100 unmissable restaurants in Zagreb
Mutating from a wine bar that did smart lunches to one of the city’s leading gastro-bistros, Pod Zidom marched straight into the 2019 edition of the Michelin Guide and is now pretty much a must-visit when it comes to contemporary Croatian cooking. A lot of the credit goes to head chef Jurica Jantolek and his desire to investigate the creative possibilities of traditional food, retaining the local ingredients but throwing out any formulaic attitudes to their preparation. The menu certainly has an old-school local look about it at first glance, with oxtail, black sausages, duck breast and buncek (pork hock) vying for attention alongside modish bistro-u-like regulars like beef cheeks and white fish. Best way to sample Pod Zidom’s culinary approach is to opt for the three or four-course daily lunches (165-190), composed according to what they picked up that morning at Dolac. The bistro-wine bar informality of the place is well-maintained: the interior is bright, contemporary; service is brisk and informative; music tends towards the serious end of blues and jazz.
If there is such a thing as contemporary Croatian cuisine then one of the best places to find it is NAV, the new venture of owner-chef Tvrtko Šakota. Previously seen brandishing the spoons at much-talked-about Mundoaka and Xató, Šakota has built an impressive reputation, not only for being an outstandingly creative chef, but also as a leading devotee of locally reared, high-quality produce. A nine-table upstairs room with no interior-design fripperies and no outdoor terrace, NAV is an intimate and welcoming space in which to focus on some of the capital’s most glorious food. The gravelly murmour of Bruce Springsteen, who seems to be on permanent rotation in the background, is the only sensory distraction. There’s a semi-open kitchen behind glass walls which, with four or more people busying themselves inside, is a constant source of interest. Šakota occasionally pops out of his glass box to greet new arrivals – the restaurant has only been open since January 2019 but already has a devoted body of regulars. Pretty much everything we saw on the (seasonally changing) menu displayed a high degree of imagination and a high level of intricacy in preparation, kicking off with the cream-cheese profiterole that came as an (unbilled) amuse-bouche. The appetizer tells you straight away that NAV is all about attention to detail – not just from the people preparing the food, but from those sitting down to eat it too. Aptly illustrating NAV’s dedication to the reinvention of tradition wa
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.
Carpaccio delivers stylish Italian-themed dining in a wonderfully convenient bang-in-the centre location. There are plenty of vegetarian options among the risottos and pastas, and substantial steaks and veal cutlets among the meaty mains.
The décor is modern and unpretentiously shabby, managing to avoid many of the industrial tropes that have come to define ‘The Bistro’ – there are no hanging naked lightbulbs or exposed brickwork. The soundtrack is woozily ambient, a hipster-friendly playlist that oscillates between Brian Wilson, Cymande and The Grateful Dead. And the menu? Reassuringly small, it changes daily, but you can expect a cast of Adriatic favourites (grilled fish, Pag lamb) prepared with flavourful, fruity embellishments. Duck breast with homemade pasta arrives in a mushroom and cherry sauce. The grilled seabream is crisp-skinned and soft-fleshed, served with lemony chickpeas for acidity. As if to purposefully flaunt the freshness of their ingredients, a just-delivered box of veg sat briefly on the chef's counter before being hoisted into the kitchen to prepare for the next batch of customers. The drinks menu matches the light quality of the food - Istrian whites are well-represented, alongside Garden craft beers and a few cocktails. Mains are priced between 80-100kn – what you might pay for an average fish supper elsewhere, well worth the outlay for food this fantastically fresh.
A modern interpretation of a French brasserie, the dishes are small but remarkably well-crafted, and the food plays to local strengths – there’s plenty of Adriatic fish-dishes, locally sourced meat and an excellent cheese and tapas selection. Inside, it’s an uber-cool suede and dark leather affair, with a backlit bar serving princely cocktails. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't come cheap - mains are priced 100-200kn, but food this satisfying is worth the splash-out. Boasting an opportune spot on Tkalčićeva (previously home to Takenoko) the location is hard to beat.
Occupying an oft-overlooked street corner just off the main square, Time is one of the trendiest restaurants in town. The extensive Asian-inspired fusion menu covers all the usual dishes, from ramen and Teriyaki to tuna carpaccio and a Thai green, but what really stands out is how the restaurant fuses sizzlingly fresh Adriatic ingredients with its familiar cast of eastern dishes. Much of what is chucked into your pan comes from nearby Dolac market; succulently tender lamb hails from Pag island and seafood is sourced from the coast. Quality fusion classics are served with presentational flourishes – and aren’t eye-wateringly expensive either. The interior would have you believe otherwise, what with its pricey lacquered furniture and low-key lighting, evoking a cocktail bar you might come across in Mayfair.
Occupying the ground floor of one of those curvy, almost art-deco buildings on Šubićeva, this much-touted steak-and-much-more besides house cultivates an aura of design-magazine cool, with a suave blend of browns and matt blacks, and a convex window that provides a swivel-eye view of the street scene outside. A lot of people come for the steaks (160-220Kn), which are expertly grilled to the customer’s specifications and certainly count among the best that you will get east of the Adriatic. There’s a pronounced Latin-American-fusion approach to the starters and snacks, and it’s here that El Toro’s creative side comes to the fore – the prawn ceviche (raw prawns in a lime, coriander and chili sauce; 95Kn) is a divine way to kick off a memorable meal; while the Korean beef taco (two pieces; 55Kn) hits the right sweet-and-sour spots although may not be quite as spicy as some people might like. Music is for the most part jazzy or loungey, service the right blend between informal and attentive.
