Now firmly established on savvy travellers’ dream vacation mood boards, Dalmatia’s iconic and historic coastline is becoming the stuff of legend. It is matched by an up-and-coming food scene, known for the freshness of its produce and outstanding value, as a generation of chefs now prioritise heritage recipes at some of the finest coastal restaurants in Europe. 50 Best rounds up 24 of the best places to eat to help you plan a gastronomic tour of the region
Dalmatia is a tale of land and sea, with a food culture enriched by time and ripened by sunlight in one of Europe’s most desirable locales. It bears influence from a lengthy roll call of settlers, the Venetians, Austrians, French, Russians and Turks, and those stopping by as a waypoint on the Silk Road.
Its ubiquitous medieval walls – that are now world famous thanks to features in the likes of Game of Thrones – also act as loyal sentries, protecting its natural larder. While all who passed through have left their mark with spices, flora and produce, today it’s Dalmatia’s time-honoured recipes that the locals safeguard. From traditional, simply prepared authentic dishes to new-wave riffs on the classics, it has gastronomic travellers flocking. Coupled with the region’s sandy beaches, Mediterranean climate, historic cities and lush hinterlands, it’s a destination primed for discovery.
The island of Murter is one of the Dalmatian coast's most picturesque destinations (image: Aleksandar Gospic, courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board)
Straddling four unique counties, Dalmatia’s produce is unrivalled. Whether nourished by the sun, sustained by saltwater or enlivened by the bura wind, a low-food-miles mantra is the norm, not the exception here. From Zadar County’s plump marasca cherries and Šibenik-Knin’s fantastic meat and dairy, to Split-Dalmatia’s incredible river crab and mushroom-laden forests and Dubrovnik-Neretva’s superlative wines, seafood and fish, you’ll find culinary excellence at every turn. It’s a given that whatever part you’re in, wonderful and varied olive oils have a quotidian presence, adding nuance to dishes at all points on the dining spectrum.
In terms of cultural waypoints to intersperse fine eating, there are plenty of options to work up an appetite in Dubrovnik and further afield. Visit the ancient home of the nation’s legendary seafarers on the peninsula of Pelješac at the Maritime Museum in Orebić for an authentic look at the region’s history, or discover the home of arguably Croatia’s most famous son, Marco Polo. The storied explorer was born on beautiful Korčula and the streets bear his hallmarks whichever direction you turn.
For outstanding natural beauty visit the landscapes of the Neretva Delta, a conflux of river and sea, for some of the nation’s finest photographic opportunities. Once your own exploration is complete, it will be time for lunch, and the four counties of Dalmatia have some of finest restaurants on the Adriatic.
So read on to discover the restaurants and chefs making the most of such a bounteous pantry, on a flavour-filled tour of delectable Dalmatia.
Chef Marijo Curić trained under some of London's most esteemed chefs before returning home to Croatia and opening Restaurant 360
Must order: Ston oysters with anchovy, onion cream, mussel and lime sauce and caviar
High-flying local hero Marijo Curić cut his teeth under London chefs Marcus Wareing, Claud Bosi and Phil Howard. And it shows at this 50 Best Discovery-listed restaurant. Creativity and culinary joie de vivre are emblematic across his five-course tasting menus, which are served in the setting of the medieval stone walls and fortress of St John in Dubrovnik’s southern stretch of waterfront. Here, modern Adriatic flavours and Dalmatian classics are treated with French technique: think carrot with fermented garlic cream and pine nuts; lamb confit with fava beans and sheep’s yoghurt; and Dubrovnik’s famed mantala (a dense cake made from plavac mali grape must) with sour orange mousse, carob biscuit and mantala ice cream.
