Restaurant Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik – April 2012

Halfway through our stay in Dubrovnik I stumbled over this one. I had seen the sign promoting it, and walked down the alley to check it out. Outside was a very friendly man – who I would later get to know as our waiter Mario. He was busy opening for the day, but nevertheless jumped up the stairs to get me the menu, and happily explained about the dishes etc. I told him I might be back for the evening, – as it turned out – my family and I were back for the following 3 evenings.

Restaurant Dubrovnik has the most elegant and inviting al fresco dining I saw in Dubrovnik. Beautiful set tables, warm red colours, a (working) fountain in the middle and a great – and not overpriced – menu to choose from.

We loved this terrasse....

If the weather is nasty – which it got during the last part of our stay, they also offer a small room downstairs, next to the entrance, that fits 12 people or so. Nothing wrong with that room, but its not as elegant as upstairs, it is cosy though – but and interiour designer would go to one of the local artist, and order some great paintings  – or just exhibit them, in exchange for some of the ones that were hanging there. I know I would change that on my first day of management if I owned the place.

The second thing I would invest in would be electri heaters for upstairs. Its the first time in my adult life I have had dinner more or less outside at 14 degrees celcius, with my coat on and everything. That would be such a small investment and the extra amount of people choosing to dine here would increase for sure in those months that does not offer evening temperatures at a human level. Just to repeat if the management read this. Please consider NOW – next low season is coming again.

We were treated with the same amuse on all three nights. It was nice, but a top kitchen would have changed-  knowing we were returning clients. The dishes we got on all three nights were among the best we had in Dubrovnik. The service of Mario and the smile of the pretty female “hostess” were outstanding – and even the maitre seemed happy to see us again on the last two nights.

Here is some of the dishes we had.

Amuse - Creamy goat cheese with a cracker.

Octopussy terrine, Smoked tuna, Sardelles/Anchovis...

A local “classic” – done to perfection here. Loved it. Nothing to improve – you can say that it is not really innovative or nouvelle cuisine – but this was Dubrovnik kitchen at its best. 7p

Grilled vegetables with crumbled goat cheese

Perfectly grilled vegs – and an uncomplicated dish. 6.5p

Fillet of Beef with vegetables and a potato "tarte"

Beef cooked to perfection, lovey potato “thing” and good vegetables. It totally lacked salt and pepper, but I could adjust for that myself – and I did. 7.5p

Local wines on the menu, we chose this pinot noir – which I found nice, especially when chilled, it did lack a bit of acidity in the end. But we had it on all 3 nights – so I guess we were happy 😉

Great design on the bottle I think...Nice wine too.

My conclusion:

On the first night of our stay, we met a lovely couple from London. We salute you – thanks for the fun. Hope to see you further on up the road. They told Mario after the main dish on the first evening. This was our best meal in Dubrovnik so far. The second best meal was the starter they continued. That said it all. They too were back for the following night.

They had a point. We were also happy to at last find very good food at a decent price in Dubrovnik. In the end – on all three nights the bill was around 100 eur for a family, with good wine, starters and main. The plates for the kids were done – children friendly – our requests in that respect was met without a fuss.

Mario was a perfect waiter. Ever concerned about our well-being, always around. I hope the management appreciate his job and that he gets whatever he truly deserves. He would be an “added value” in most restaurants I know of. Thanks Mario.

I do think that the food at Restaurant Nautica was more innovative and more sharp in presentation – but it comes at at least double the price. This was honest and decent food, food that in the end just lacked a bit of extra seasoning – sometimes only salt and pepper – to make it perfect comfort food.

And just to repeat  – PLEASE DO INVEST IN SOME ELECTRIC HEATERS – that investment will be paid back by the month of November – at the latest.

I give Restaurant Dubrovnik my highest recommendation – should you ever be in town, say hi from Food Wine and Rocknroll

*

My rating for this visit:

Food  7p (10) service 4.5p (5) ambience 4p (5), Total Score  15.5p (20)

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Restaurant Nautika, Dubrovnik – 5 April 2012

Restaurant Nautika is owned by a the same people who runs Proto. Amra – the female waiter at Proto – had kindly given us a card with a 10% (low season) discount in case we wanted to go here. And in our search of the best meal in town we sure wanted to.

The restaurant is situated just outside the old city walls – sharing a small plateau and stunning views with another restaurant. We were given the choice of eating outside, in the formal dining room or upstairs on a covered terrasse with electric heaters – with

stunning views of the ciy...