Mano 2 specialises in high-level dining, with parallel themes to its sister restaurant Mano: exquisitely cooked meat and seafood in a modern, unashamedly trendy dining room.
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.
Not exactly in a well-travelled part of Zagreb but well worth the trip, Fidel Gastro is one of the city’s most versatile bistro destinations and also one of the biggest, a large high-ceilinged space done out in post-industrial blacks, greys and bronzes. An unashamedly eclectic menu ranges from wok fries to duck breast (138Kn) and rib-eye steak (220Kn). There ‘s always always a good balance between meat and seafood and an enterprising readiness to mix local ingredients with oriental spice. Among the more inexpensive dishes, the perfectly executed carbonara (78Kn) has become something of a signature item. A considerable amount of artistry goes into the desserts, with a knockout pumpkin pie (28Kn) leading a colourful parade of fruit tarts and wobbly-moussy puddings. Service is smooth, and the background music is just as carefully curated as the food (during our visit: big-band jazz and Sinatra-style crooning).
Agava offers a professional and cosmopolitan approach to dining. 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.
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.
Rougemarin 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.
Bistro Apetit offers superb standards of food, wine and service – standards imposed by Croatian chef and owner Marin Rendić. 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. 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.
Hidden behind Kota, this smart bright bistro serves up dedicated vegan fare, with the accent on wok, noodle and pasta-based recipes.
Given the over-wordy title it might seem like they’re trying to press too many trendy buttons at once, but don’t let that put you off. This is an excellent addition to the Zagreb bistro-lunch scene, and the fact that it’s in Savica – a modern suburb with large housing blocks and a famously grassy park – gives it an extra dose of authenticity. The cuisine follows the current tendency to cultivate Croatian culinary tradition while adding a dash of global inspiration: our lean and juicy lungić (a traditional cut of pork loin) came with a garnish of roast Sweet Potato, inducing one of those “why-didn’t-I-think-of-that?” moments that had us experimenting in the kitchen when we got home. The lungić in question was one of the hard-to-resist weekday specials (55-60Kn) that keep the place busy with the babble of lunchers. The full-bodied tomato soup (22Kn) is a signature staple that goes down well at any time of day. Mains in the 70-90Kn range stick to familiar meat, poultry and fish choices. Service is businesslike and breezy and it’s a very pleasant place to sit, too, consisting of a small white-cube room and a larger glass-box atrium with leafy indoor plants perched beside pale wood tables.
Noel is sizzling hot restaurant dedicated to the flux of contemporary trends in gastro-cooking. Portions here are small but well garnished; extravagant diners can opt for the taster menu.
One of Zagreb’s most talked-about new openings of 2018, Haustor Haus serves up a creative mix of modern Croatian and global fusion cuisine, with a shrewd choice of meat, fish and vegetable mains and a daily special or two chalked up on the board. An intimate 8-table affair in a courtyard setting, it’s a mellow and relaxing place to spend an hour or two, the feel-good factor accentuated by prompt and exceedingly attentive service. Mains (75-130Kn) range from white fish to rump steak, and frequently involve imaginative pairings of local ingredients and global spice. Pretty much everything that comes out of the kitchen is imaginative and well crafted. The smooth and tangy tomato soup (25Kn) is worth popping in for on its own account; our risotto (70Kn) was so smooth and creamy that it had us scratching our heads wondering how they did it. The style is minimal-casual, with grey floor offsetting pale wood tables. Check the big central blackboard for an exhaustive list of wines from home and abroad.
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.
For the traditional south-European repertoire of grilled meats there are few better places than the 'Glow', a neat and welcoming seven-table restaurant just round the corner from the NK Zagreb football stadium. Succulent ćevapi and pljeskavice are the stars of the show, although lungić pork chops and vješalice (skewer-grilled strips of pork) are also well worth a try. And, unusually for this nation of carnivores, there's a whole section of the menu devoted to grilled vegetables. Make sure you order at least one lepinja (springy home-baked bread bun) on the side.
This might be one of the cosiest locales in Zagreb – on a narrow passage among the cobbled streets behind St Mark's Church and the Croatian Parliament in the Upper Town. But even as quaint as this is, the food matches it.
Consisting of a single large table indoors and a couple of benches outdoors, Umami is a quality Asian-themed fast food outlet where you can just about eat sitting down if you ask your neighbour to budge up a bit. The regular menu usually features a curry dish, a wok dish, a Japanese dish, a Thai dish, a salad dish and a soup dish – and with hardly anything breaking the 40Kn barrier, it’s an inexpensive and satisfying way of acquiring your daily fix of spicy global food. It’s certainly a godsend in the busy Tkalčićeva area, where a speedy post-sightseeing, pre-drinking feed is very often just what the visitor needs.
Can burger-flipping be a sustainable, ecologically responsible industry? Well Yellow Submarine is certainly giving it a go. The submariners pride themselves on making thick, succulent burgers from organic local beef, garnished with local škripavac cheese and veggies. Smokehouse (36kn), featuring bacon, mushrooms and smoked cheese, is just one of several imaginative combinations. Fast food this good should be enjoyed slowly – the mellow wooden-stool interior is a pleasant place to sit.