Ulica Svetog Dominika bb, Old Town, 20000 Dubrovnik
Exploratory new-wave Dalmatian gastronomy is the order of the day at Marco Polo
Must order: Sesame-crusted tuna with Korčulan olive oil
Moody hues and high bar seats lead to outdoor tables set down a narrow alleyway away from the brouhaha of Dubrovnik Old Town. It’s an intimate scene at Marco Polo – who is arguably the city’s most famous son – which is a family run restaurant excelling in new-wave Dalmatian cuisine. Larger dishes playfully marry rustic recipes with twists inspired by Marco Polo’s travels – see the Kublai Khan steak with a velvety sauce – while smaller plates and sharers highlight tradition. Pršut is smoked for 45 days and air-dried on Dalmatia’s north bura wind, the cheese platter features local skripavac, a young cottage cheese and šporki makaruli (Dubrovnik’s chief pasta with beef sauce) and the black risotto are ever-present. Aside from the concise, exclusively Croatian wine list, the homemade cherry brandy is one to look out for.
Lučarica Ulica 6, 20000, Dubrovnik
The terrace at Pjerin offers stunning vistas of the Croatian coastline
Must order: Homemade black tagliatelle with seafood, samphire cream and mullet bottaga
With views of Dubrovnik’s Old Town and Lokrum island, the 50 Best Discovery-rated Pjerin finds an elegant home within the Villa Dubrovnik hotel. Presenting contemporary Mediterranean cuisine with accents by way of the Côte d'Azur and Italy, chef Robert Račić’s menu bursts with flavour. The smart dining room, dressed in muted whites and greys, evokes a New England brushstroke that lets colourful plates like lamb with apricot orzo, summer vegetables and feta cream and tuna tartare with watermelon stand out and proud. It’s a fine-dining affair, so opt for a five- or seven-course menu backed by Croatian wines to taste all the highlights.
Villa Dubrovnik, Ulica Vlaha Bukovca 6, 20000 Dubrovnik
Nautika's five-course tasting menu rings true to its moniker, delivering an exemplary showcase of local seafood
Must order: Dalmatian-style lamb with purple cabbage, crispy chickpeas and onion marmalade
If it weren’t for the medieval walls lining the terrace of this Pile institution on the edge of Dubrovnik, you’d have one toe in the Adriatic. The romantic setting has taken root in a one-time maritime school, renovated with focus on modern comfort, antiques and a piano for added atmosphere. Playing his part in the renaissance of Croatian gastronomy Mario Bunda crafts a reimagining of classic cuisine with modern touchpoints and cutting-edge technique. The five-course tasting menu showcases the region’s fish – tuna tartare, fish soup, shrimps with gnocchi et al – while seven courses draws upon exemplary meat dishes and a Pag cheese course of its own. An extensive list of Dalmatian wines includes grk, malvasija Dubrovačka, pošip and plavac mali.
Brsalje 3, 20000 Dubrovnik
Gastro Mare uses the very best of local seafood catches sourced from the waters that surround its harbourside dining room
Must order: Toni’s favourite fish stew
Fish and seafood is the order of the day at Gastro Mare. When you consider the site – a hidden bay with private yacht mooring on Ston’s southern isthmus – it makes sense. Pull up a stool at the wooden waterfront bar to sample an oyster and wine pairing par excellence to start things off. The Pelješac peninsula is chef Toni Bjelančić’s natural larder, and he shows it in its best light. Think old-school Dalmatian fare brought up to date with contemporary edge – say Adriatic prawns with peppers and tomato in a lemon-butter sauce, tuna carpaccio with Asian inflections and a steak-forward carnivore section so no one misses out. Make a day of it and enlist on one of its cooking courses, which runs through five courses you can recreate back home.
Kobas 1A, 20230 Kobas, Pelješac
Dubrovnik Old Town (image: Julien Duval, courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board)
Must order: Croatian black pig chorizo and Adriatic prawn croquettes
A cosy neighbourhood bistro serving high-quality Croatian plates with a modern spin. You’ll find it tucked down a little passageway in Dubrovnik’s Old Town, with an easy-going atmosphere and pared-back interior that belies the flavour emerging from the kitchen. Talented Dubrovnik-born chef Pasko Kapetanić’s admiration for local ingredients is notable across plates like mullet with herb butter, beef tartare with taggiasca olives, tuna with quails’ eggs, fennel and aubergine cream and slow-cooked oxtail. Unfussy, full of flavour and beautifully presented.
