Wine and Dine Guide to Korčula

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July 3, 2018 – Introducing some of the best fine-dining and fine-drinking destinations on the island.

In recent years, Korčula has raised the quality of its offer and is attracting more and more guests with its fine-dining options and a great selection of good-quality wines. Here are some of them.

The pilchard, reinforced by a pink shark fin, prepared at the Krajančić winery, can serve as an allegory of times past at the erstwhile starting point of the Silk Road. This small, but important blue fish has fed Dalmatia through the history and is now the focus for people of Korčula who are responsible for the bright future of the “Black Island” – not just those who have their roots in the times of Marco Polo, but even those who came here later, like Michael Unsworth, a British investment banker who has restored the old bishop’s palace Lešić Dimitri and turned it into a luxury apartment hotel.

One of the major ambassadors of Korčula tourism has built a bridge towards strangers seeking luxury and relaxed but professional attitude. If you come to Korčula, you can see him sitting on the terrace of the LD restaurant with a spectacular view of the Pelješac canal and the Korčula archipelago, and hear him describing his new projects and showing with his personal example that patience can be rewarded. Mr. Unsworth has a special touch for historical heritage, but also for selecting a team which functions like a family.

With two Slavonians – the top sommelier and storyteller Dražen Matković and the virtuoso chef Marko Gajski, who like to contemplate deeply about glasses and plates, spaces, times and people, it would be difficult to imagine that someone might get up from the table without biting deeply in Korčula and all that it represents. The renaissance of fine-dining experience based on local groceries and wine varieties is more than a simple lunch or dinner. Among the scenery of the sea and the stones, you will witness a performance that will be remembered forever.

A special experience is provided by the terrace of the Korčula De La Ville hotel, whose renovation was designed by the Split architect Duje Kaliterna. His main idea was to return it to the glamour of the past times, and he succeeded. The centuries-old stone beauty was built on the waterfront and for years it was a favourite gathering place for the people of Korčula, who came there to have a coffee, read newspapers and chat about latest events.

With a glass of sparkling wine in a hand, the terrace welcomed many famous ladies who watched as the sun set into the sea and a starry sky was born. Among them, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, Jovanka Broz and even Jackie Kennedy, who came to Korčula after her husband, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated. The good spirit of times past still lives in De La Ville thanks to the new look of the cafe and terrace, stylish furnishings, carefully selected materials and colours, as well as the superb cuisine provided by Steven Pieters. The chef and the F&B manager realised the benefits of the brasserie concept, so people can enjoy the terrace from the morning till the evening – from breakfast to brunch, and from lunch to dinner, which are all prepared by skilful chefs linking the tradition with the modern. The glasses are filled with top-quality wines and with artisan cocktails which smell after Korčula’s herbs. But, as Steven himself affirms, what the guests primarily take home with them is a memory of people who wish you a good morning and a good night with a sincere smile – and with an occasional joke, if the situation permits.

Adio Mare

Somewhat different and more modest, the rustic bomboniere is a few minutes walk from the De La Ville hotel. But if you want to taste the pašticada made according to the recipe of grandma Ana and the fine house wine with the view of Marco Polo’s house, it is advisable to make a reservation, since there is no “jumping the line” at the Cvitković establishment. In the stone area in front of Adio Mare, people wait for hours to get a table during the summer months, and this phenomenon is publicised every year by the media around the world. People make their pilgrimage to enjoy homemade food from the pantry, but also to feel a piece of the charisma of the father and son who will tell you the story about how the tavern received its name over 40 years ago after a song that the grandpa liked to sing. People sing there even today, and no guest says “adio” without promising to return.

With such great efforts, so many new restaurants and taverns, it was proper that Michelin inspectors decided to put Korčula on a gourmet map. In addition to the DL restaurant, Filippi also received their recommendation thanks to carefully prepared fish specialties that can be enjoyed together with beautiful sea views. Many celebrities, such as U2’s Bono, have found their way to tasty plates filled with octopus salad which cannot be tasted anywhere else. Other specialties are macaroni with prawns and cranberries, and duck with arancini.

Here the secret for the success is also in a deliberate choice of team members, creating a synergy of traditional and modern gastronomic techniques. According to owner Ivana’s policy, guests must not leave Filippi unhappy, even if their tastes do not agree with the plates and drinks prepared by professionals.

A small bar with great wines

If you want to sit on a terrace and explore all the magic of Čara and Lumbarda, as well as Pelješac, Pošip, Grk, and Plavac, accompanied with fine home-made snacks, and sail to the blue sea in your mind, the perfect place is this little bar – with the telling name BARić. You will be welcomed by spouses Otto and Alemka Barić, who have become, due to their love for the island, ambassadors of local varieties. There you can sometimes stumble across such rarities such as Pošip wine from an amphora, but also the top sparkling wines which taste best at noon while watching vessels sailing into the distance.

