A very random but totally superb dining experience at Lucullus last night. The only thing I can say is: visit this restaurant!
When I first met the new boss of Lucullus a few months ago, I thought he was crazy. Now I know he is, but what I also discovered in between first meeting and first dining at the restaurant last night is that he offers a unique dining experience on the island and, dare I say it, the best waiter to guest interaction I have seen so far.
Don’t get me wrong, there are excellent waiters on Hvar, and they do their jobs superbly. Watching head waiter Ivica gliding around the tables at Gariful on the restaurant’s opening night was like watching poetry in motion, and I quickly learned that his quiet efficiency and amenable disposition is a major factor in the Gariful success story. But this was different.
From the moment we walked into the restaurant to be welcomed by an engaging hostess and excellent live background music, we knew we had entered what owner Stipe had promised me all those months ago – a fun and informal dining experience, backed up by outstanding food.
I don’t think I have ever been to a restaurant where guests have felt so at ease not only with their waiters, but also with their fellow diners, and it was not long before we fell into conversation with Dave and Alexandra from New York, who had got engaged the night before in Dubrovnik and were struck in awe by Hvar and Croatia in general.
It was obviously a special night for them, and they were gushing with praise at the Tomic Plavac 2010. A lovely couple and it was fun to meet them. There were only two moments of uncertainty for them in their Lucullus meal. The first was when the waiter came over to apologise that the chef has mixed up Dave’s order. There was a moment of disappointment until the waiter explained that he had cooked a much bigger fish than the one ordered so that his fiancee could have some too.
The second moment was the dreaded bill. A sigh, a furrowed brow, and a slow exhalation. Was the evening ruined?
“I can’t believe the price. That would be four times more in New York. What a fantastic restaurant, and a wonderful evening.”
Among one of the highlights in what was a fairly fluid evening was the sight of Stipe filleting some fish with a snorkelling mask, which had the restaurant laughing. A very unique dining experience, and very well worth seeking out.
So how was the food? Where to start? We decided to leave the menu and wine up to our host, who promised us only that there would be no fish as he had read on Total Hvar that I have been swimming in fish of late. After a welcoming glass of Champagne, he set to work to impress us with the food.
Course 1: Salad with honey dressing and chicken breast with Gorgonzola cream. Divine.
Course 2: Carpaccio of beef (SENSATIONAL) with truffle oil, Croatian cheese and octopus salad.
Course 3: Frogs legs with a tomato, onion and chilli sauce and palenta.
“You have not eaten the bones. Why not?” Call me traditional but bone-eating is not the done thing. I was wrong. And so we gently gnawed on the tiny leg bones until they disappeared.
Course 4: Wild boar with lavender and gnocchi and rabbit with Spaetzle. Wow!
Course 5: Lavender cream and mousse au chocolat. The perfect finish.
A note on the wine. I was expecting an island red, but Stipe pulled out an absolutely top drawer Primosten red I had never heard of. I have no idea what it costs in the shop, but it was fabulous.
Conclusion? As I first thought, the guy is obviously nuts, but as a dining experience, from food and wine, to service, music and ambiance, one of the best meals I have had in ten years on Hvar. Try this restaurant.