Ulica Cvijete Zuzorić 2, 20000 Dubrovnik
Chef Marko Gajski's cuisine at LD Restaurant features reimaginations and reinventions of traditional Croatian dishes, such as komiška pogača
Must-order: Sea bass with black truffle, garlic, lardo and egg yolk
Wild island plants and hand-picked ingredients from the Dalmatian archipelago and organic kitchen garden take leading roles at this sublime restaurant. Grounded in Korčulan tradition and located in the island’s luxurious Lešić Dimitri Palace hotel, it’s the perfect place to experience innovative Croatian gastronomy. Chef Marko Gajski – part of the new wave of Croatian chefs – brings know-how from some of Europe’s top kitchens including Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in London. In tune with the seasons, a tasting menu reveals creative dishes like komiška pogača – stuffed bread brought from Vis by maritime travellers, filled with onions, tomatoes, Adriatic fish and capers – and beef tenderloin with foie gras, shallots and beetroot. A table outside ensures postcard-worthy panoramas of the southerly Pelješac peninsula.
Lešić Dimitri Palace, Don Pavla Poše 1-6, 20260 Korčula
Konoba Mate is a boutique family-run restaurant that delivers hearty Croatian cooking at its finest
Must-order: Pasta with wild fennel and chilli
A small family restaurant crafting homespun heritage dishes that pack a serious flavour punch: that’s Konoba Mate in a nutshell. In the kitchen is old-school chef Mirjana, queen of the slow cook – try her goat peka or pašticada with macaroni rolled in the manner local resident Marco Polo brought to the island from China and you’ll see why – and Biljana whose desserts, from trifle-like paradižot and flan-style rožata to chocolate cake, will have you wishing they never end. Mate meanwhile tends to pigs and goats for the pršut and homemade goats’ cheese that graces the menu, while Ana ensures the fields yield the most flavoursome crops. After you’ve had your fill, take a walk along the port to Pupnatska Luka, a lush cove where the team’s beach bar serves refreshing drinks made with homemade juice and syrups.
Village Island, Pupnat, 20260 Korčula
Traditional Dalmatian octopus salad (image: Maja Danica Pecanic, courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board)
Must-order: Adriatic sea bass carpaccio with citrus emulsion, fennel and seasonal fruit
Chef Saša Began treats seafood with the kind of reverence usually reserved for priceless art. Poised on a 16th-century port, within the shadow of Zadar’s ancient city walls, to eat at Foša is to embark on a culinary ode to the Adriatic. This intimate, laid-back fine diner majors in modern Dalmatian cuisine, putting a contemporary spin and global accents on local ingredients. From venerated Adriatic lobster with Dalmatian chard and octopus salad (salata od hobotnice, a Dalmatian speciality) laden with local olives and capers, to spiced tuna with wasabi, super-fresh fish and modern presentation are a given. Take a seat on the breezy waterside terrace and be sure to order one of the fantastic Dalmatian wines on the list.
Kralja Dmitra Zvonimira 2, 23000 Zadar
Croatian grilled fish (image: Maja Danica Pecanic, courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board)
Must-order: Grilled octopus
Surrounded by olive trees, the sun-dappled stone terrace of this charming restaurant begs guests to linger. Overlooking the sea from its hillside perch, it’s an evocative scene that sets the tone for fare that will live long in the memory. Chef Edi Gregurić’s menu reflects not only his love of Dalmatian ingredients, but also a personal affinity to Spanish gastronomy. Witness tapas-style Pag cheese (from the neighbouring island) aside the region’s intense and iconic black cuttlefish risotto – crni rižot – and scampi buzara (a tomato-rich sauce), then get ready for the likes of grilled anglerfish and octopus marrying local food culture with a hint of parrilla-infused flare. Seafood lovers only need apply.
