Guest blog from Martin Illner from Prague. Martin’s family has a house in Rudine and is a regular visitor to not only the island, but also, it would appear, to the restaurants of Stari Grad. Welcome, Martin. Enjoy his first blog below, on the subject of quality desserts in Stari Grad.
I’ve been visiting Hvar regularly for almost 10 years, and by an ongoing process of natural selection, my two go-to restaurants in Stari Grad have become Marko’s off of Skor square, and the Eremitaz restaurant opposite St. Jarolim church near the big hotels. But this is not just about one person’s peculiar tastes and preferences, as my house is full of friends every season, and my friends’ conclusions, duly recorded in the guest book, have come to match my own.
The two restaurants are very different, with each occupying a particular niche, suitable for a particular mood and a particular meal. I go to Marko’s to have a beer, a quick lunch, or to eat Leana’s (or Renata’s) special of the day, which is, inevitably, fantastic. The vibe is funky, relaxed, mismatched, and down home, with Mario and his friendly waitstaff always lurking nearby amongst the gaily-painted pallets with his ubiquitous cup of coffee to make sure things are going right. It’s great that one day I ask for an extra lemon for my salad, and the next day the lemon is there automatically. It’s also nice to sit down and use the WiFi to catch up on email and to confirm that yes, it is going to be sunny every day for the next two weeks straight.
Eremitaz is where I go with dates. It’s white-table cloth romantic, the view is fantastic, and Jaksa’s eclectic musical tastes match my own more closely than what I hear at Marko’s. It’s an overall more elegant experience, and suitable for seduction more than for surfing the internet. Where Marko’s is great with wood-fired pizza and the special of the day, Eremitaz is strong on fresh fish and anything from the grill.
The terrace is beautiful. Jaksa, who personally serves each customer, has taken over his father’s role with grace and elegance, supported by his equally elegant Czech wife Gabi, and in ten years I have never seen him ruffled or perturbed. He radiates a zen calmness that pervades his food as much his musical tastes.
Each restaurant has particular strengths, and each is suitable to a different mood or experience, but there is one area where they compete, and where I’ve been unable to decide which is best and when: desserts. At Marko’s, Leanna’s sublime lemon cake is light, creamy and sweet … but with a softly acid lemon bite. The delicate crust underneath is moist, and has just the right amount of butter. I am perfectly capable of having 3 pieces at one go. Maybe 4. The lemon cake is a tour-de-force. At Eremitaz, Gabi’s orange chocolate cake is also soft, light, not too chocolatey and sweet while slightly bitter. The tart has tangy orange peel zest sprinkled on top, and a fresh orange slice where Leanna has lemon. A small amount of translucent orange sauce rounds the dish out, and I could also eat these (or the restaurant’s fantastic honey-almond fried figs) for hours.
So while I do know when to go to Marko’s and when to go to Eremitaz, and I’m confident that I’ll leave each restaurant not only full but happy, I am torn as to the desserts. I simply can’t decide which has the best cake, and although I’ve gorged on both repeatedly this summer, I am no closer to deciding now than I was last year. I’ve put a note into my guest book for next year, offering my friends a free dinner for whoever breaks the deadlock and explains which is best and why.
But for now, I’ll simply keep up my own research. Not because I think I’ll come any closer to the answer, but because both the cakes are simply so damned good.