- and waterside - with a monkey grinning at us...

but before that, the bottle of Chardonnay was ordered and the family shot…

My beautiful family. Looking at the picture makes me happy and proud.

This one made me happy too. Probably the best bottle we had throughout our stay in Dubrovnik

Amuse - a fish creme in a sesame cornet

Funny thing here…this amuse is mentioned on the menu as part of the table setting and is charged per person – it does not matter whether you want it or not. Something I have never seen before. And I am happy my favourite restaurant Schloss Berg does not charge for their amuses – with the amount they serve, that would ruin any guest for sure. The boys didnt want theirs, which made this un-avoidable amuse an expensive taster – I think they should recoinsider that part of their concept – especially when dealing with family tables. However, back to the cornet – it was nice – nothing more.

Salad with cheese, capers and - well - a wonderful dressing.

This was my choice, one of the cheapest on the menu. The table next to us shared this one and another starter, which would probably be a better choice – but I liked it in its simplicity and the dressing was indeed very good. 6.5p

Scampi with goat cheese...

Looked very innovative in compare to what we had seen until now in Dubrovnik. A beautiful dish which taste did not quite live up to its presentation…

Great fillet of beef with 3 sauces...

Nothing to complain about here. 2 of the three sauces were great, 1 a bit boring. beef and mash perfect 8.5p

and to go with that….

A beautiful fruity and light Pinot Noir

Most main dishes are around 40-50 eur so it is clear that the expectations are naturally higher, but indeed so was the quality. If not perfect, if maybe just a bit overpriced. Astrid opted for

Sea bass on a bed of leek

Fish cooked perfectly, the bed of leek – lacked the final touch – the rocknroll part – maybe fennel seeds would have done the trick – that extra spice was missing. But beautilful presentation. 7p

The kitchen understood our request to serve a shared plate for the boys, same sea bass but with a different arrangement – and hats off for that – because we have seen other examples – Seven Seas in Hamburg comes to mind where it was clear they were not used to the other eating preferences children have.

Sea bass with French Fries, ketchuo and all, what more do you need at the age of 6?

I think Oscar and Emil would give this one a 10.

At the the end of the meal we were offered a dessert on the house – and I let the great great female waiter choose one for me. The creamy chocolate thing was so good that the boys after having tried a spoon had to ask for one as well.

Yummi...

and all I need for dessert on most days….8p

My conclusion:

Restaurant Nautika is close to the standards we know from Luxembourg and Western Europe. The service was impecable throughout the evening, all the staff smiling helpful, the bread great, most of the dishes wonderful. A huge wine list, both local but also more familiar names can be found here. The wine you most of the time still had to pour yourself, but hey – we had gotten used to that at this point.

We spend a wonderful evening with great views, warmed by the electric heaters – and the two American girls from Boston at the table next to us. It was a pleasure meeting you both, I hope you read this and have also good thoughts about the evening at Restaurant Nautika.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is the best restaurant in town. But it comes at a price. Amuse, starter, main dish for the adults, amuse and shared main for the boys, 2 bottles of wine, water etc. clocked in at just around the 280 eur mark – incl. the 10% discount. But if money it not an option – and add the stunning views from this heated terrasse – this is where you wanna eat on most nights in Dubrovnik.

Restaurant Nautika, – I salute you and your staff, and would be happy to be back tomorrow. Thanks for having us.

My rating for this visit:

Food 7.5p (10) service 4.5p (5) ambience 4.5p (5), Total Score  16.5p (20)

Dubrovnik Part 2 – Two good Restaurants of Dubrovnik

Finding a restaurant in Dubrovnik is not tough. The city is packed with possibilities. We had recommendations from our friends as well as from different kind of sources, magazines, guides etc. But still we struggled a bit to find the level we are used to in Luxembourg. The price level was as I mentioned in my last post surpricingly high and not always on par with what landed on the plates. Sea bass, scallops and oysters are found on most menus – Dubrovnik getting all those resoources from the clear waters surrounding the city – the Adriatic Ocean. Like I mention in the last post, wines are served and left on the table for you to help yourselves. Sometimes the waiter will lend a hand, but not always.

Anyway, I shall give you a selection of our favourite dining spots ranging from  bar/brasserie to top gastronomic ones – starting at the lower end of the scale with

Restaurant Veritas

More a bar than a restaurant, much more a terrasse in fact. The food here was very simple, but stil on a few occasions we were spoiled with something that rose above much higher priced places. It is situated on the corner of the small market square where Oscar and Emil where playing most days with the hundreds of doves. Comfortably chairs, shadow or a spot in the sun, Elvis will make sure you feel at ease, and his smile and speed will charm you.

