Mediterranean Fine Dining Coming to Zagreb: Road Testing Paradigma in Split

Total Croatia News

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As Split’s premium restaurant prepares to reappear as a pop-up restaurant in Zagreb, TCN pops into Paradigma to see what all the fuss is about.

Coming from Manchester, I have always been a little suspicious of fine dining. Where I grew up, the most important thing about a meal was its heartiness and not its presentation, and it was a feeling that was reinforced a few years ago when I was invited to an exclusive seven-course dinner at a famous Croatian nightspot, for the princely sum of 430 kuna per person plus drinks. One could not fault the presentation or the service, but both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our burgers on the way home, which more than made up for the emptiness in our stomachs after the fine dining experience.

Living in a rural town on a Dalmatian island, one’s exposure to fine dining is somewhat limited, but I took quite an interest, via our sister portal Total Split, in the arrival of a new fine dining restaurant in Split last summer, Paradigma. With a wine list which took you from Greece to the south of France, here was the first truly Mediterranean restaurant in the city, with an eye for detail, and style. 

The experts noticed, and within six months Paradigma had become the 8th Croatian member of the Jeunes Restauratreurs d’Europe, a fine achievement for the owners Zoran Pejovic and Marko Sucic in this their first restaurant. 

As TCN recently reported, the innovative duo have decided to relocate to Zagreb this winter and open a pop-up restaurant there from November 11. A smart move, as not only is the Zagreb dining scene much more vibrant than Split in winter, but it will serve as an excellent advertisement for affluent Zagreb residents planning on holidaying on the coast next summer. 

Having last tried the restaurant over a year ago, soon after it opened, I popped in yesterday for lunch for two, asking them to surprise me and taking their recommendations. This is what happened next, with great supporting roles played by a bottle of Domaine de l’Hortus Grande Cuvée Blanc 2014, followed by a glass of Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Vendemmia 2013 to accompany the main course. 

saffron chips with raspberry coulis 

lardo, french meringue, red cabbage flid gel, yellow bell pepper coulis 

beefstake tomato consommé, tiger prawn tartare, homemade basil sorbet, bunch of wild aromatic herbs 

baba ghanoush espuma, carnaroli rice, sicilian sweet, green olives, young goats cheese, butter, extra virgin olive oil 

500g medium-rare steak aged 60 days, Shiraz salt, grilled vegetables, extra virgin olive oil 

beautifully cooked, one of the finest steaks in a long time. 

We tried different desserts – beetroot panna cotta, homemade cherry sorbet, greek yoghurt labneh, beetroot chips, isomalt lace 

baked vanilla cream, freshly squeezed Granny Smith apple juice, apple chips, homemade vanilla ice cream

The first important point for this Manchester boy. Not only was I full, but I did not require dinner or eat until the following morning. I was not quite sure what I was eating for parts of the meal (despite things being well explained to me), and I became more than mildly obsessed with the presentation and delivery of each course. The teapot delivery of the tomato consomme, for example, was followed by stirring the basil sorbet into the consomme to turn the dish a thick green. A wonderful combination of flavours.

The dish which looked initially to be the least promising turned out to be the best of all (closely run by that ribeye steak), for when the baba ghanoush was presented, it looked almost like a porridge, but only momentarily as the rice and other components were lowered into the middle of the dish by the attentive and unobtrusive waiter. 

And beetroot for dessert, with cherry sorbet! Well, just wait until I got home to tell the wife about that one… 

It was a superb presentation of unusual dishes, thought-provoking combinations and – important for this Manchester boy – more than enough to fill the stomach. Now I was curious about the price. Fine dining does not come cheap, and the obvious love and creativity which went into each course would be reflected in the price, never mind the price of that sensational ribeye. 

Again, I was more than surprised. For the meal for two – 830 kuna, more than I would normally pay in a restaurant for sure, but Paradigma is not a normal restaurant, and the meal prepared for us was exceptional and stunningly presented. And for the excellent wine – a bottle of the white, two glasses of the red – 250 kuna. 

Will I be going to Paradigma for lunch everyday? No. Apart from anything else, the meagre earnings of a blogger would not allow it. Will I go again for a special occasion. Absolutely. For a one-off experience for someone who enjoys eating out, the Paradigma experience offers that extra, a chance to experience the world of fine dining and emerge with a Manchester stomach filled. 

For the gourmet crowd in Zagreb, a real treat is on the way this winter, and I wish the Paradigma team success in the capital. I suspect they will be rather busy. 


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