Out in the western suburb of Gornji Stenjevec, just off the main road to Samobor, this characterful restaurant is something of a destination in its own right, housed in a 16th-century mill that still produces its own flour. Kitted out with mix-and-match furnishings and with wooden-bench seating on the outside terrace, it’s a suitably old-world environment in which to enjoy a traditional central Croatian repertoire of grilled and roast meats. Seasonal game, including boar goulash, is the speciality.
A small but perfectly chosen menu has made Burgeraj one of the city centre’s cult eateries. The spicy Pepper Jam Burger or the shiitake-filled Tamari Burger are worth making a pilgrimage here to try out.
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 and a 12-course tasting menu are well worth the splash-out
The menu changes daily, with fresh fish from Zagreb's Dolac market, less than 100 metres away. A choice of starters, like the fruity peach and tomato gazpacho or tuna tartar range from 30-60 kuna. Mains which regularly appear include risottos, tuna steak or well-constructed burgers, with most mains costing 70 or 80 kuna, although their signature burger is even cheaper. A choice of excellent Croatian craft beers, Varionica's pale ale or San Servolo's lager are on draught, decent white and red wines are available by the glass.
Occupying an incongruously village-like hut on the corner of a main road junction, this eight-table grill-house has acquired cult dining status in a remarkably short time. 'Kosta's Pljeskavica Factory' specialises in the grilled minced-meat patties of the title, serving the plain ground-beef version, pljeskavice spiced up with hot peppers, pljeskavice specked with nuggets of cheese, rounding out the menu with a small selection of other grilled-meat dishes. Owner Kosta is a native of the grilled-meat heartlands of southern Serbia, from where he imports his kajmak – the deliciously buttery, cheesy cream that makes the obligatory side order. Despite being somewhat hard to locate (the signboard of the last restaurant to occupy this spot, Flanjka, is still displayed at the gate), Kosta's is already extraordinarily popular, and you might have to wait for a table – or even reserve by telephone – to avoid the pangs of culinary disappointment.
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.
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.
Korčula is as traditional as it gets. This fish restaurant on the corner of Teslina and Preradovićeva was here long before the trendy bars set up around it. The kitchen turns out high-quality versions of seafood standards, tuna fillets or grilled squid with blitva.
The menu is famous for sticking to north-Croatian staples, with schnitzel-style cuts of meat, roast turkey with mlinci (baked pasta sheets), venison goulash, and roast knuckle of veal leaping off the pages of a lengthy and not too pricey menu.
The best Bosnian restaurant in town is hugely popular despite its hidden location in a residential quarter - take a taxi. Grilled meats are the order of the day here, pljeskavica and ćevapi, served with traditional bread.
Not only is Capuciner convenient, facing the Cathedral, and filled with locals, but it's fairly priced, most dishes in the with most dishes in the 40kn range.
This authentic locals’ joint just across from Kvatrić outdoor market added extra dining-room space in 2012 to cope with its increasingly devoted army of followers. Simple, inexpensive Croatian food delivered with a smile is the name of the game. Order the sarma (minced meat in cabbage), the pašticada (beef stewed in plum sauce), the calamari or just about anything else on the menu and you are guaranteed several things: you will be satisfied, you’ll eat something traditional and local, and you’ll have more than enough money left over to buy the next shout. The outdoor overlooks a park full of locals walking dogs or watching kids play.
Tekka attracts a sharp-suited clientele, and has cultivated the elegant decor and uber-attentive staff to go with it. It’s neither central or cheap, but as one of Croatia’s best sushi restaurants, it’s worth the pilgrimage.
Named after its owner, local football hero Zvonimir Boban, this popular two-storey operation is set just off Jelačić. Upstairs is a café, downstairs a (mainly Italian) restaurant.
Crêperie Le Mika moved into new premises and expanded its menu too, becoming a cute French bistro as well as the best place in town to snaffle a plate of Crêpes Suzette. It’s the pancakes that remain the big attraction. Savoury galettes made from buckwheat flour are supremely light and crispy, and come with an intelligently curated range of fillings: the galette with ratatouille and bacon (56Kn) was one of the most exciting light lunches we’ve had in quite a while. The choice of sweet pancakes takes up a good 50% of the menu, with the signature Crêpes Suzette heading up a list so tempting that it will have you genuinely stumped for choice. L’aumonie (which comes with apple confit, bits of biscuit and a dollop of ice cream; 51Kn) is one of those confections that jumps off the menu and demands to be tried. Even if pancakes aren’t your thing, Le Mika offers enough in the way of bistro fare to bring a constant procession of lunching locals through the door, with onion soup (39Kn), quiche of the day (48Kn) and an exemplary Boeuf Bourgignon (105Kn) among the regular orders. And as for non-crêpe desserts, the Crème Brûlée is perfection itself. It’s a relatively snug and intimate space, with orb-like lamps hanging from a barrel-vaulted ceiling, a wall-hugging bench, and a two-person window ledge-cum-table that’s well worth grabbing.
The doughy parcels known as štrukli constitute one of the trademarks of north-Croatian cuisine, and it was only a matter of time before they got their own dedicated restaurant. Štrukli come either boiled or baked; cheese štrukli are usually eaten as a savoury dish, although sweet versions with jam are also popular. At La Štruk you get a choice between several varieties: although the classic cheese edition occupies centre stage, they also conduct regular experiments (cheese and nettle štrukli; cheese and paprika štrukli) to demonstrate just how much potential the basic štrukli concept actually has. La Štruk’s sweet štrukli with walnuts and honey, or apple and cinnamon, are quite simply divine.
Mali Bar serves up exquisite lunches and inventive nibble food in an informal, five-table dining room. Main courses change daily.
