After a couple of months of rain in what is traditionally a sunny time for London, my husband and I finally booked our tickets to go to sunny Istria in Croatia.
My family lives there so for us holidaying back at my parents is a mixed bag of strong emotions & lots of love!
Both Mike & I are foodies, always exploring new and exciting food around London, Croatia and more!
What was different about this trip to Porec in Istria is that we had two friends coming over too! So there we go; four 30 somethings on the culinary trip of Istria.
They arrived from Venice on a boat to Porec on very hot & sticky Monday night. Staying in the local apartments meant it was easy to meet up. We had a well deserved drink in bar ‘Epoca’ in the marina.
We ordered aperol spritz as aperitif. Traditionally drunk in the Veneto area of Italy, this drink spread its wings in the last five years to most of Italy and abroad. For 35kn in the local currency which is equivalent of £3.60 isn't cheap for Croatian prices, but dead cheap comparing to London prices! But if you include the crisps and olives that came with it, the quality of service and the location you'd be hard pressed to say it wasn't value for money!
After two of those we made our move to a very late dinner. We walked up the marina towards restaurant ‘Istra’ a family owned restaurant that has a long established reputation for good and fresh fish. We ordered cold fish platter for a starter. I had this platter several times and it never disappoints.
Cold creamy tuna pate, octopus salad & selection of marinated fish. My favorite is ‘sardoni’ served with vinegar and thinly sliced onions. ‘Sardoni’ is sardines or anchovies family of fish marinated for months,to achieve the flavour to die for! This is served with tasty olive oil and crusty white bread.
Jill & I opted for sharing a large seabream fish which was carefully cleaned and deboned for us. The fish flavour was delicate and nice, served with ‘blitva’ a spinach cousin usually cooked with boiled potatoes and flavored with garlic and olive oil. We washed it down with local Malvazija wine, which was of good quality.
Chris ordered pasta with ‘sea fruits’, traditionally cooked in tomatoes sauce with shellfish. In ‘Istra’ they opted for a olive oil and plenty of octopus version of that pasta.
He liked it but I would have prefered the traditional version with some more variety of shellfish and few scampi.
Mike ordered a good old meaty steak. He is a steak and truffle connoisseur and he tried so many in Istria that he became an expert on it. We even have a ‘steakometer’, measuring the way the steak is cooked & the amount and flavour of the truffle sauce.
Mike gave ‘Istra’s’ steak a good 4 out of 5, which is very generous!
The meal was finished with a spongy strawberry cake that we shared. My only reservation about restaurant ‘Istra’ is that the dessert menu’ should be updated and expanded, we wanted more sugar!
The owner Angelo was so kind to offer us a new wave grappa made with olives! It didn't taste strongly of olives so we liked it. Good digestif. The meal costed us £16 pound per head or £62 for four people including wine and water.
We had a lazy and hot day on the Saint Nicola island, just opposite Porec town. There is a small cafe serving burgers and drinks and a beach bar serving expensive drinks (£3 for a coke?!). In the small ‘grill’ we had bear & ‘cevapcici’ for lunch.
Cevapcici is a balkan speciality, minced meat rolled into small sausages usually served with bread, onion & ajvar a red sauce made with peppers and aubergines. The lunch was tasty and good value.
For dinner we headed to restaurant ‘Dali’ known by locals for its eastern Croatian meat specialities. They also serve pizzas and other dishes. Mike, Chris & Jill ordered steak with truffles (135kn or £14) I ordered pork loin with truffles. Yes, an overload of the precious fungus smell on our table!
The food was decent, Mike scored 3/5 on his steakometer. I remember my truffles shavings to be more generous in the past, maybe the new management is saving too much money? All in all a decent meal but it could improve with its service a little bit more training. We paid around £60 for four of us including drinks.
We were sipping a newly discovered Lemon flavoured beer at the beach bar and lazily moved onto my parents house where we eat a delicious meat based BBQ meal. My mum is queen of salads, we had many to choose from but Mike’s favorite is the cabbage salad, grated and soaked in vinegar and olive oil.
We drove to central Istria to show our guest some sights and stopped in Konoba (or trattoria) ‘Kod Kastela’’ in Svetvincenat or Saint Vincent.
This old konoba serves home made traditional istrian dishes and freshly made bread which is to die for. We shared Istrian ham, olives & sheep cheese for a starter. The ham was delicious and passed my ‘Istrian ham’ test.
Many places offer mass produced ham which tastes alright but nowhere near the real deal. Mike surprise surprise, ordered Steak and truffles, while I ordered veal escalope served with truffle cheese and chips.
Jill orderd fuzi, a type of Istrian pasta served with asparagus and Istrian ham. Chris had pork loin and chips. Chips were homemade and delicious. Mike’s steak was ok but on the steakometar it scored only 3.
My veal was a bit though and cheevy so not that impressed after all. Pljukanci looked like the safest bet. This meal costs us a 800 kuna or £83, the ham doesn't come cheap.
It was a windy day and that for Croats isnt a beach day! So we ventured into the countryside toward the beautiful hilltop village of Motovun. An absolutely magnificent town. We walked around the old town walls and had only a coffee there. We decided to take our lunch in another hilltop town called Groznjan.
Famous for its arty vibe the village is absolutely stunning. The winds died down and It was getting really hot & sweaty again.
We sat down on a pleasantly breezy terrace of restaurant ‘Bastia’. We ordered ham & cheese to share, wild asparagus scrambled eggs, greek salad, caprese salad, spaghetti bolognese and rocket salad.
The food was perfect and the ingredients very fresh. The tomatoes tasted and smeleld of freshly picked tomatoes and the smell of basil was intoxicating.The gorgeous food would have been even better if the waiter attempted to smile a little! Again we paid around £14 per person.
On Friday we were tired and wanted something quick & easy so we ended up in ‘Gourmet’ restaurant in the old town of Porec. They have a big terrace outdoors but if you enter the restaurant you’ll find a small garden and intimate terrace, we much preferred.
We had pasta dishes; Boskarin (Istrian bull) in tomato sauce pasta, smoky pancetta,tomatoes garlic & wine pasta and a cannelloni. All dishes were tasty and the service was impeccable. £9 for a plate of pasta is tiny bit pricey in Istria but its worth it. Prices are pretty similar in most places in Istria. Few dishes are traditionally dear; istrian ham, truffles and of course bottled wines.
There are a few quite expensive & exclusive restaurants around, but on average the standard is pretty high.
Istria is a foodie heaven and there are many more things we will go back to try and explore in the next trip!