Djurina Hiza in Varazdinske Toplice Named Best Restaurant in Continental Croatia

Total Croatia News

September 12, 2020 – 2020 is turning out to be quite a year for Nikola Bozic and the Djurina Hiza team in Varazdinske Toplice, now named the best restaurant in continental Croatia. 

How many people do you know who are having a good year in 2020? They seem to be few and far between. I know one guy, and his good year has nothing to do with luck, and everything to do with hard work, vision and determination. 

And the results are remarkable. 

Given the amount of time I have spent with Nikola Bozic this year, it is perhaps surprising that I had only seen him once before this year – for an excellent dinner at his Djurina Hiza restaurant – since our first meeting in Zagreb four years ago. 

That changed in 2020, as I found myself with one of Croatia’s true gourmet visionaries in a variety of situations – and locations – watching a fantastic success story unfold as everyone around went into lockdown, and restaurants laid off their staff. 


An invitation to dinner in February from legendary gourmet blogger and all-round hero, Ribafish, meant a second visit to the restaurant, which is renowned for its high-quality meat, and one of the few restaurants that regularly has diners from Zagreb driving out of the capital for lunch and dinner. 


And with the temptations of Nikola’s dry-aged meat selection prominently on show in the restaurant, diners can feast on what is soon to be on their plates. 

The Hiza 2020 success story begins – for me at least – during the most depressing part of the year. Lockdown. What to do when you own a restaurant at a time when restaurants are closed, and people more or less confined to their houses? The answer for the majority of restaurants was to lay staff off, at least temporarily, then sit, wait and pray for the situation to improve. 

Not young Bozic…


I think I am correct in saying that his was the only restaurant in the whole country during lockdown that not only did not fire anyone, but actually hired more staff, as he adapted his business model to the new realities. The introduction of a nationwide steak delivery service, accompanied by other gourmet goodies such as quality olive oil, wine, burgers and natural juices, was a complete hit. Deliveries were across the whole country, from Osijek to Istria, and as far down as Makarska on the Dalmatian coast. 

The service brought plenty of media attention, and with it increased business to his core business at the restaurant in Varazdinske Toplice. So much business, in fact, that soon after reopening post-lockdown, Hiza recorded its best night’s takings in its history. 

Crisis? What crisis?


Somehow I found myself in a car heading for Brussels and Munich with Nikola in mid-June as the borders reopened. If a national delivery service of quality Croatian products was successful, what about a European-wide service for Croatia’s diaspora in various European cities? The take-up on the service, advertised on expat Facebook groups, was impressive, and slices of Croatian goodness were delivered to various addresses in the heart of Europe. 

New contacts were made, including the excellent Maison d’Istrie, an Istrian restaurant in Brussels. A relationship was formed, which will see Nikola return to the Belgian capital next month to present his food at a European street food festival. 

Speaking of street food, there was something to be salvaged from the summer season, and an innovative quality street food concept, in partnership with Katarina Vrenc, brought something a little different to various locations around Croatia. 

One only has to be in Nikola’s presence for a minute when talking about food to see his passion for the very best quality and production methods. He has no time for fakers, and he is slowly realising that the best way to guarantee quality is to control the entire production process himself. 

“I am getting the first free-range Japanese Wagyu cows in Croatia next week. Want to come and see?”


A crazy notion from almost anyone else, but I knew he was deadly serious. And I knew it would be quite a story. And so it was that four black Japanese cows became the first residents of an abandoned village in Zumberak Nature Park, the first cows to graze there in more than 40 years. Learn more in Medjimurje to Zumberak: Transporting Croatia’s 1st Free-Range Wagyu Cows.


September meant the Zagreb Burger Festival, where his Reshetka stand has been one of the most popular stands of all. Again. Last year’s winner as best burger at the festival could well be repeated, as the Reshetka range of innovative burgers has been an unqualified success. 

But in the unlikely event that burger success eludes him, Nikola has another reason to celebrate today, as influential gourmet media Kult Plame Kamenice has just published its list of top 11 best restaurants in continental Croatia. And top of the list is… you guessed it. Djurina Hiza. You can read the full list here

Can you succeed in the hospitality industry in the middle of a pandemic? It is certainly not easy, but hard work, vision, a quality product, great team, and determination are qualities which are helping this man succeed. And with 3.5 months still to go in this unusual year, I wouldn’t bet against more innovative stuff coming from Nikola. Especially after hearing some of his plans. 

I salute you, Sir! And we all look forward to the next chapter. 

You can follow the Djurina Hiza story on Facebook


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