Located in Zagreb's hilly northern suburbs, the famly-run Tač strikes the right balance between traditional home cooking and high-quality cuisine. The accent is on Istrian and central-Croatian fare, with freshly sourced ingredients, home-grown vegetables and home-baked bread and cakes forming a crucial part of the operation. The menu is chalked up on a daily basis; cuts of meat and fresh fish are cooked simply and without too many digressions into culinary experimentation. Seasonal specialities, such as spring-time asparagus omelettes or cutlets of young lamb, are quite simply divine. For dessert, the own-recipe Tač Torte (layers of fruity-flavoured sponge-cake and cream) is well worth finding room for.
This culinary offshoot of Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships is entered via a different doorway – and is often missed by visitors who drift out of the exhibition without knowing that good food is just around the corner. You might be relieved to know that neither the menu nor the decor is themed around the subject of the museum. With low ceilings, maroon walls and rough-looking wood tables, the interior is certainly moody, but is actually quite sensual with it. The menu goes for a typically bistro-esque mixture of Central European staples and globe-trotting experimentation. In many cases there’s a choice between small or big portions so you can mix and share your mains or treat them like tapas: fish stew, orzotto with beans and pork, and squid rissoles being among the choices (and with small/big portion prices ranging from about 55kn to 90kn or over). Duck with chestnuts (145kn) or roast lamb shanks (160kn) are the delectable standouts among the more substantial mains, although portions are small and you’ll need a starter or dessert in order to feel well fed. The excellent cream soups (featuring pumpkin, cauliflower or other vegetables depending on season) are a great way to kick things off; the accompanying home-baked bread is a knockout.
A low-rise suburban street in Trešnjevka is an unlikely location for one of Zagreb’s cult new bistros, but it’s well worth venturing out here to see what all the fuss is about. Occupying a rather unprepossessing pair of grey first-floor rooms, Šalša chalks up its daily menu – together with a small list of well-chosen wines – on a huge wall-to-wall blackboard; there’s usually a pasta dish, a stew and something seriously meaty to choose from. Šalša’s burgers are legendary, and connoisseur-friendly beers such as Kozel and San Servolo provide additional reason to linger.
A spacious, light-filled and smartly presented upper floor restaurant, located ten minutes by tram to the west of the city centre, Namaste is the only restaurant serving what most would recognise as authentic Indian cuisine in the city. So correct are the flavours, textures and balance of spices and herbs, that it's genuinely unsurprising to learn that both the owners and the kitchen staff come from India. Vegetarian cuisine is standard cuisine across much of India and Namaste excels in these (even carnivores really should try them). Mozzarella broccoli tandoor grilled is perhaps not cheap at 40 kuna, but is wonderfully spiced and perfectly cooked. Mains (80 kuna) come from across the continent, so Fish Goan Curry and Prawn Coconut Curry sit next to two rich mutton curries and the standard Butter Chicken on the menu, each served with rice and with optional flat roti breads. Again, the vegetarian mains (45-60 kuna), either cheese, vegetables or chickpea-based, are exceptional. Elsewhere there are spice-edged salads, a kids menu and a wide range of inviting sundries.
Offering simple and affordable seafood for people who prefer their restaurants to be fun rather than formal, Ribice bases its menu on the less showy dishes that form the backbone of Dalmatian home cooking. On offer are many of the fish dishes that have disappeared from fancier restaurant menus (notably anchovies, bonito and hake), and fish is priced by the fillet rather than weight – so you can tell how much you are paying for your portion. Daily specials chalked up on a blackboard outside the entrance take account of what's fresh. The jolly interior features smart wooden tables, chairs painted in pastel blue and turquoise hues, and fishy murals by Vojo Radoičić, the Rijeka-based artist famous for his colourful seaside scenes. Waiters in Dalmatian red sashes and Adriatic folk-pop background music drive home the maritime theme. A recent expansion testifies to its popularity.
Located in an artfully-lit brick cellar beneath the exhibition halls of the City Museum, Stara Vura ('The Old Clock') has the semi-hidden air of a select retreat. With tinkling piano music, attentive service and a starched-napkin approach to laying the table, it’s the ideal venue for a leisurely and intimate meal. It’s a slightly different experience in spring and summer, when diners move out into a cobbled courtyard filled with potted Mediterranean plants. The kitchen specializes in high-level Croatian food at reasonable cost: porky Croatian classics like punjeni lungić (tenderloin filled with cheese and pršut) weigh in at 85Kn. Adriatic seafood takes up a good page of the menu; they’ll bring fresh fish out on a tray for you to peruse the daily offering. All in all it’s a fine venue for a relaxed three-courser accompanied by a bottle or two of good local wine.
Pretty much everything you would expect from an Indian restaurant, with a dining room decorated in rich warm colours, a scattering of subcontinental objets d’art, and a menu that contains pretty much everything that will be familiar to a curry-house regular. Tandoor-cooked dishes are a speciality, the side-order options of rice dishes and naans are exemplary. There’s also a lot here for vegetarians to choose from – something that is always worth underlining in a meat-obsessed city like Zagreb.