Drage 2, 23247 Vinjerac
The charming town of Zadar (image: Ivo Biocina, courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board)
Must-order: Dry aged, herb-crusted chateaubriand
With its industrial fixtures and wrought-iron lights, wood-clad Harbor Cookhouse wouldn’t look out of place in any modern city. But it’s the bay scene framing the old port hanger that plants it firmly in Zadar. While water might dictate the view, the relaxed eatery centres on grill-fired meats, serving the likes of asado-style suckling pig and marinated pork ribs like they’re going out of fashion. Not to mention the fine line of dry aged steaks. Pick your cut from the lofty all-glass hanger fridge and wash it down with a local beer. Go hungry, leave happy.
Obala Kneza Branimira 6A, 23000 Zadar
Traditional black cuttlefish risotto (image: Maja Danica Pecanic, courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board)
Must-order: Crni rižot – black cuttlefish risotto with pea cream and Pag cheese
Revisiting heritage recipes with contemporary nous is the modus operandi at this refined dining room within the boutique confines of Zadar’s Hotel Bastion. Set within a 13th-century fortress, it’s a beacon of gourmet Dalmatian cuisine; Marijo Čepek and his team source all their ingredients from the local market, channelling the flavour of the region past and present. Dishes might include tuna tartare, Adriatic shrimp and pistachio cheesecake. Expect Italian inflections that resonate with the area’s history, colourful presentation, superlative wine pairings and exemplary service. Be sure to book a table on the terrace for panoramic views.
Hotel Bastion, Bedemi Zadarskih Pobuna 13, 23000 Zadar
Vrana Lake, a tourist attraction near Maškovića Han (image: Zoran Jelaca, courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board)
Must-order: Pistachio baklava
Rooted in the region, Maškovića Han’s hotel restaurant reveals a concise menu centred on hyper-seasonal ingredients and low food miles. Situated in the medieval town of Vrana, close to its eponymous lake, you’ll find it within a revitalised 17th-century walled compound, once the summer house of a Turkish admiral. Modern heritage by design – think preserved Ottoman-style architecture alongside fresh custom-made furnishings from Croatian designers – the food follows suit. Working with local family farms, Mara Zeyen’s menu leans in on traditional Dalmatian staples – pastas, risottos, fish et al – graced with modern know-how and Turkish touchpoints. Case in point: Izmir kotfe with roasted pepper and tomato sauce. Solid Croatian bins lead on the wine front.
Hotel Maškovića Han, Vrana Marina 1, Vrana, 23211 Pakoštane
Beautiful Murter Island is also home to the delightful Konoba Boba restaurant (image: Aleksandar Gospic, courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board)
Must-order: Murter fish stew with homemade polenta
Take the link bridge from the mainland to the pretty island of Murter, which lays claim to this standout restaurant known for its elevated home-style fare. Helmed by Vjeko Bašić and with farmhouse-fresh interiors akin to dining at a friend’s home, it’s part and parcel of the locale. From à la carte to a chef’s choice degustation, the menu is backed by herbs, vegetables and fruits from Boba’s fragrant garden. Start with pršut (Dalmatian prosciutto) and homegrown olives or perhaps Adriatic tuna tartare with shallots and lemon zest and follow it up with simply prepared catch of the day – perhaps hake, swordfish, sea bass – or local lamb, all graced with Mediterranean flavours. Croatian wines are well represented.
Ulica Butina 22, 22243 Murter
Konoba Tri Piruna
Konoba Tri Piruna is a culinary mainstay of Vodice, having served diners since 1973
Must-order: Skradinski rižot (veal risotto)
Opened back in 1973, this rustic spot was one of Vodice’s first bona fide restaurants. Beloved by regulars and visitors alike, guests come for emblematic Dalmatian dishes such as Adriatic carpaccio, fish soups, local snails and mainstay Croatian steaks expertly kissed by the flame of the grill that’s at the dining room’s heart. Presentation has moved with the times and is elegant without pretence. Add to that the buzzy ambiance, a shaded outdoor area lined with old-school benches and an on-point wine list and you can see why it’s stood the test of time.
