in Italian (as in 'hand-made') – would likely be a fusion tribute to the grill. Fine cuts are grilled on charcoal in a kitchen set behind glass so that patrons can watch the process. Order the Steak Mano or T-bone and the waiter will bring the cut of meat, marinated in rosemary, olive oil and Dijon mustard, to your table with a mini-grill so that you can cook the steak to your own specifications. Simple, sleek and modish wooden chairs and tables sit on tongue-and-groove floors under exposed brick. The wines – a long, international list – are in a glass room for your inspection. Reservations recommended.
The first sushi restaurant in Croatia, Takenoko is still one of the very few Asian restaurants in town worth experimenting with – and although it will set you back a wad of kunas it is usually well worth it. It’s a swirl of mellow mood music mixed with the soft sound of chefs chopping behind a central cooking station. Leafy plants sit in tall vases around heavy wooden tables below track lighting. Try the Tokyo platter: 11 nori makis (tuna and salmon) and seven nigiris. There’s a handsome choice of wok-fried dishes and some truly inventive exercises in east-west fusion, with fish, chicken and veal dressed in exotic spice combinations.