British Gourmet Class on Korcula, as Lesic Dimitri Palace Combines with Jo Ahearne MW

Total Croatia News

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The 3rd Korculanske Pjatance Korcula Spring Food and Wine Festival opened on April 26, 2019, with two Brits combining to provide an unforgettable gourmet treat at Lesic Dimitri Palace.  

Someone asked me recently to name my favourite place in Croatia. 

With so many incredible things to see and do here, the list of top places is long, and it was a question I have been thinking about ever since. And then this morning, I think I had the answer, or at least a strong candidate for that favourite place. 

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There is something about the terrace at Lesic Dimitri Palace in Korcula Town that you cannot find anywhere else. Perhaps it is the waves gently lapping against the rocks below, the subtle wind blowing to nullify the intense heat of the day, the engaging company of British owner Michael Unsworth, the food of course, and the general laid back ambiance of this magical historic walled town. It is a little spot of perfection which celebrates the very best of tourism in Croatia, and I feel privileged to have experienced it on more than one occasion. 

I felt even more lucky when I was not only invited back to cover what was for me one of the highlights of 2018 – the Korculanske Pjatance Spring Food and Wine Festival – but an invitation which came with accommodation at the fabled Lesic Dimitri Palace itself. I was beyond excited. 

The hotel has just 9 rooms, all themed on parts of Marko Polo’s Silk Road – Venice, China, Ceylon, India, Arabia and China –  but an astonishing 32 employees in the season, which probably makes it the highest ratio in the country for staff to guests. Just one more reason why Lesic Dimitri Palace is considered by many to be the top boutique hotel in Croatia. It is one of just four hotels in the country which are members of Relais Chateaux, while its fine dining restaurant also features in the Michelin Guide.

And we were here for the food…  

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I managed to catch some of the impressive Lesic team before the evening started. You see the same faces year on year at Lesic Dimitri, one of the most cohesive and professional units I have seen in my time in Croatia, and a team which clearly loves that they do. 

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After a very successful career in the City of London, Michael Unsworth turned his attentions to Korcula, an island he has been in love with since meeting it while visiting his future wife in Orebic back in his student years. With the opening of Lesic Dimitri and its excellent restaurant, he has been the driving force and pioneer for Korcula’s focus on higher quality in both gourmet and accommodation. 

It was fitting that the evening at Korculanske Pjatance also starred another Brit doing amazing things on another Dalmatian island – Master of Wine Jo Ahearne on Hvar. After the welcome and introductions from Lesic Dimitri sommelier Drazen and Michael, Jo introduced her paired selection of Korcula wines to go with the menu of Lesic chef Marko Gajski, beginning with an aperitif of Merga Victa Posip 2018.

And so to the food, which was truly one of the best meals I have had in a long time. Marko Gajski is a rising star of the Croatian gourmet scene and is improving year on year. This dinner was a wow.

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Gambero rosso, with a glass of Grk Bartul 2018 by Zure.

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Jo was on hand to introduce each wine as every course was served, explaining both the wine and the reasons for her choice. It is not every day you get an education from a Master of Wine included in the meal.  

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Sashimi  – sea bass, bottarga and horseradish, with Rukatac Single vineyard 2016 from Radovanovic. 

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Escargot tempura, with garlic, parsley, lardo and egg yolk. Jo paired this with Amfora Milina. 

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Rubia Gallega beef, with beetroot, demi glace with marinated tarragon seeds sauce and spring onion. Bire might be famous for its Grk, but the red Plavac Mali Bire 2016 went very well with it.  

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And to finish, a cheese selection with a glass of Luka Krajancic Posip Orange 2012. 

A superb evening, and congratulations to all involved.  

It is 7 years since the late Anthony Bourdain told the world about Croatia and its ‘world-class food, world-class wine, and world-class cheese.’ I am sure he would have enjoyed last night on Korcula.

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It was nice to capture some special moments from the evening. Chef Marko, who has benefited from the opportunity and faith Michael has put in him.  The respect, love and appreciation is mutual.

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And it was nice to see Jo and Marko talking shop and exchanging their views after the meal. 

A truly lovely event. Make sure you put the Korculanske Pjatance in your schedule for next year. You can follow the rest of this year’s festival on Facebook

Learn more about Lesic Dimitri Palace.

Both Jo and Michael kindly agreed to a video interview, which I recorded this morning, and which will be published as soon as I overcome my technological ineptitude. 


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