Ulica Roca Pave 5, 22211 Vodice
Pelegrini's six-course tasting menu draws inspiration from the land, lakes and sea of Dalmatia
Must-order: Pašticada (braised beef)
Consider chef Rudolf Štefan the vanguard of modern Dalmatian cuisine as his restaurant is the only in the area recognised by 50 Best Discovery. A fine diner of the highest order, Pelegrini sits within a 14th-century palazzo facing St James Cathedral in Šibenik’s epicentre with an olive-lined terrace and sea views providing the backdrop. The brainchild of a creative chef at the top of his game, the six-course tasting menu rolls with the flavours of the season, guided by Dalmatia’s lakes, sea and land. It starts with a medley of fish-forward bites – carefully sourced, with hyper-modern plating to the fore – before taking a pitch-perfect tour of the region, showcasing everything from veal tartare to chickpea purée with roasted beets, courgette and pumpkin oil cream and lamb ribs.
Ulica Jurja Dalmatinca 1, Grad, 22000 Šibenik
Home-style cooking over fire forms the menu at Konoba Vinko
Must-order: Odojak na ražnju (suckling pig)
A bucolic family-run tavern that proves it’s worth going off the beaten track in hunt of serious flavour. Set inland from Šibenik, Konoba Vinko is all about classic homemade fare done well. Namesake owner, Vinko Krnić, acts a gatekeeper for time-honoured rural culinary traditions etched out daily on the chalkboard. Authentic peke (lamb simmered in the fire under a large iron bell-shaped dome) is a tender, flavoursome highlight with tangible sense of place. Then there’s veal risotto – the slow-cooked flagship of nearby Skradin – which is never off the menu. And Drniški pršut, a wonder of the country’s inner sanctum with protected destination of origin, or perhaps suckling pig (odojak na ražnju), which was cooked alfresco here over open flame before the restaurant proper even opened. Soak up the rustic atmosphere and round things off with a rakija (grappa).
Uz Cestu 57, 22221 Konjevrate
Šug, which translates as sauce, is a local favourite for its old-meets-new style of Dalmatian cuisine
Must-order: Lobster à la Šug with homemade pasta in prošek sauce
Off the tourist trail, this easy-going neighbourhood joint by a Split-born chef duo champions the taste of modern Dalmatia. Favoured by locals, the name translates as ‘sauce’ and indeed, the team goes the extra mile to dress each and every dish with flavour-laced care. Like much of the region’s cuisine, it’s a tale of old meets new, with grandparents’ recipes given modern treatment with much cooked over a live fire to imbue unique flavour. Examples? Prawn pâté with sour onion and black olive ash; aromatic octopus peka (hobotnica ispod peke), smoked swordfish carpaccio with rice, rosemary and capers and a prawn tartare with pistachio presented like a piece of modern art.
Ulica Tolstojeva 1a, 21000 Split
Lobsters are a house specialty at Makarun (image: Maja Danica Pecanic, courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board)
Must-order: Lobster makaruni
Pull up a chair at this courtyard restaurant with rooms in the heart of Split’s Old Town to sample a paragon of Dalmatian fare. Tucked behind the walls of the Diocletian Palace and embracing regional foodways, it sits on the site of one of the city’s oldest restaurants. Charming the palate are provenance-first ingredients (much from the house garden) across a ‘chef’s surprise’ tasting or à la carte menu. A lobster tank showcases the house speciality, griddled and served with handmade makaruni (macaroni) in a nod to the island of Korčula nearby. There’s a long list of wild catch of the day served grilled, or in the likes of smoked shrimp risotto, fish soups and squid salad. For meat eaters, Croatian beef with celery mash and black truffle is the order of the day.
Marulićeva 3, 21000 Split
Dalmatinski pršut (image: Maja Danica Pecanic, courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board)
Must-order: Octopus peka with homegrown potatoes
Vines shroud the terrace of this local hillside tavern found southeast of Split overlooking the Makarska Riviera and Brač island. The first thing that will hit you is the evocative scent of the fire, cooking steaks and fish plus myriad slow-cooked pekas, heady with garlic, tomato and rosemary (order 48 hours in advance). The meat comes from Dalmaita’s zagora – the hilly hinterland beyond the coast – while fish and seafood practically leaps to the kitchen – some 40-50kg daily – from the waters below. Start with a Dalmatian platter of local cheese, olives and Dalmatinski pršut, then see where your tastebuds take you, perhaps scampi with red or white buzara or lamb hot off the grill. Small and perfectly formed, it’s a friendly spot, with free transfers from local hotels a noteworthy bonus.
