A trip through Continental Croatia; comprising Central Croatia and Slavonia will take you right into the setting of a medieval fairytale, with romantic castles from the Habsburg Dynasty and former Kingdom of Croatia nestled on hill overlooking ‘the golden land,’ an infinity of Graševina vineyards and farmland. In between discovering the likes of 13th century Trakošćan Castle and 15th century Veliki Tabor Castle, Croatia’s flower garden of Međimurje by the Drava and Mura Rivers, or inspecting insects in baroque Varaždin, stop in these spectacular eateries to get a real taste of the hinterland.
1. Mala Hiža, Međumurje
Mala Hiža is probably one of Croatia’s most loved restaurants as they stir up seasonal Međumurje cuisine with modern flair; think rustic soups and carnivorous surprises with all the goodness from the forest to go with it, and a compulsory homemade cake to sign off the perfect meal. These traditional farmer’s bites are prepared with passion by the owner and chef and lovingly served with one Međumurje’s wine in the most charming 1887 wooden farmhouse.
2. Iločki Podrumi, Ilok
In the town of Ilok in Croatia’s furthest east, winemaking traditions go back more than 2000 years and in the charming town you will find wineries in almost every street. A must see are the Old Cellars of Ilok, located in the town center. Built in the 16th century by Italian aristocracy, the Ilok Cellars run deep below the Ilok Castle; an impressive sight in itself with wines to match. Iločki Podrumi, the company that own the cellars produce some of Croatia’s most prized wines and are particularly known for their Chardonnay, Traminac, Riesling, and Pinot Blanc varieties. Take part in the winemaking traditions by attending the Ilok Grape Harvest Fest as you sip on of Croatia’s crispiest whites.
3. Restoran Kormoran Nature Park Kopački rit
Spicy and green are the catchphrases of Restoran Kormoran, a charming tavern nestled along a little lake in the heart of Nature Park Kopački Rit in Baranja in Slavonia. Slavonia’s staple foods are kulen sausage and freshwater fiš paprika (fish paprika), two pakrika spiced concoctions. In Kormoran you might be in look to see the fish paprikash stewin the making; cooking over a bonfire in a cast-iron kettle with a selection of carp, catfish, pike or starlet in the mix.
4. Zdjelarević Hotel, Winery and Restaurant, Brodski Stupnik
Amidst the rolling hills of Brodski Stupnik not far from Slavnonski Brod is the Zdjelarević Winery, Hotel and Restaurant, a boutique property surrounded by endless vineyards. The rather new property is built in traditional Slavonian style; merging Roman, Turkish, and Austro-Hungarian architecture into a country-style beauty. Get the entire Zdjelarević experience with a stay in the four-star hotel matched with the best of Slavonian wines and cuisine just below your bedroom window. Much like the winery’s architecture, Slavonian flavours also represent its previous conquerors so expect spice, herbs, and hearty dishes…. And don’t forget to try their signature Graševina white wine soup.
5. Restaurant Academia, Marija Bistrica
The Zagorje cuisine of northern Croatia has been spiked a little in Restaurant Academia located in the swanky Bluesun Hotel Kaj in Marija Bistrica. Zagorje cuisine is what many would define as peasant food; hearty meet dishes, cabbage and beans would make up a stereotype Zagorje dish but chef Tomislav Kožić has added his culinary flair giving his dishes a touch of Paris. Some must-tries are the roasted artichokes with smoked cheese, turkey roll filled with the goodness of the restaurant’s own garden, and barley mash.
Which restaurant will be your pick?