Deep fried Octopussy with French Fries...

Beautilful, simple dish. If they had offered a home-made sauce tartare with this one it would have been the perfect dish.

Elivs and the Sea bass...

So after having met Bruce Springsteen already - Oscar finally gets to meet the real deal - Elvis.

One day, we just passed by for a drink, and Elvis told us we had to have the fish he just got in, – so we stayed a while, even took a walk, came back had a starter and was served this perfectly cooked fish which Elvis prepared before our eyes. It came with a garlic/oil dressing, we also ordered a gorgonzola sauce….and together it was one hell of a meal. One of the best we had in town and a 8p score. But on most occasions the food was more simple and Veritas definetely lives from the service of Elvis and the placement on this beautiful square. Most meals for a family with a bottle of wine will cost you between 75 eur and 110 eur.

My rating for Veritas: Food  4.5p (10) service 4.5p (5) ambience 4p (5), – I shall add half a happiness point for Elvis – Total Score  13.5p (20)

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Restaurant Proto

Our first evening and a lunch a few days later we spent at Proto, which is highlighted as one of the best fish restaurants in town. One of the chefs Branko Kusovac is just back from a 45 day stay at Noma in Copenhagen – and Amra our great and beautiful waiter of the evening told us about his praise for that experience.

The old fashioned but nice dining room, like a German Weinstube in Munich...

A perfect painting in a fish restaurant, Oscar was very impressed. We had to go back one day, just to look at the painting...

Beautiful starter...

The smoked tuna blew us away, great in texture and taste, the sardelles/anchovis not too salty on a bed of salad, really a good simple dish 8p

Our mains….

Fish....damn was ít sea bass or sole .... with grilled vegetables

Great vegetables, the fish – I found that something went wrong, or maybe it was just my expectations. It was rather soaked – in butter or oil – or both – and not as great as it looked. The red reduction was misplaced in my humble opinion.

Grilled Sole with potatoes, Eggplant and Zucchini

A little less fish on the plate would have done the trick, however the fish good, again the whole plate a bit too soaky

We had two bottles of wines – one was this great Chardonnay

Local wine...

the second one a bottle of rosé – we had  an amuse, a starter and a main dish, the boys shared a great quality schnitzel with fries – the mentioned two bottles of wine, water and fanta. and the meal clocked in at just around 200 eur. Not really expensive, and with the 2 bottle of wines I guess you cannot really argue. We felt we had a good meal, nothing more nothing less. We liked the place and came back for the lunch as I mentioned and had this plate for me and just smoked tuna for the missus..

Great Great Great lunch plate..all you need.

As I said above, Amra was a great, serviceminded waiter, some of the food was great, some did not quiete impress on that evening. There is however a huge menu to choose from, great table setting, great bread, a decent wine list and a kitchen that seems to have some eye for quality and good produce. I wish Branko Kusovac all the luck in this world to achieve what he aims for. We thank Amra for her wonderful service on that night. We are happy to recommend Proto as a good restaurant in town.

My rating for Restaurant Proto: Food  6p (10) service 4.5p (5) ambience 4p (5), Total Score  14.5p (20)

I shall be back tomorrow with our two favourite restaurants from this trip – I shall leave you today with what must be a contender for the worst wine label ever. The wine as such was drinkable, but the bottle and label – oh dear.

Somebody fire that designer.

Dubrovnik Part 1 – Dubrovnik and Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik

Just back from a wonderful trip to one of the most pretty cities in the world. We thank you dear friends for letting us stay in your beautiful city house inside the historic city walls.

Stradun - the main street by day

- and by night

Here are my first thoughts on our trip….

People are friendly, especially the warmth of Natascha, a young female waiter, the eversmiling and ready to please you waiter Elvis, the wonderful Amra in Proto, Mario and the hostess at Restaurant Dubrovnik comes to mind – but also the whole staff at Restaurant Nautika, the people on the squares and shops….

But 10 days with 2 rather younger active boys was enough this time around. What they really loved was playing with the doves on the small square and the pool and ipad service of the Hotel Excelsior. We missed the lift going up into the mountains due to bad weather. We had two different wonderful boat trips. Local wines comes in restaurant at around triple the shop price – i.e. 20-30 eur for a nice bottle, 40-60 for a superior. Meals for a family clocked in at 90 eur for your local brasserie food and 300 eur for top of the pops for a two adults with 2 children.