Svetog Jurja, 21322 Brela
The UNESCO city of Trogir (image: Denis Peros, courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board)
Must-order: Chocolate maraschino cake
Opened in 1998, this stone-lined temple to elevated regional cuisine lies in the midst of the Unesco city of Trogir. Lauded as one of city’s finest, the name is taken from the vine lattice that shelters its sun-trap terrace, and indeed, regional wines are omnipresent on the drinks list – don’t miss the Dalmatian rosés and subtly sweet dessert wine prošek. Aside from using the freshest meat and fish, the menu’s bolstered by ingredients from the restaurant’s farm – chickpeas, fava, lentils, kale and a superlative olive oil you can take home with you. In charge of the pass are chefs Matko and Pašk, who craft refined seafood platters – cuttlefish tagliatelle, amberjack ceviche and shrimp tartare – beef cheeks with Roman gnocchi and cauliflower cream and the daily catch with aplomb. Note, late afternoon (4pm) and dinner service only.
Matije Gupca 14, 21220 Trogir
Jeny's terrace offers beautiful panoramas over the Makarska Riveria, with seriously good dishes to match
Must-order: Duo of duck and quail with carrots three ways
Clinging to the hills of the Makarska Riviera, some 250m above sea level in Tučepi’s old town is a modern marvel of Croatian fine dining. Helmed by the Čović brothers – Vlado in the kitchen; Milenko, front of house – it’s a family affair operating at the pinnacle of Dalmatian gastronomy since 1986. From a glass-walled room or swoon-worthy terrace, a seasonal eight-course tasting menu highlights both traditional and new-wave cooking techniques paired with Croatian wines. Interesting ingredients tell a story of terroir across the likes of Adriatic gurnard, red pine mushrooms from the Biokovo mountains and marasca cherries on hand for sweet and savoury dishes. Presentation speaks to modern gastronomy and views over to the island of Hvar is added bonus.
Gornje Tučepi, Čovići 1, 21325 Tučepi
Seafood lunch on Brac Island (image: Ivo Biocina, courtesy of Croatian National Tourist Board)
Must order: Prawn tartare with elderflower, capers, raspberry and sea asparagus
Innovate Mediterranean fare is front and centre at this unfussy fine diner close to Supetar’s harbour on the island of Brač. Chef Dino Šeparović is a master of his trade with a holistic approach to regional ingredients and deft touch that plays out in the likes of Adriatic oysters with Brač red vermouth, lemon balm, shallot and pomegranate and lamb tartare with pine nuts, Jerusalem artichoke and mayonnaise laced with sparkling wine. Whether you pick your plates or opt for the tasting menu, you can expect taste buds to be suitably tantalised. Round it all off an almond desert featuring island varenik (thick grape sauce), curd and olive oil and a glass of hyper-local Brač wine.
Kala 7, 21400 Supetar, Brač
Maslina Hotel's luxurious restaurant utilises produce grown in the on-site garden within its modern Mediterranean-inspired menu
Must order: Adriatic sea bass ceviche with island lemon, seaweed salad and flaxseed chips
Hedonists flock to the luxury of Hvar’s stunning Maslina hotel, but gastronomy heads come for its restaurant. Fuelled by a generous organic kitchen garden, Miro Marić’s cuisine fuses Mediterranean flavours, French technique and high-quality Dalmatian ingredients and local island herbs. Grab a glass of Croatian sparkling wine or chilled Hvar rosé and head to the warm sea-facing dining room, which provides the perfect frame for a litany of deliciousness such as champagne risotto with langoustine and parsley foam and olive-oil poached fish with summer ragout. A truncated dessert menu and cheese plate featuring Croatian picks (look out for punchy sir iz mišine, aged in lambskin sacks) rounds it off.
Uvala Maslinica 0, 21460 Stari Grad, Hvar
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