Zagreb is so full of it’s-quite-good-I-suppose pizzerias that it’s often difficult to pull out a place that’s really special. Located in a basement just north of Zagreb Cathedral, the Italian-run L’oro di Napoli might just fit the bill. The pies that are spaded out of its dome-topped oven are almost impossible to find fault with, sporting gorgeously leopard-spotted crusts and a just-the-right-side-of-sloppy range of traditional toppings. Italian-sourced ingredients are used throughout: their Pizza Bufalina, generously spread with mozzarella from Campania water buffalo, serves as a reminder of just how exciting – both in texture and in flavour - real Italian mozzarella actually is. The wide-ranging menu covers things that don’t crop up elsewhere, such as Pizza Nerano (with courgettes and parmesan cheese), or Contadina (with broccoli and Neapolitan salami), although there’s always a trusty Quattro Stagioni for those who prefer to hedge their bets. There’s a floor-to-ceiling picture of Napoli on one wall and the rocky coast of Capri on another, but the decor is otherwise on the functional side and not quite suited to a candlelit dinner. There will be an outdoor terrace in the courtyard come the spring.
The menu changes daily, with fresh fish from Zagreb's Dolac market, less than 100 metres away. A choice of starters, like the fruity peach and tomato gazpacho or tuna tartar range from 30-60 kuna. Mains which regularly appear include risottos, tuna steak or well-constructed burgers, with most mains costing 70 or 80 kuna, although their signature burger is even cheaper. A choice of excellent Croatian craft beers, Varionica's pale ale or San Servolo's lager are on draught, decent white and red wines are available by the glass.
An unpromising-looking side street four tram stops east of the main square harbours this long-standing favourite with in-the-know Zagreb carnivores. Expertly singed steaks, veal cutlets and traditional Balkan grill-snacks fill out the menu, with squid representing the seafood side of things. Many people come here for the juicy roast lamb with roast potatoes (lamb is sold by the kilo; about 300g will be sufficient for one person) – raw spring onion is the usual side order. Prices are moderate. Most of Croatia’s wine regions are represented on the drinks menu.
Italian restaurants are ten a penny in Croatia, as is the well-worn tag line that their cuisine is simplicity done to perfection. Where Plavo Sunce stands apart is their effort to ensure this is undoubtedly the case woth fabulous, affordable cuisine. Handmaking pestos, marinades, confits from scratch, only ever using organic, seasonal produce from local, small-scale producers, the difference is notable in their authentic pizzas, pasta dishes predjela (starters) and prilozi (side dishes), most of which come with minimal but perfectly proportioned spices and fresh herbes. Prices are reasonable, and the drinks list offer a decent selection of Croatian wines.
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.
Formerly known as K pivovari, the pub-restaurant besides the gates of Zagreb Brewery (home of local favourites Ožujsko and Tomislav as well as brewed-under-licence incomers such as Staropramen and Carling) has been relaunched as an all-purpose going-out destination that offers cheap traditional lunches, live music in the evenings, and local brews – including the unfiltered, unpasteurised Pivana pivo that is only served here. Exposed red-brick decor and memorabilia recalling the history of the brewery provide the place with plenty of atmosphere, while the food (wings, ribs, pork knuckle and other beer-hall favourites) is as hearty as you would expect.
Located in the same building as the Tuškanac cinema and spreading its outdoor seating across the its housemate’s terrace, Papa’s works equally well as an eating or drinking venue, with club sandwiches, hot dogs, wraps, and highly regarded burgers driving home the Transatlantic theme. There’s a list of original-recipe and classic cocktails and some great bottled beers – including Croatian Vukovarsko, Czech Kozel and Brooklyn Pale Ale from across the pond.
At its simplest, the Croatian word obrok means “meal”, although it also comes with the connotation of something rather basic or straightforward, like army rations or school dinners. It’s a neatly ironic introduction to what this small and intimate restaurant actually does, serving up quality food that suits the quick-luncher as well as those with time for several courses. The aim is to give Croatian cuisine a bit of contemporary style, but without losing sight of what’s traditional about it. Four or five specials (65-90Kn) are chalked up on a board each day - old-school recipes like lung stew might feature alongside something a bit closer to the comfort zone, such as pork chop with mushrooms or lamb with peas. Mains are often accompanied with down-at-home extras that other restaurants no longer serve – such as žličnjaci, oddly shapen gnocchi-like things that soak up a good sauce. Baked štrukli, the central-Croatian dish comprising pockets of dough filled with cottage cheese, is something of a house speciality. White walls, pale wood and jazzy background music help to ensure a smooth, soothing experience.
Far from just a hotel restaurant, the DoubleTree‘s Oxbo eatery is an increasingly important dining and socialising hub for the business and residential community grouped around the fast-developing Radnička cesta strip. Oxbo’s chief attribute is its Angus steaks, served in a variety of sizes (the prices range from 150kn-250kn depending on the cut); all the restaurant’s beef is imported from the USA. There’s also a lot of quality Adriatic fare to choose from; you can start with pršut and continue with fillet of sea bass if you want to stick to Croatian tradition. To attract the non-business crowd, there's live music and half-price steaks on Saturdays.
As they say on the menu, it's just a one-minute walk from the main square... and that's if you're going slowly. For years this has been the classic place for tourists to go without feeling like they're too much of a tourist. You'll hear many a local voice inside the faux-brick dining room or on the multi-tiered terrace, which climbs along up the street toward the Cathedral or down to Tkalčićeva. The food and prices – a big helping of lasagne for 30kn, for instance – will keep you coming back. This is all things to all men, a gastro anchor that also serves big salads, pastas, excellent pizzas, fish, squid and steaks.
