Festa Days on Zut: A Kornati Michelin Gourmet Superstar

Total Croatia News

June 19, 2019 – It is 26 years since a restaurant opened on an uninhabited island in the middle of a war. Festa Days on Zut celebrates one of the great stories in Croatian tourism. 

Often in life, you only find out about the best things by chance. A missed conversation, an unanswered phone call, and the opportunity is gone. And so it is with one of my favourite things on the Croatian tourism calendar – Festa Days on Zut, one of the 140 or so Kornati Islands, which really should not be attracting too much attention without the efforts of one determined restaurant. Because without them, the majority of sailors would simply pass by and head to another island. 

My acquaintance with Restaurant Festa on Zut almost didn’t happen. I am not a sailor and spend less time on the water than my social media profile might suggest, but I was delighted to join the team from Gastronaut to discover Kornati and Murter on one of their excellent foodie tours a couple of years ago in early November. As I learned later, Festa on Zut was a last-minute addition. Even though it was closed for the season, the owner wanted to be part of the Gastronaut programme. It was quite a show, and the Festa success story was yet one more paradox in the Croatian tourism story – an innovative business succeeding despite the efforts of the State, not assisted by it. You can read The Paradox of Croatian Tourism: Case Study – Restaurant Festa, Island Zut


Just under a year later. I was back – invited as part of the press to cover the 25-year celebrations of this great island success story. A restaurant which attracts A-list celebrities celebrated its silver jubilee with a gourmet extravaganza, served up by 5 Michelin Star chefs and 5 of Croatia’s top chefs. An amazing experience

Festa Days on Zut was a great success and it has now been turned into an annual event. An invitation to the 2019 edition landed in my inbox, very conveniently on the last day of school as we were heading down to Hvar from Varazdin. Festa kindly agreed to find some space for my girls as well. 

And so the 24-hour Kornati adventure began. A speedboat transfer from Zadar to Zut passing under the bridge which connects Ugljan and Pasman. 

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As our skipper explained, not all boats pass through as easily as we did, and more than one sailboat has scraped through. As a man who once drove a transit van into a bridge in Alsace, I could perfectly understand. 

And after 50 minutes of getting into the holiday mood, gorgeous Zut awaited us – the approach to Festa from the water. 

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Let the summer begin!

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The Festa team has expanded its operations in recent years to diversify its tourism offer – their latest accommodation option was glamping, which made me popular with the kids. 

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A delightful way to relax on this most natural of islands, with not a neighbour in sight. Super comfy. 

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Due to our relatively late arrival due to the last school day, there was not enough time for chilling before dinner as there might have been, but we arrived in time for cocktail hour. 

Where there was plenty of waterfront expertise and innovation on offer. 

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Festa Days is also a great occasion for locals to come and celebrate, and there were numerous people from neighbouring islands, as well as the de facto capital of the Kornati Islands – Murter. Some sailing boats made it more obvious where they came from… 

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The outstanding hosts, Mirko and Kreso, whose achievements in getting the Festa story thus far cannot be underestimated. And both were still totally focused on the job and ensuring their guests had the most sensational experience. 

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And so to the food. Below, a dish by dish account, as five Michelin Star chefs and five top Croatian chefs put together an unforgettable evening. Information on each dish includes the accompanying wine and the individual chef. The tone of the culinary evening was perhaps best summed up by resident Festa chef, Zoran Jajac:

“Recently I celebrated my 61st birthday and lot of my colleagues and friends started asking me until when do I plan to continue to work as a professional chef. Until the child in me says to, I respond. To every child his play and toys are the most important things in life. When I cook I play and ingredients are my toys. When this emotion vanishes I will know that I have to stop working because I grew up.”

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Mushed dogfish with traditional Murter sausage

Billecart-Salmon Brut

Chef Zoran Jajac

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Tuna tartare with Cherry Coulis

Rose Degarra

Chef Stefano Deidda

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Mackerel fishermen’s way

Ribolla Simčić

Chef Domenico Schingaro

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Spaghetti with mixed fish sauce and dried anchovies bones powder

Debit Birin

Chef Vinod Sookar

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Monkfish, capers & samphire in Debit sauce

Saladić Maraština

Chef Ante Božikov

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Mussels risotto with Pag cheese rind

Chardonnay ’17 Dvorac Belaj

Chef Hrvoje Zirojević

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There was great cooperation between chefs to ensure that the evening went perfectly.

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Ray fish, demiglace, leek, sweet potato with parsnip chips

Pošip Divina

Chef David Skoko

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Hake and bonito duet

Crni pinot Tomac

Chef Damnjan Draganić

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Marinated swordfish and bitter sweet artichokes

Malvasia Nera San Marzzano

Chef Danilo Bei

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Lemon, basil, strawberry and thyme tart

Muškat žuti Laguna

Chef Josip Vrsaljko

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Festa Days is much more than just food, however. There are plenty of opportunities to learn more about the traditions of the Kornati region, and guests were treated to a show of traditional fishing with lanterns in between courses.

A lovely evening.  

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Breakfast at Festa Days is full of natural goodness, local produce and zero waste. The perfect leisurely start to the day. A day which was to be quite diverse.

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There was plenty of time for a leisurely morning before those amazing chefs were back in action with a selection of seafood delicacies.

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Accompanied by a fine selection of wines from the winemakers of the night before. 

And, this being Festa Days, there was a touch of class in the form of this excellent string quartet. 

And a snapshot of traditional life, as chef Ante Bozikov from Opat took part in a local game of Sijavica. 

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The relaxed pace of life gave me time to check out a story that had been on my mind since my last visit – who the hell would open a shop on an island where nobody lived permanently, and how was the shop doing? It turned out to be a lovely story

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So many snapshots of tradition, heritage and natural beauty as we departed just as the second gala dinner was beginning. Festa Days is one of the top things in the Dalmatian gourmet calendar. Don’t miss it next year – you can follow Festa on Facebook for the latest updates


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