San Canzian – A New Boutique Hotel and Restaurant in Istria

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We have seen significant investment in the development of high net worth tourism in Istria, with a proper eighteen hole golf course in Savudrija, San Rocco hotel and restaurant in Brtonigla, the new Roxanich hotel at Motovun and many gourmet level restaurants. Some of the finest wine in Europe is produced around here.

The latest boutique hotel to grace Istria, San Canzian/Noel, from the same people who have the Michelin starred Noel restaurant in Zagreb, combines all of these quite wonderfully. 

The hotel itself comprises a number of beautifully restored stone buildings either side of its own village street, in a sheltered lush green valley that looks out towards the sea, just South of the hill town of Buje, off the old Trieste-Pula road.

As I drove into the car park, I was greeted by a member of staff who phoned through to reception to announce my arrival and take my bag. We walked across to the main building into reception, where I was made welcome and given my contact-less key-card. The bedroom was more like the floor of a cottage, opening out onto the street, albeit decorated and fitted out to a standard that the previous owner of the building would not have recognised!

There was a spacious sitting area, which gave out onto its own private terrace, from which to sit and watch the setting sun. The air conditioning,  LED satellite TV, safe, well stocked minibar, lavish snack box and fluffy dressing gowns(ideal for the infinity pool) were all of a high standard. The large double bed was set in its own area and had pillow options including cooling (a NASA design), memory and aromatherapy ones. This area included a work table with convenient power points for a laptop (WiFi is complimentary) and on which could be found a half bottle of the excellent award winning Fakin Teran, glasses, a kettle and a Nespresso coffee machine with a selection of capsules, teas and crockery to restore the weary traveler. 

The bathroom was no less spacious, with a large walk in shower and had a wall hung WC, wash hand basin, hair dryer and a complimentary selection of Molton Brown toiletries.

On returning to the main building, I was offered chilled flannels, which were most welcome on a hot evening and a cocktail on the bar terrace. 

Dinner was due later, but in the meantime we were given a series of gourmet bonne bouches, including spiced beef on bone marrow, deep fried cod balls with scampi and truffled cream cheese with beetroot, interspersed with glasses of Prelac’s Blanc et Noir Brut and Kabola’s Re Brut sparkling wines. 

Noel has been fortunate to secure the services of top sommelier, Filip Savic, and his wine choices were extremely good. Instead of just serving up the usual suspects, he has reached out to other lesser known local wine makers, all of whom produce very good wines and carefully selected memorable wines from each of them. Most of the wines served were from grapes grown within 10km and only one more than 20km from the restaurant.

Dinner was served in the restaurant, on the floor below. The building is on a hillside and both bar and restaurant open on to terraces with wonderful views. The atmosphere was relaxed and casual, complimented by well trained and attentive staff.

The menu claimed six courses, but extra ones also appeared, as Chef Daniel Tschachler and his equipe showed off their talents, and the presentation was impeccable. The olive oil was a blend of Leccino and Buza and came with Welsh salt and Szechwan spices. The resident baker did us proud with a variety of breads. We started with foie gras, sweetbreads, rhubarb and cherry accompanied by the Fakin 2018 Malvasia that had won a gold at Decanter, in London.

Next came Frankovic’s 2018 one, which went well with the bacon, caviar, beurre blanc and lentils.

This was followed by cuttlefish, lardo and a smokey bouillon acompanied by Degrassi’s 2015 Terre Blanche, from his vineyard down the road. We then had a vegetable course, of mixed sauted and pickled vegetables, which had an oriental feel, paired with Valenta’s 2018 Sauvignon Blanc.

Ivan Damjanic’s 2013 Clemente cuvee made the most of the Scottish lamb, clams and salty herbs.

The next course was described as tomato,black olive and strawberry. The tomato was actually a crisp red shell, inside which was a mascarpone cream containing the other elements. It made for textural interest and Georgio Clai’s 2017 Tasel cuvee was a good choice.

By this time it was midnight and after a final glass of bubbly on the terrace, it was off to bed. I was glad I didn’t need to drive home!

In the morning, there was breakfast and I enjoyed freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice, from fruit that I had selected, fresh apricot yoghurt and scrambled eggs and bacon, although I could have had egg in glass with smoked foie gras or boiled egg with truffle with prosciutto crumble, but you can have too much of a good thing!

Overall, I was impressed by the attention to detail and the enthusiasm of the staff who were all keen to make the hotel and restaurant a success.

Sonja Jelaca, the Manageress, Filip Savic, the Sommelier and  Daniel Tschachler, the Chef, have created a good team to make the most of this stunning new establishment in gorgeous Istria.

For more on establishments in Istria, wine and food from Istria and travel tips for destinations across the country, follow our dedicated travel page.


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