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.
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.
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.
Bistro Apetit offers superb standards of food, wine and service. 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 mainstream, chef's, Goran Kočiš, recepies. 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.
This fine-dining option attracts a well-heeled crowd to the Oris House of Architects. Its sleek interior an attraction in itself, Voncimer deals in experimental European gastronomy with a Ukranian slant. The restaurant majors in small, perfectly crafted dishes like the sesame seared filet of tuna with pears poached in white wine, or the Varenyky (Ukrainian ravioli) with rabbit ragu. Dishes are paired with a wine list spanning local vineyards and artisan wineries. Leave room for dessert - the dark chocolate lava cake with gorgonzola, basil ice cream and walnut praline is outstanding. The recently opened Voncimer is still finding its feet in Zagreb's ever-busier gastronomy scene, but will surely win over more followers as it leads the way in high-level dining.
A collaborative effort between former Bistro Apetit head chef Goran Kočiš and sommelier Ivan Jug, Noel is a buzzing new restaurant dedicated to the flux of contemporary trends in gastronomy cooking. Orientated towards a smart, swanky crowd, their menu mixes the best of Croatian cuisine with European experimentation, with multilayered mains like the pork belly with shrimp, parsley, and passion fruit 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.
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.
Mali Bar serves up exquisite lunches and inventive nibble food in an informal, five-table dining room. Main courses change daily. Everything else comes in the form of tapas – like small portions – grilled octopus, spring rolls, own recipe mini burgers and various salads. Superb desserts, too. Presiding over the kitchen is Ana Ugarković, prolific cookbook author and TV chef.
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.
Something of a cult among Zagreb carnivores on account of its delicious gourmet burgers (try the 200g cheeseburger for 36kn), Rougemarin also serves top-notch bistro fare with a small menu of light but delectable meals strong on fish and healthy foods. Three-course set lunches with drink are well worth the 100kn outlay. Boutique Croatian wine, craft beers, and a small outdoor terrace provide further inducements to visit; located amid residential blocks just south of the Radnička cesta business district, it’s not exactly central.
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.
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.
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.
Time Restaurant & Bar is an Asian-fusion restaurant in the heart of Zagreb, on the corner of Pertrinjska and Amruševa street. Set in what used to be a huge warehouse and hardware store it has been converted by the well-known Croatian architect Christian Rendulić into an impressive space.
If you enjoy high-quality food served briskly in informal surroundings, then Lari i Penati (named after a pair of Roman household gods) will be the kind of place you'll find it difficult to stay away from. The only problem is its small size, with 12 high stools pressed against small tables and a street-facing window ledge. Succeed in grabbing a place and you'll be treated to a delectable and dizzyingly cheap range of sandwiches, soups-of-the-day (20kn), light main courses (a tasty fillet of fish will set you back as little as 45kn), and in-house cakes and muffins. What's on offer depends on the season and what the chefs feel like cooking that day – the menus are changed daily.