Routinely topping gastro-lists as one of the best pizzerias in Zagreb, O’Hara succeeds on many levels. Forget it's location (a no-man's land in the western suburbs of Zagreb) this place sells the best pizza for miles around, matched by a beer menu that matters - there's over a hundred bottled varieties and stout and craft beer on tap.
Well prepared Central European fare at moderate prices attracts a mixed bag of local and overseas patrons. The service is swift and the cuisine heavy on meat.
There's something reassuring about walking into a restaurant to see that none of the waiters are under 30. You're almost as likely to be as happy eating as they are to work there. It's an all the more assuring sight at Pri Zvoncu, located 2km south of the city centre. From the outside, it looks like a ramshackle collection of rural outbuildings. Don't be fooled; this excellent restaurant is a local favourite. Inside, a large seasonal courtyard is shaded by trees which inhabit and surround. Despite its popularity, there's a relaxed feel, helped by an absence of intrusive music. Parents with university age children, birthday get-togethers, dressed-up dates or reconvening friends, everyone smiles and talks as they eat or wait here, confident in its 20-year reputation. The food is exceptional for a grill restaurant. A reasonably priced lunch menu, which alternates daily, offers grah (beans), tripe with bacon, stuffed peppers, sarma (stuffed cabbage) and simple stews to lunching business folk for 40-50 kuna. The pricier a la carte menu offers octopus salad, homemade ravioli or kulen, a lean, paprika-rich pork sausage from Slavonia. Of the mains, there are fish options, but this place majors in grilled meats. Mixed sharing platters including the house special Plata Zvonac, a bulging mound of meat for two, are priced between 140-220 kuna. Menus at the restaurant are in English, but sadly the website is not. No worries; waiter Darko, the most recently acquired member of staff (he
Beneath the Old Pharmacy pub and named after farming tools, Mašklin i Lata brings a bit of the sea to the heart of the city. It's got the traditional feel just right. Most of the offerings have a fish or seafood base – lobster, cod, monkfish, squid, prawns, octopus – all combined with home-made pasta, gnocchi, risotto, wild asparagus, Istrian truffles or turned into great stews. Sample the brodet, gregada (a fish stew from Hvar) or a hulking white platter of mixed fish (priced by the kilo) with blitva, the traditional accompaniment of local Swiss chard and potatoes – you won't be disappointed.
Bustling, busy but also moderately smart, Apetit City is intended for lunching city folk as well as more romantically inclined evening diners.
The first Pizzeria Karijola opened was on the island of Vis, named after the barrow porters used to ferry tourists' luggage. The hard-working owners made a point of using less salt and yeast, and fresher ingredients, most notably rocket, and success in Dalmatia soon followed. They then set up here in the capital, using the same formula only with more quality wines. The result is the best pizzeria in town, deservedly popular, handily located just over Savska near the Student Centre. There's a new branch of Kariola at Vlaška 63, one floor up from the equally esteemed Mali Bar bistro.
You can tell that Basta is flashy by looking at the clientele; young professionals, well dressed groups of girls in their early 30s on their weekly meet up, visiting groups of foreign business people and those out to impress on dates. There are no teenagers or backpackers here and, in the evening, no children. The expensive looking but not altogether tasteful interior décor mirrors such. An intriguing space, set within a courtyard right in the centre of Zagreb, Basta manages to hold a different vibe in the daytime compared to the evening, and in the summertime compared to the winter. But it is always welcoming. Daytimes in summer you'll sit under umbrellas, which at night are removed, allowing you to relax under lengths of exposed lightbulbs. This minimal approach, working in combination with the multitude of plants that surround you, instills a wonderful ambiance, creating an extremely pretty space inside what is effectively a dull, concrete and office-lined courtyard.Downstairs, the bar can be crowded year round, especially on weekend nights and special events. The restaurant is also popular, with advance booking being advisable, although you never feel cramped in when seated upstairs like you sometimes might if downstairs in the bubbly bar.Thin based pizzas (50-80 kuna) are made very quickly and with an authentic approach; ingredients, such as cheese and incredible bacon, are used lightly, but they are of an extremely high quality. The scattering of a few fresh basil leave
Kerempuh has a reputation for being an informal neighbourhood restaurant which also cultivates foodie culture. It has served as something of a proving ground for culinary celebrities in recent years, with both TV chef Ana Ugarković and rising star Dino Galvagno doing stints in the kitchen.
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.
Handily located behind the main square, this funky burger bar is the result of a global journey spanning New York, Hong Kong and Hvar. The vibe is lively, friendly and perfect for a casual meal and a few cocktails before you head out woozily into the night. Glazed soft-as-cotton brioche buns are stuffed with juicy, dripping patties. The menu uses local ingredients wherever possible, featuring Pag lamb, Istrian truffles and Dalmatian fig jam. There are nods to the owner’s New York/Hong Kong upbringing too with pan-Asian flourishes like bao buns packed with beef, kimchi and wasabi mayo and bowls of ramen broth with silky noodles. Service is unfailingly welcoming. The proprietor Adena parades the tables hawkishly to ensure everything is served properly and on time, occasionally stopping to carouse with the guests. Vegetarians are well-catered for, uplifting to see in a city where restaurants usually toss a few symbolic crumbs at vegetarians (or dry clods of falafel.) Here, you can substitute any burger combo with a veggie pattie and meals can also be prepared for vegans. The wine list is pleasantly varied, and there is craft beer on tap from Zagreb’s Garden Brewery. The cocktails are intoxicatingly good. Avoid the overly sweet ‘boozy’ slushies, delivered in plastic bags tied up with little bows of hessian, they’re a bit gimmicky and extortionately priced. And the bill? Compared with its competitors, 50 A Burger isn’t cheap but an extra 20-30kn (€3) is a perfectly reasonable
Quiet, relaxed, and moderately formal without being too forced, Primošten is one of one of Zagreb's best south-of-the-centre venues for a leisurely taste of Adriatic cuisine.
