One of the joys of moving to Zagreb last year was being in a better position to explore Zagreb County. I had no idea that there was so much to see and explore, and the excellent Around Zagreb website has been a great resource for ideas for family day trips from the capital.
(Zagreb County Tourist Board Director, Ivana Alilovic, with the new Gault & Millau guide at the Zagreb County press conference)
There is another excellent resource, which has just been published – the Gault & Millau Croatia 2022 guide to the top 100 restaurants and POP (street food, canines, wine bars, and pastry shops) for Zagreb and its surroundings. While the majority of the entries are for the capital itself, there is a comprehensive and very diverse section of the best places to eat in Zagreb County. There are so many fabulous authentic experiences a short drive from the capital, and now a guide to the best places to combine a day in nature with a fantastic culinary experience. But if you are planning to go at the weekend, make sure you book in advance. I have been stunned by how full of life the restaurants and cafes of Zagreb County have been on our weekend visits.
Here are the top 12 restaurants in Zagreb County, according to what sounds like some fun and very comprehensive research by Gault & Millau Croatia – you can find out more about the guide and how to order it (price 99 kuna) on their official website.
1. Korak Family Estate, Jastrebarsko – 16/20
Haute cuisine is usually associated with cities, so exceptions like the restaurant at the Korak family wine estate are rare. This gastronomic oasis is part of the family winery in Plesivica, in the heart of the smallest wine region in Croatia. The view of the hills and vineyards, the terrace in the shade of the old linden trees, the soft breeze, and fine dining combined with their wines – this is Korak. Chef Bernard Korak has elevated the gastronomic offer of this region to new heights. There are no a la carte dishes at the restaurant; you can only find eight and five-course tasting menus, with or without wine pairing, so for lunch you need to set aside about four hours. More info in the guidebook.
2. Gabreku 1929, Samobor – 13.5/20
This place has a cult status among many Zagreb residents and is synonymous with the Sunday lunch in nature. Since 1929, Gabrek has been an oasis of traditional cuisine of continental Croatia. It is surrounded by the picturesque walls of the Old Town, by St. Michael’s Church, and by the Gradna creek. Their homemade food is honest and tasty, and they have always presented themselves as a tavern serving good food; some dishes have been on the menu for over nine decades. Here you can try entrails specialities: fried brains, sweetbreads, and tripe, and in winter, you can warm yourself up with either some blood sausage or Samobor garlic sausages with sauerkraut and restani krumpir (boiled then fried potatoes with onions) served with mustard and horseradish. More info in the guidebook.
3. Karlo, Jastrebarsko – 13.5/20
Lunch at Karlo is definitely a good incentive to visit Plesivica, especially the part between Klinca Sela and Jaska, where the long and winding Plesivica wine road is located. On that road there is a lovely wooden house with an almost unreal, picture-postcard view. There you can enjoy homemade dishes prepared on a highly professional level (which is what all rustic cuisine should be like). The hand-written one-page menu includes several soups and meat dishes as well as two desserts, and it changes seasonally depending on ingredients. More info in the guidebook.
4. Mon Ami, Velika Gorica – 13.5/20
One of the most famous seafood restaurants in the Zagreb region is located on the main road to Velika Gorica, in the heart of Turopolje. It is always full, so be sure to book a table. The space is divided into sections, there is a separate hall for smaller gatherings, and the interior is decorated in a classic restaurant style. Here you will always find fresh wild white fish and seafood. They also offer the black Turopolje truffle but we did not try it. The menu is special, like those in Asia, with large colour photos of each individual dish – everyone knows what they are going to get so there can be no complaints later! More info in the guidebook.
5. Restoran Potkova (Trajbar), Zapresic – 13/20
If you want to end your outing in nature by having lunch in some well-maintained surroundings, then the Trajbar equestrian club, about 3 km from the centre of Zapresic, is a very good choice. The estate spans 110,000 m2 and includes the forest, equestrian trail, and the enclosed winter riding hall 3,000 m2 in size. The road signs that lead you to Trajbar are good, there is enough parking space, but at weekends it is always very busy as it is popular for large celebrations under a tent. In the indoor area, there are several restaurant halls, while the glass-panelled cafe terrace offers a great view of the huge courtyard, gazebo, and horse riders. Potkova’s menu is not large, but it is well-balanced; it follows the seasonal availability of local ingredients, More info in the guidebook.
6. Cowboy Western Rancha, Markusevac Turopljski – 12.5/20
This huge complex on the wooded slopes of Vukomericke Gorice, about 20 km from the centre of Zagreb, is a popular place for an outing. From the terrace of the beautifully maintained wooden hacienda, there is a view of the ranch with horses for recreational riding, but for children, they also offer riding in horse parades, and their delighted parents can record them with their mobile phones. In fine weather, visitors can enjoy a walk, recline in wooden armchairs in the meadow, and have a look at various cowboy iconography arranged around the estate. The interior of the restaurant includes two halls, which can comfortably accommodate about 100 guests, and is entirely made of wood. More info in the guidebook.
