Here's our pick of the year's best restaurants
A fairly new addition to Zagreb’s growing bistro scene, the small, superbly located Fajn succeeds on many levels. Occupying a lovely spot in the pedestrianised old town – just off the tourist thoroughfare between St. Marko church and Museum of Broken Relationships – it's exterior facade is blink-and-you'll-miss-it unassuming, with a small sign and a printout of the daily menu on the door. Here, the focus on quality over quantity means a limited menu of affordably creative cuisine, based on the daily catch at the fishmongers or butchers in nearby Dolac market. The result is sensationally good. From the small open kitchen, protégés of celebrity chef Dina Galvagno put the recipes of the day to the test. The menu features starters like risottos, daily soups or a cheese board with prosciutto and Croatian favourites for 70kn. There’s usually two or three mains: sea bream in almond crust with cauliflower cream and roasted beetroot; for the meatheads, pink slabs of steak or rabbit goulash, hovering around the 90kn mark. The owner is English speaking, and quick to offer up smart suggestions from the Croatian wine-list. The low-key soundtrack of jazz and classical makes a hospitable hum, and the seven-cover size ensures an intimate, polished experience. It’s deservedly popular, booking recommended on weekends.
Diners are made to feel like VIPs at Tekka, an extremely classy upmarket Asian restaurant. Located in Zagreb's business district, it 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 little more novelty, order from the Adriatic-Asian 'fusion' section, made up of largely successful experimental dishes - although some of these narrowly miss the mark (the seafood and creamy cauliflower soup tastes just as confusing as it sounds.) A few odd dishes are bound to come up from a menu as broad, bold and creative as this one. Everything is cooked (or not cooked...) to perfection, and the wine-list, featuring several award-winning Croatian wines, is tailored to the menu. Make sure to stay for dessert - they do a zesty lime Panna Cotta that would make an Italian chef blush.
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, if Croatia had Michelin-stars, they'd definitely be angling for one. 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. The decor is nice, if not a little stuffy, and the attentive staff boast military timing.
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.
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. 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.
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.
Recently moved to this location by Britanski trg, Sherry’s is no po-faced wine bar serving fine vintages to a high-end clientele. Rather, this friendly, funky spot is a party-minded venue that serves, mainly, wine, 150-plus domestic varieties, as well as a selection of sharable snacks. Hosting live acts, DJs, exhibitions and book signings, Sherry’s is tucked away from the constant tram rattle along Ilica, its terrace a convivial daytime getaway of a dozen tables. Inside and downstairs, the wine cellar is where these acts perform, dancing breaks out and a casual, chatty atmosphere underscores any given evening. Craft beers complement the scores of Croatian reds and whites.
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.
Opened towards the end of 2015, Bistro 75 is still finding its way in Zagreb’s ever busier bistro/snack scene. A prime location helps, in the heart of the city’s bar quarter and not two minutes’ walk from the main square. At Bistro 75, food is at its best at lunchtimes, when locals tuck into the signature pulled-pork sandwiches, complemented by fat chips drizzled with zingy barbecue sauce. If this sounds like a diet-busting recipe for a sleepy afternoon, there are salads and three different types of falafel, with soups and stews offered in winter - fresh-fruit juices or craft beers may accompany. The place tends to throng on warm evenings, when punters are drawn in by its terrace, decent music selection and superlative cocktails.
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.
Zagreb’s hot new bistro cites so many international influences on its menu – Afghani, Himalayan/Nepalese, Spanish/Basque – that you wonder if Divas isn’t spreading itself too thin. Not to worry. What arrives on your plate will be tasty, healthy and well presented, portions substantial enough to satisfy without weighing you down for the rest of the day. Yes, contemporary Divas is daytime-only, operating in synch with the longer-established Divas Café some 200 metres away, under the same ownership.
The owner of this little bar-cum-restaurant spent years living in Japan, before moving to world-food mecca New York, and finally, returning with his Japanese partner to Zagreb, equipped with culinary expertise; but he’ll be more than happy to tell you that himself, in elaborate, gesticulated detail. Eat at Gyoza once and you’re a welcome guest, eat there twice and you’re a friend – eat there three times, and you might even get to sit in the out-of-bounds room downstairs. The menu is small and specialised, and each meal – whether it be glass-noodles with prawns, or the Saturday special ramen – is prepared exactly as it would be in an izakaya bar in Tokyo. As its name suggests, the star of the show is the gyoza, traditional little parcels packed with grated meats or vegetables, which, when dipped in soy sauce, taste salty, fragrant, and fresh. It’s not fine dining – don’t expect elaborate sushi platters. Instead, you’ll get simple, authentic dishes served up by the friendliest staff in the city.
It's a bit of a mission from the centre, but O'Hara is worth it. Routinely topping foodie lists as one of the best pizza joints in Zagreb, this faux-Irish-pub-cum-Italian-trattoria succeeds on many levels. Forget it's location (a no-man's land in the western surburbs of Zagreb) this place sells the best pizza for miles around, matched by a beer menu that matters - there's over 100 bottled varieties and stout and craft beer on tap.
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.