Tom Norman, PR Senior Account Executive with Hills Balfour gives us his firsthand account of places to eat in Zagreb.
To Zagreb with Love
As I sat looking out of the oval shaped window, watching the sun beam off the wings whilst they sliced through the fickle clouds, I wondered why I was saying this pretentious monologue out loud…and why the woman two seats over was beginning to slowly edge further away from me?
I’ve always held a certain fondness for weekend breaks, nothing quite breaks up the working week like knowing that at the end of it you’ll be lost in a foreign city, panicking about the lack of access to Whatsapp.
Before I knew it the wheels had touched the tarmac and I found myself gazing upon a familiar sight; rain. Almost immediately Toto starts playing through my headphones – this felt less like a coincidence and more like divine mockery. Despite the weather my mood wasn’t dampened (pun intended) as I embarked on the Croatian capital, excited for a weekend away in an unfamiliar city with a close friend as a ‘tour guide’. (I use quotation marks because it felt less like an informative tour and more like a rakija fuelled food crawl)
Admittedly at first I had no idea what this blog would entail when I started writing it, apart from the fact it would incorporate a lot of unnecessary outdated wit. However, throughout the weekend I found myself grading each eatery we attended from god awful to amazing (1-5). You’ll be happy to hear that none of them disappointed!
So here it is, my run down of local ‘Zagrebian’ restaurants;
1. Capuciner – www.capuciner.hr/en
So my first meal in Zagreb was pizza. Yes I know this is the equivalent to going to India and ordering McDonalds, but in all fairness I had been eating ‘clean’ for the past month, and my ‘tour guide’ said this was the best pizza in the city. She wasn’t joking either…
The pizzas range from a normal person’s portion to the size of my ego (unfathomably large). Now I wouldn’t say that I’m a connoisseur of pizza, but let’s just say I know my Papa John’s from my Zizzis. If the cheese to sauce ratio isn’t correct I will throw what can only be described as a mild hissy fit – in the manliest way possible.
That being said, this was one of the best pizzas I’ve ingested in a while, which could be an irrelevant opinion coming from a man who is on first name basis with the Dominos delivery driver. The service at Capuciner isn’t too bad either, despite getting a bill for 1,000,000 Kuna in jest. 4/5
2. Vallis Aurea – www.vallis-aurea.com
Feeling slightly more adventurous the next day I was taken to a cosy eatery for a traditional Croatian delicacy, meat stuffed with cheese; pretty much an edible representation of testosterone. It looked like a schnitzel, it smelt like a schnitzel, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t the best ham and cheese stuffed pork schnitzel I’ve ever crossed paths with.
To add to the deliciousness, a meal for two came to £10…£10!! I wouldn’t be allowed to lick a chip for that much in London. If you’re looking for a quick, cheap and delicious introduction to the Croatian culture, don’t hesitate. 3/5
3. Kod Dede – www.koddede.hr/eng/index.html
If the schnitzel was an apt culinary imitation of masculinity, this meal was like sitting on a Harley Davidson, whilst watching some kind of sport with a ball, as a swimsuit model trims your beard and pumps beer into your veins…to drown out the background noise of Terry Crews attempting to flog Old Spice.
Kod Dede is a restaurant dedicated to BBQ, and we had ordered the meat platter for two – this was pretty much Zagreb’s answer to Man Vs Meat.
Upon arriving at the restaurant, it didn’t look like much; sat in the middle of this unidentifiable district just outside of the city centre, however, I trusted my ‘tour guide’ as she hadn’t led me astray, yet.
I was ravenous. I was approaching that point where your stomach starts to consume itself after the apparent 60 minutes of neglect – if you haven’t worked it out already, I am a bit of a glutton. I set out with the intention to order 3 courses, with my first instinct being to order the meal for two just for myself since it was only £10, again. It dawned on me at this point that if I ever lived in Zagreb I would be morbidly obese.
Our meat volcano (meat platter) arrived, and I was suddenly filled with an odd sense of relief due to deciding against ordering a starter and the two person platter for myself, but I also experienced the overwhelming feeling of impending doom because of the size of the challenge that lay so majestically in front of us.
This experience was by far my favourite meal of the weekend, and surprisingly it was up there with the best BBQs of all time (in my books). If you’re a fan of BBQ, sausages and pork, look no further than this modest little Croatian gem. 5/5
4. Rocket Burger – www.facebook.com/pages/Rocket-Burger-Cafe
Just like with pizza I am incredibly snobby when it comes to burgers, and there are only two places I swear by in the world for burgers and those two places are Yellow Burgermanufaktur (Berlin) and the Troll’s Pantry at The Hobgoblin(Brighton).
However, a third has now been added to the list; Rocket Burger (Zagreb). This American themed diner may just look like any old normal Yankee joint, but it gets its burgers SO right. The bun is the right proportion, they don’t go too crazy on sauce/toppings and the patty is clearly handmade, as it crumbles in your mouth (and sometimes in your hands). The quality of this burger was undeniable, and therefore it has made it onto my incredibly short list of the world’s best burgers. 4/5
5. Esplanade Hotel – www.esplanade.hr
I have a real problem with will power when it comes to breakfast buffets, a REAL PROBLEM. I am one of those people who doesn’t know what to choose, so I end up with a yoghurt covered Danish pastry on top of a poached egg, which is delicately balanced on a stack of pancakes, as it swims in a bacon wrapped bowl of maple syrup flavoured coco pops. Suffice to say I’m usually quite ill afterwards.
That being said, the spread at breakfast is phenomenal at the Esplanade. They have everything from pastries to veal sausages, yoghurts and cold meats, which are surrounded by with various types of bread, and if you’re not completely lactose intolerant – a truck load of cheese.
For those hoping for something a little warmer, you are also provided with an option to order from the kitchen. Naturally being a well-rounded suave gentleman I went for the sugar laden pancakes, accompanied by the eggs royale. Once again I was not left dissatisfied, each dish was cooked to perfection and by the end of the meal I was pretty much in a coma. 4/5
Johann Franck – www.johannfranck.hr
Swanky three story bar/nightclub situated in the centre of town – perfect for spot to catch up with friends over a drink.
So there you have it, Zagreb is filled with sneaky little hidden jewels just waiting to be frequented.
Until next time, as they say in Croatia: Još uvijek sam gladan.