7. Gostionica Kod Spilje, Otrusevec – 12.5/20
Kod Spilje, a tavern opposite Grgos Cave – one of the most famous sites of the Samobor region – has been a beloved destination for the inhabitants of Zagreb, Samobor and Slovenia for years. Many people happily come back, as they know they can rely on them for good food. Standard starters include cooked ham, Samobor salami, cottage cheese and sour cream, homemade pork cracklings, tlacenica, and baked strukli (sweet or savoury dough with cottage cheese filling either baked or boiled). Don’t miss their generous porcini mushroom soup. More info in the guidebook.
8. Zeleni Papar, Samobor – 12.5/20
Although the interior is very spacious, with large tables spaced comfortably apart, the main advantage of Zeleni Papar is its terrace. Surrounded by the greenery of Perivoj, a Samobor neighbourhood of predominantly family houses with gardens, the terrace resembles a small arboretum, in which low shrubbery, stone garden areas with flowers, and trees function as natural dividers between tables. It is possible to sit outside as long as the weather conditions allow. The restaurant, which is about 20 km from Zagreb, can be reached exclusively by car (you are going to need a satnav as there are no signs along the way) and there is a gravel parking area. The interior looks like a dining room in someone’s home, adorned by numerous household items such as Biedermeier commodes, old radio, bakelite telephone, desk lamps, paintings, a piano… – all to make guests feel as if they really are visiting someone they know. More info in the guidebook.
9. Ampelos Hotel Princess – 12/20
Halfway between the urban and the rural, the city bustle and the peace provided by nature, halfway between Zagreb and Karlovac – there is the Jaska region, one of the best-preserved parts of nature in Zagreb County. In this picturesque area, at the foot of the southern part of Plesivica, Hotel Princess was built together with its gastronomic oasis – Ampelos restaurant. The menu is clearly divided into international and local dishes, such as Plesevica copanjak (a savoury cake made of shortcrust pastry filled with spinach, Swiss chard and/or nettles), strukli (sweet or savoury dough with cottage cheese filling – either baked or boiled), stuffed with bacon, cheese and mushrooms, homemade potato cream soup with goat cheese and bacon, Jaska skewer… More info in the guidebook.
10. Baraz, Etno-Farma Mirnovec, Samobor – 12/20
The Mirnovec family farm started very ambitiously, with plans to become one of the most visited places in the Samobor area. Hiring Tomislav Spicek, a culinary star, to run their Baraz restaurant menu is just one of the steps towards success. The 17-acre property is located about 20 km from Zagreb, just before Samobor, and it is perfectly landscaped with large, beautiful lawns, playgrounds, and an equestrian club. The most interesting attractions are the wooden houses brought to the farm from different parts of Croatia, some covered in red tiles, and some with authentic thatched roofs. One of these houses Baraz, ‘the tavern and tasting room’, where chef Spicek has recently created the menu. More info in the guidebook.
11. Taverna 1860, Donja Zelina – 12/20
Old brick walls, dim lighting, wood and wrought iron furniture, window niches filled with wine bottles, and an old radio on the shelf – all this gives the basement restaurant its feeling of warmth and intimacy, making you feel you are in a large country house living room. What adds to this feeling are the custom-made ceramic plates and platters; which completely match the dishes served. The board at the entrance to this well-frequented restaurant displays the information about the daily lunch offer, and whatever you offer, it will be fresh, made of quality ingredients from local producers. Depending on the day, you can try some old classic homemade dishes: meat stew with dumplings, meat and wine stew, or pork knuckle, homemade roast sausages and blood sausages with sour cabbage and restani krumpir (boiled and then fried potatoes with onions), all delicious and affordably priced. More info in the guidebook.
12. Vina Kos – Jurisic, Donja Zelina – 12/20
On the Zelina wine road, in a place called Nespes, first there were the Kos-Jurisic family’s vineyards and winery, and then good wine was followed by good food. At their winery, you could always taste their varieties of Pinot gris, Kerner (a cross between Trollinger and Riesling), Chardonnay, Kraljevina,(one of the oldest indigenous white grape varieties in Croatia), and Riseling – at first, the wines were accompanied by cheese and charcuterie platters, and later they ventured into more serious cooking. Recently, they have started offering picnics at the vineyard; the idea was that guests choose one of four baskets full of homemade delicacies and then, with someone dear to their heart, sit on a blanket between the vines and enjoy the tasty bites and fresh air. Once the weather is no longer nice, it is too cold to sit on the ground, but the baskets – Spekec, Picek, Pajcek, and Grincajg, priced between 250 and 350 kuna, are still available at weekends. More info in the guidebook.
Learn more about the gastronomy and tourist offer of Zagreb County on the official tourist board website.