It is a funny feeling buying a house in a foreign country, especially when it is on an island in a country where you not only don’t speak the language, but also have no idea about the country itself.
My spontaneous decision to buy a house on an Adriatic island starting from my job in Somalia is well-documented elsewhere so no need to repeat here, but the end of the journey came on September 1, 2002, when I was presented with the keys to my own little house in a tiny, tiny square somewhere in the back streets of Jelsa.
The adrenaline was pumping, the relief at the completion of the transaction. My very own new home. I was hungry and it was time to explore.
So spontaneous was the purchase that I had absolutely no idea what was in my immediate neighbourhood, and I set off in search of my potential new local place to hang out, as well as a good restaurant to try.
I didn’t have far to walk, about ten metres perhaps, until I stumbled on what looked like a nice traditional Dalmatian restaurant with a friendly and welcoming waiter. I headed out to the terrace behind, a very leafy and well-tended terrace I remember, ordered myself a litre of local red wine and sat back to take in the atmosphere and the Dalmatian music gently in the background, and I let those first impressions of my new neighbourhood drift in. It will remain one of my favourite memories of my time of my 14 years in Croatia.
As will the garlic soup and the outstanding steak which followed. My first meal as a house-owner in my new country. The service was excellent, the ambience divine, and although I had only owned the house for eight hours, I felt already at home. That first meal played a large part in that welcome.
I went back the next evening, and then the next, and the next and the next, always to the same table, gently exploring the quality menu of traditional Dalmatian classics, until one evening in (I think) late September, I returned for my evening feed to find the restaurant closed. Confused, I walked around the back and saw the waiter clearing things away. I asked him when they would reopen.
“Probably in May,” came the response.
May!?! Seven months away! What on earth was going on? It was only then that I realised that I had bought a house on a tourist island, and that Jelsa in December was going to be an awful lot different to the Jelsa in August when I came and spontaneously bought my house.
There has been lots of change in Jelsa since I moved here 14 years ago. Tourist patterns have changed, new restaurants and bars have opened – and closed. New ideas have been introduced, many of which have not succeeded. But Dalmatia is slow to change, and that is one of the infuriating charms of the place, the Mediterranean as It Once Was, an escape into a lifestyle no longer available in the more ‘developed’ West. And part of the reason for that is restaurants like Faros. While others change, Faros is the same family business it was when it opened more than 30 years ago, and for a true experience of the real and authentic Croatia, there can be fewer better examples than this lovely family restaurant.
A short walk from the main square, Faros is easy to reach. Simply walk through the main square and past the church up the alley which leads into the heart of the old town, and about 30 metres on the right, you will find a warm Dalmatian welcome. And who knows, after a pleasant evening on the terrace, you too may find yourself at home.
Reservations – 098 894 843, or follow Restaurant Faros on Facebook.