The city is so old – with its old fence – the town walls – that you feel zapped back in time. Its not hard to imagine this city at war. Its hard to imagine it was only 20 years ago last time around.

Food/Restaurants :

A little disappointed here. With a numerous amount of restaurants to choose from – most of them promoting local food and fresh fish, it was hard to find the level that we are (maybe) spoiled with in Luxembourg. The service and the local wines were all at a very good level. But the pricing was not far from that of Luxembourgish restaurants, maybe even above that sometimes and the food lacked somewhat. That is mainly due to the status of Dubrovnik, the amount of tourists and the cruise liners coming in on a daily basis during season I guess.

One thing that struck us was – in all restaurants – even the best of restaurants – your wine is served and left on the table for you to help yourself. In better restaurants they would sometimes assist you – but not as in making sure your glass was never empty. Just once in a while. That takes away some pressure for the waiter I guess, and you just had to get used to that.

But the highlight of the gastronomic part of the trip was probably Restaurant Nautica, which is known as the best restaurant in town, and Restaurant Dubrovnik not far behind but with a much more affordable price level. Restaurant Proto had good an acceptable level as well, and as for low budget dining Veritas with always smiling Elvis was a hit with the boys.

I shall get back to those restaurants in individual reviews in the coming days.

Here is a few shots from the city:

"Room with a view" - morning view form the breakfast table...

"When doves cry"...lunch time, a daily event in the small market square where Veritas and always smiling Elvis can be found.

Emil and "Birds"

Dending her honour - Dubrovnik´s.

Hotels:

After the week in the city house of our friends, we had opted for a few nights in a hotel with an indoor pool, to entertain the boys mainly, but also to have a change of pace. We originally booked another one than the one we ended up in, – we went there and was met with a cool receptionist – cool as in I dont give a damn. That combined with the somewhat remote placement in compare to the old city centre, we opted for the grand old hotel in town – Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik. As a matter of fact hotels was actually the only bargain to be found in Dubrovnik.

Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik:

From the second we entered the hotel to the moment we left – we were treated as you would expect – or even above that. All staff smiling. All staff greeting you. All staff on their toes to make you feel well. The hotel has hosted kings and queens, whores and gamblers – among others Duke Ellington, QE2, Roger Moore, Coppola, Sophia Loren, Morgan Freeman, Yul Brunner, Sebastian Coe, you name them – so I guess it was good enough for us.

Heres a few shots from the hotel

Great view from our balcony

- and by night.

The fine in house restaurant with the terrrasse and Dubrovnok in the back-ground.

A rose in Dubrovnik - so was the hotel.

The different restaurants in house ranges from bar food, to a sushi bar to a more gastronomic one. Neither of them impressed us a lot. Best meal was actually the last evening where my simple cheese platter did not try to be more than it was. In other cases, it was as if they were simply trying to produce international dishes they were not capable of. Nevertheless, this we has already experienced in town center and did not surprice us.

My conclusion:

Highlights of the trip were the overwhelming beauty of the city, the local artist of whom we bought a small painting, the friendly waiter Mario at Restaurant Dubrovnik, the top service at Restaurant Nautika, the crystal blue waters that surrounded the city, and the wonderful stay at Hotel Excelsior. Should you ever choose to go to Dubrovnik – which you should off course -Hotel Excelsior is the place to be. Ace views, top service, wonderful rooms.

We did find that the 10 nights were the limit for our family, – but we did not get bored as such. We had some heavy rains and storms the last few days and in that respect it was good that we could spend it inside the warm atmosphere of Hotel Excelsior.

I shall also thank the people we met along the way during our extended week here….The two great American women at Nautica, thanks for the chat, good luck in Milano and back home – and the wonderful British couple at Restaurant Dubrovnik – well – we actually went back and changed the reservation for the third evening to surprice you – and Mario came at 8 pm to tell us you cancelled for the evening. Off course we were disappointed – but we thank you for the nice evening we spend together on the first night – and hope you have had a safe return. And to the Australian couple on the boat trip, and the young british travelling couple – I shot some great photos of you, please revert if you want the pictures. Anyway, If any of you read this, please comment here.

Famous last words – We thank you Dubrovnik for a great stay, we thank you dear friends for inviting us into your home. And to Elvis – rock on.