Honestly, when the plans were made for my little group to go to Konoba Gulin, a restaurant near Vela Luka, for a dinner, I knew almost nothing about the place. But, after the first visit, I am sure there will be many happy returns.
The first thing you should know about Konoba Gulin is that it’s owned and managed by a real character: Tonči Miletić. He will take your phone calls to make a reservation (a word of advice, the kind you really should take: make a reservation, if you’re planning on eating there during the high-season; we witnessed him turning more than a dozen people down, who came without reservations, so don’t make that mistake in August), he will call you on the day of your arrival in the morning to tell you what’s on the menu that day, and he will welcome you to his restaurant like you’re a part of his family.
And then his friends will come, and the group will start singing, and even if you’re not the biggest fan of klapa a cappella music (just like I for one am not), sitting just above Vela Luka, on a terrace with the view of the sea, in the olive groves on an August evening, you will have to admit that their song is just perfect for the setting.
So, as I said, I had no idea who he is, who the group is, so I asked, and it turns out it’s not just any group of Tonči’s friends, it’s the quite well-known Klapa Ošjak from Vela Luka, who have recently celebrated their 40th anniversary, and who gained national attention last year when they sang during Oliver Dragojević’s farewell from Split, upon his arrival in Vela Luka, and at his funeral. Tonči from the restaurant is the first tenor, and in addition to listening to him and his friends sing, if you get a chance, you should look at him sing: he’s smiling the entire time while he’s singing, and that’s amazing to see!
He says about himself that he’s one of the rare people around who’s involved with three separate UNESCO protected heritages: the klapa song, the olive trees in Croatia and the dry stone walling.
And, yes, he can make dry stone walls! The entire restaurant is made of the traditional dry stone, and it is an impressive feat, to be able to do something like that. When I talked to him, I told him that if I were able to sing like he does, I wouldn’t do anything else in my life, but the same goes for the dry stone walls, as they’re so, so impressive you just want him to do as many meters of them as possible.
Then there’s the food. Like I already mentioned, when you come to Konoba Gulin, it’s either going to be fresh, or you’re not having it. We wanted to have some tuna steaks, he said that he would try to get some, but then called to tell us that there’s no tuna today, but that he got a perfectly fresh swordfish, and would we care to have some of that? Well, of course we would, and yes, if you’re wondering, it was perfect. As fresh as it gets, and prepared expertly on their grill by Tonči’s son, who refused to get out of my perfect shot, because he needs to deal with the fish for the other customers (of course he was right and I was wrong: get your photos later, lady, once everyone has eaten!)
The view from the terrace is, like I mentioned already, amazing, perfectly positioned to experience the most beautiful sunset, and that’s just one of the wonderful things you will get to enjoy while at Konoba Gulin.
If you’re anywhere near Vela Luka, make yourself a favour and go to Konoba Gulin for one of those truly astonishing, authentic experiences of Dalmatia. Just make a reservation before you do!