Located a few strides away from the northwestern end of Maksimir park, this popular pizzeria is a great place to end up after a stroll. Situated on the ground floor of a new box-shaped building it comes across quite convincingly as a cosy neighbourhood eatery, with an interior featuring pastel-coloured cushions and some charming family photographs. There’s a lovely terrace at the back with large potted plants and small pots of basil on the tables. Pizzas is all they do, and the choice is large.
Opened in the 1970s in Zelengaj Park and in the woods, AS is a pillar of the seafood dining scene in Zagreb. The interior is quite ornate, with white-linen tablecloths, oil paintings and a marble fireplace. In summer, diners clamour for the leafy terrace. The menu choices – top-class white fish from the Adriatic, lobster, octopus, squid – are always fresh. There's also an extensive wine selection with a heavy emphasis on Croatian labels.
Bagels and lobster is a weird concept. It's not burgers and lobster, it's not surf and turf. You can tell it's a weird combo by the fact that Bagel & Lobster Barr don't actually offer a lobster bagel. Bagels come in mozzarella, chicken, salmon, roast beef and pork options which, between 30-56 kuna, are reasonably priced, although the bagels themselves lack that authentic chewiness found in the standard Jewish bakery version. Grilled lobster is served with Hollandaise and lemon sauce, fries and salad. The lobster options are considerably more expensive than their bagel counterparts.
There’s always something of a Zagreb-in-springtime buzz surrounding Balon: its location, set back from the Sava riverbank, gives it a slightly out-of-the-centre feel, while the relaxingly leafy terrace helps to make it a destination restaurant rather than just a practical choice for lunch. The menu revolves around steaks and Mediterranean seafood. Main courses are refined but don’t require too much explaining – the fish fillet still comes with traditional Croatian garnish of mangold and boiled potato. Service is polished and attentive – we were particularly impressed by the fact that they brought two different olive oils to the table and discussed their relative merits. Indeed there’s a nothing-will-ever-go-wrong aspect to dining at Balon, and it’s for this reason you see so many suits and ties in the place – sophisticated Croatian-European cuisine with plenty of finesse (but not too much experimentation) goes down rather well with the business community. We have eaten meat and fish dishes here several times before and never been disappointed. On our most recent, light-lunching visit we went for a seafood risotto (95Kn) that was both exemplary in quality and substantial enough to serve as a main. There are only two vegetarian items on the menu but they involve an admirable degree of creativity: our cream of pesto and potato with tofu mousse (65Kn) turned out to be a multi-coloured swirl with a suitably broad palette of flavours. The chocolate mousse with crunchy, nutty cas
This rustic-style restaurant attracts an upmarket clientele to its little Kaptol courtyard with its international offerings, traditional grills, seafood and regional meats from Zagorje and Slavonia. Duck, lamb and turkey are also featured. Service and presentation are impeccable, allowing the bill to creep up to 300kn a head with wine, but carnivores won't begrudge it in the slightest. In summer a pretty terrace comes into its own.
After years manning the oven at O'Hara's, one of Marina Vanjka's apprentices has opened a place of his own – and it's even better. A swish-looking trattoria in the western suburbs of Zagreb, Public is well worth the trip, offering reliably good Neopolitan-style pies. Pizzas with oven-speckled crusts are served with gorgeously sloppy tomato sauce and real Mozzarella, ensuring the pizzas are squidgy and crispy in all the right places. The menu extends beyond pizzas, with a decent spread of starters (the carpaccio is especially nice) and a range of inventive pasta options. It's also got one of the best Croatian wine lists of any pizzeria in town. Most pizzas are priced around 50-60kn - a total bargain, really, for pizzas this outstandingly good.
Housed in an extension of the Foto Club Zagreb café, this imaginative new leap into Zagreb's growing bistro culture goes for the keep-things-simple approach, with a small menu of 5-6 mains (at least one risotto, at least one stew, at least one grilled meat dish with nothing over 60kn), all of which are prepared and presented with a bit of style. Fotić offers a slightly better choice of desserts than some other bistro places - it's worth popping in to see what's on the cake stand. There's a small street-side terrace, and the bright front dining room with theatrical birdcages and huge butterflies hanging from the ceiling provides an understated dose of cuteness.
Located just a couple of minutes walk from Zagreb's main bus station and servicing the nearby business district, Bistro Mostovi caters exclusively for the daytime trade, excelling in gableci (small plates), lunchtime grills, seafood, salads and desserts. The traditional Croatian menu and cosy restaurant space is perfect for gatherings of friends, business lunches or international visitors refuelling after a long bus trip.
Almost halfway between the main square and the train station, this is a classic Zagreb restaurant of once state-owned ilk. The food is sturdy and the dishes traditional. In the no-frills, three-room dining interior, you can expect classics such as sarma (sauerkraut stuffed with minced meat), lamb, veal and seafood. Purger, by the way, is local slang for someone born and bred in Zagreb.
