Relaxation in Chilled Luxury: A Visit to Tara’s Lodge on Korcula

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As other parts of the coast are suffering from mass and party tourism in Croatia, Korcula Town is quietly positioning itself as an upmarket destination. TCN reports on a quality addition to that trend on September 6, 2017 – Tara’s Lodge in Zrnovska Banja. 

Enchanting Korcula, the birthplace of Marco Polo. It seems somehow ironic that the world’s most famous traveller left this idyllic haven in search of exotic new pastures, when modern tourists are expressing their joy at discovering the authenticity of this true Dalmatian island gem. I wrote about my recent visit at length recently, but today I want to introduce you to my gracious hosts, one of the most chilled upmarket hospitality stories I have experienced in quite a while, and a tale of humour, determination and quality in The Beautiful Croatia. 


We start at the beach in the heart of Zrnovska Bay, just a short drive from Korcula Town, and a drive which will get much shorter for visiting tourists from the ferry soon, as the new terminal will be built on the other side of the bay next door and providing the best of both worlds – none of the noise and disruption of a ferry terminal, but all the benefits of a two-minute connection. The beach was delightful, cleaner than many I have seen on the coast in the summer, and the work of the team at Tara’s Lodge, who having got the concession for the beach, added the walkway and cleaned up the beach to the benefit of all.  


I have chilled at many a beach during my time in Croatia, but not many of those experiences bettered this one. 


And behind the beach and below the accommodation, there was Mimi’s, the Tara’s Lodge restaurant, cocktail bar and makeshift reception – for now at least, for further expansion is planned.  


Check-in at the moment is very informal and a perfect introduction to the world of Tara’s Lodge. Upon arrival, documents are exchanged for a welcome drink menu, from which your arduous task is to order your complimentary welcome drink.  


But perhaps we should start at the beginning. Tara’s Lodge (named after the owners’ daughter Tara, whose food you can enjoy at Mimi’s as she is one of the chefs) is a story of passion, dedication and commitment to quality, which is slowly evolving into one of the great tourism experiences in Dalmatia. Owners Dennis from Croatia and Jane from Australia only had to wait eleven years for permission to build, then four more to get Tara’s Lodge to the state it is today – a time frame which would have sent more sane investors looking for projects in other countries. As with the British owner of Lesic Dimitri, the journey has not been easy, but it has been very much worth it for those fortunate enough to come and stay.   

Currently, reception is at the restaurant at the bottom of the complex, something which will change in 2018, as the acquisition of nearby property will bring in additional accommodation and a reception at the top, where the parking is.   


I actually preferred it the way it was, for the journey to reception took you through the heart of the complex, allowing you to admire various details on the way down (and the way back up was not strenuous). During my stay, I became mildly fascinated by the thought and architectural genius which had gone into many aspects of the construction, none more so that the access path, which managed to negotiate the relatively steep descent magnificently, greatly aiding accessibility of goods and an easy walk for guests. 


The other noticeable feature on the way down was just how green it was. Care had been put in to not only plant a range of appealing greenery all the way down, but to maintain them in this hottest of summers. First impressions? Five stars, a hotel project investing in those little extras which make all the difference.  


An attractive poolside area in the middle of the complex which, like every room at Tara’s Lodge, came with a stellar sea view.  


The chilled, relaxed feeling. I knew I was in for a good stay when I had a look at the menu over a beer, and came across this.  


Apart from a couple of healthy breakfasts, I didn’t dine at Tara’s Lodge, due to commitments elsewhere, apart from this outstanding dish which I was encouraged to try while chatting to owner Jane. Fig trifle with port and lime mousse. It was even more delicious than it looks, and I was curious to know how the chef came up with the idea, at which point I was introduced to the Portuguese chef from Porto, who had wanted to leave a Porto stamp on the cuisine, and she did so with aplomb!

“A Portuguese chef on Korcula? That is a little exotic,” I said.  

Exotic was one way to look at it, but the reason for more practical. There has been a chronic shortage of workers for the tourism industry on the Adriatic this summer, and I have come across such problems in almost every hotel I have been in contact with. It is very ironic in a way with so much unemployment in Croatia and with so many people emigrating due to lack of employment opportunity. The situation has been made worse with EU entry, as workers from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who along with Slavonians made up the backbone of tourism workers, now have a much tougher time getting work. It has the potential to be a real crisis, and Tara’s Lodge was not alone in having to cast the net a little wider this summer, finding staff in Portugal, the Czech Repulblic and Switzerland to name just three of the nationalities I met among the very friendly and accommodating staff. 

Having learned the salary and conditions of the staff, I was more than a little surprised that they were unable to find more local workers. An average of 6,000 kuna, plus food and accommodation and time to enjoy that delicious bay, when salaries elsewhere are considerably lower than that and are without accommodation. I was genuinely surprised. So if you are looking for a job for 2018 and that appeals, let me know and we will pass the applications on. 

The international mix was a great addition, whether done deliberately or through necessity, and it helped add to that chilled atmosphere. 


And so to the accommodation. Spotless, sleek, comfortable, with hotel room appropriately air-conditioned on arrival to provide welcome relief from the heat.  


The family 2-bed apartments were spacious, comfortable and well-equipped.  


The bathroom was a joy, complete with excellent walk in shower.  


And there was the choice of the view. If you were too lazy to move, then this is how the new day greets you in bed. 


Or head to the living room terrace for your morning coffee. 


Alternatively, breakfast at Mimi’s is a very relaxed and calming start to the day. 


Although I did not eat dinner there, I had heard plenty about the legendary Tara’s Lodge burger sauce, and I was curious to know what was so good about it. It turned out to be a rather nice story. As a younger couple in Lausanne, Dennis and Jane used to frequent a late night burger bar on the occasions they went out drinking in the city. It was run by an old guy and popular for miles around. It had the best burger sauce in the world, ever. That was 25 years ago.  

When putting the menu for Mimi’s together, the couple decided that they had to have a burger, but not just any burger; there had to be something special. Fond memories of the Lausanne sauce came into the conversation, a recipe they obviously didn’t know. Jane set to work and experimented with ingredients and thinking furiously of her sauce memories a quarter of a century ago. Finally she came up with something which was close, but not quite the same.  

“Hmm,” said Denis. “It is not how I remember Lausanne, but it is very good.” Onto the menu it went, and the Mimi burger and special sauce have been a hit ever since.  


There was something I really liked about the place that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  And when I saw the hotel Landrover in the parking, I realised what it was. Tara’s Lodge has an air of an African safari lodge in its approach and ambience, at least to me. A very relaxed place, offering great service and hospitality to its guests. And while there might not be many elephants and lions to go and view, the most popular excursion they offer is The Hunt for Fred October, a fabulous octopus fishing experience run by Denis, full of stories and always with some octopus at the end. 


Korcula, you captured my heart, and for a large part of that, I must pay tribute to the team at Tara’s Lodge. A wonderful experience. Learn more about Tara’s Lodge on their official website



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