The Zagreb sushi scene has experienced a flurry of openings and closures in recent years leaving Ginger Sushi as one of the most reliable central bets for good-quality Japanese fare. There are stools inside if you want to eat in but this is primarily a take-away place. The long menu covers most levels of the sushi stratosphere although with bento sets starting at 30kn you might just want to take a look at what’s already boxed up and ready to go. Asahi and Kirin beer in the fridge.
If you're looking for high-quality, great value Lebanese food, Delicija Libanesi is a safe bet. Located amid Radnička cesta business district, this extravagantly decorated, Middle-Eastern influenced restaurant provides a warm contrast to its cold, glassy architectural surroundings. You'll find all the classic Lebanese mezze dishes here, so its a welcome retreat for vegetarians, although the Croatian menu also caters to meatier appetites. The whole experience is an embellished by the traditional hospitality of its Lebanese owners, and there’s a programme of evening entertainment on Saturday nights - including belly-dancing.
Little has changed here since Tin Ujević and his literary gang were regulars in the 1940s – except that their pictures have been mounted and an outline of Tin's iconic hat etched on to the windows. The front bar has since been converted into restaurant space but the back dining room still provides intimacy. There are inexpensive specials every day, and a seafood-dominated menu that features red mullet, sole or sea bass at 370kn a kilo. Plenty of Korčula varieties on the wine list, reflecting the venue's ownership.
Chandeliers, retro furnishings and fancy upholstery mark out this recent addition to the Tkalčićeva scene as one of the more refined additions to Zagreb’s main nightlife strip. The stylish interior is pleasantly offset by informal, friendly service, which often includes a smile from the kitchen staff (who may well bring the food out themselves). The discreet presence of a gentle white dog reinforces the impression that this is a family restaurant and the warmth is palpable. The menu is Dalmatian-Mediterranean with a pronounced emphasis on flavoursome, sensual seafood and home-made pasta. Prices edge towards the fine-dining end of the scale but there are some good inexpensive options (lamb chops, pork steaks) if you order shrewdly. House specialities include a range of seafood ravioli (140-200Kn) that are more refined and interesting than the usual pasta-food choices in town, and a seafood risotto (110Kn) that achieves just the right balance between al-dente rice and a bottom-of-the-bowl swish of flavoursome juices. The musical background is mostly smooth and sultry blues and jazz – which goes rather well with the food.
The opening of this much anticipated new venture was accompanied by the kind of PR fanfare that saw journalists reviewing the restaurant before they’d even eating there. Happily, the hype has not been in vain; we went there towards the end of Franko’s first week of business and found plenty of positives and absolutely nothing to complain about. It’s a high-end pizzeria that delivers the goods, with ingredients sourced from Italian suppliers and a high degree of care invested in preparing the dough. Most of the toppings follow traditional Italian models although there’s a lot of artistic license; Sweet Sky mixes mozzarella with pear, walnut and pomegranate; Wild Wild Boar is garnished with wild boar sausage and truffles; Il Respire del Mare goes for prawns, pomegranate and lime. We opted for the Calabrian Red (88Kn) with spicy sausage and hot peppers, which came with perfectly crispy crust and plentiful springy cheese, and a real paprika-bite to the topping. Service is highly professional and well-drilled – this is one of the few places in the city where Time Out’s down-at-heel scribe was addressed throughout as cijenjeni gospodin (“the esteemed gentleman”), and to be frank we could get quite used to that.
Occupying a premium spot on Zagreb's bustling thoroughfare Tkalčićeva, Otto & Frank is a bistro with an emphasis on breakfast, booze and bar snacks. Finding a flawless full English in Zagreb isn't easy — breakfast here is a typically light affair, constituting pastries, cheese and cured meats, but there's a growing rooster of restaurants you can go to for a good fry-up, and Otto & Frank lay on a killer all day breakfast. A stellar cast of craft beers from local breweries provide speedy replenishment for your hangover, and a daily selection of soups, salads and sandwiches are decent for the lunchtime munchies.
Popular with Zagreb’s weekend brunch crowd, Eggspress offers a world-spanning selection of egg dishes – there’s perfectly poached Eggs Benedict, omelets, Shakshuka; whatever way you like yours, they have it cracked. Prices are reasonable, the service is friendly and eggs are cooked to perfection. Simple cocktails like Mimosas and Aperol Spritz are available Inside, the bright, modern interior features exposed brickwork, acres of seating and a grand piano – slightly incongruous with its barmy eggs-only concept menu.
Having spent a couple of years establishing a unique brewery-cum-bar-cum-DJ space out in the suburbs, the ever-agile Garden Brewery now has a base in the city centre too – allowing aficionados to save serious money on all those taxi fares. First and foremost it’s an excellent multi-tap, serving the Garden’s five core beers, a handful of their seasonal specials, and one or two guest brews. It’s also a very good place for lunch or evening munchies, with a menu artfully poised between creative fusion cuisine and grub that goes well with alcohol. It’s one of the best places in town for a good inexpensive lunch, with daily menus (Mondays to Fridays till 3 pm) offering two courses for 65-68Kn. Items on the main menu frequently come with a global-meets-local twist: the fish and chips feature Croatian salmon trout; rolling up the buncek (roast pork knuckle) and serving it in a hot-dog bun is a culinary joke that works rather well. The knockout Zagorska juha (soup from the Zagorje region; 30Kn) is chunky, full of flavour, and serves admirably as a quick lunch in its own right. And as you might expect from the Garden crew the place very much looks and sounds the part, with a minimalism-meets-pop-art interior and a soundtrack that runs from vintage soul to clubby electronica.