Michelin also recommended the Mate tavern in Pupnat, marked by the ecological approach to ingredients, and permaculture and biodynamic agriculture rules. Nature-inspired sweets, homemade goat’s cheese, and ham, as well as hand-made pasta with natural herbs, are just the beginning of a story of what you can experience at a place where everything which the nature produces is taken away, but also generously returned.

Fairytale Eko Škoj

A family story worthy of attention is the one about the Marović family on the western edge of Žrnovo. If you have enough time – be sure to visit them. The farmers and olive growers, brandy and liqueur makers, producers of marmalades, fruits and vegetables, teas, dry figs, sweets, soaps and many other beautiful, fragrant and tasty products await their guests in the tasting room of their fairytale stone house that smells after rose petals, oranges, and herbs. With award-winning olive oils and other products, Eko Škoj supplies similarly inclined guardians of island traditions, and they together form a jigsaw puzzle that is deeply engraved in memory. Do not miss an opportunity to taste the green gold of Korčula, a carob bread with homemade juice from elderberry and pomegranate.

Let the luck follow you…

Just like it says on the label of Frane Milina Bire, a wine-producer from Lumbarda, “Let the luck follow you…” on the way to the heights.

Korčula, Bire, and Grk are inseparable terms on Korčula. As Dražen Matković says, speaking about Grk: “Bire is either number one or there is perhaps somebody with him in the same sentence.” The autochthonous variety has survived the phylloxera, a scourge that scorched the vineyards of the Old Continent, thanks to the sandy soils of the Lumbarda field which did not suit it. Bire’s label is written in the words of famous Psefizma, one of the oldest written monuments in this part of Europe. This evidence written in stone with a 2,400-year-old story about the ancient roots of today’s Lumbarda provides insight into the peace agreement between the Greek colonizers and Illyrians. Psefizma is not without reason on Bire’s bottle of Grk, a wine which is more than the Croatian wine culture – it is the legacy of antiquity in our region.

For the excellent wine and sea blessings

Grk also fills the labels dominated by colourful vineyards, cypresses, fields, and coves, the blue sea and sky, Spanish broom and olives – the works of one of the largest living Dalmatian painters, Stipe Nobilo from Lumbarda. This moving gallery of the Batistić Zure winery will help you experience with every sip the black island of white wines –best underneath the treetops of the farm where it is difficult to decide whether the food or the wine is better. People also come there to enjoy the miracles of the sea which father Bartul tirelessly finds, and the cooks virtuously prepare.

Ivan Batistić Zure with his father Bartul and brother Marko is one of the examples of a successful island story about hard work, dedication, and patience, as well as the courage that is rewarded. The Batistić family is continuing the tradition of farming in Lumbarda which is about 600 years old, just like the family itself. They have cultivated the production of autochthonous varieties of sandy soils, but seven years ago, after amelioration of the karst and terrain at the Defore location, under the supervision by Bernard Kozina from the Faculty of Agriculture in Zagreb, they raised a modern vineyard with about 33,000 vines, about 500 olives and a large orchard. In addition to top-quality wines made from Grk, they produce Prosecco and the Quinta Essentia sparkling wine.

A tavern with the ranch soul

The similar driving force that drives the Batistić family runs through the veins of another tavern. Hidden in the wilderness of fragrant plants and trees, eight kilometres from Korčula in Žrnovo, there is a small gourmet revolution started by father Željko and mother Darija with their sons. The soul of the Maha tavern is brothers Ivan and Jakša, rock’n’roll caterers with a great sense of fire, wine and ashes. Baked and grilled dishes are their specialty, but you should not miss their roasted pears with truffles or oysters with rosemary and pancetta, and homemade tagliatelle with anglerfish. After a dinner or late lunch, you might forget where you are because it is so easy to lose oneself in a show which you will want to experience again.

If you get unexpectedly bored with wondrous wines, go to the Marco’s for a beer and raised a glass of Bura, or some other craft beer or whiskey. With small snacks of cheese, prosciutto, capers, and olives, however, we would recommend wines, which come here from Korčula, but also Slavonia, Istria… They also offer burgers and always something to eat with a spoon, depending on what could be bought at the local market, just like at Aterina.

As fresh as it gets – that is the motto of the kitchen led by chef Igor Gudac on the islet of Vela Stupa at the Moro Beach Club. He is assisted by Matija Kruhonja who has developed his skills at the Fajn bistro in Zagreb. The two of them and their team are tirelessly preparing the dough for home-made bread which comes warm to the table, with a whiff of homemade croissants and pasta coming from the kitchen. They also prepare ice-cream and even salt. As much as the nature permits, their vegetables and spices come from their own garden. Nicely-prepared delicacies are accompanied by wines from all over Croatia, and Moro also boasts great labels from France and Italy.

At Radiona, in addition to the fish, you will be served more serious pieces of meat. As for the desserts, the best are Cukarin and Škatula, a bit farther away. Typical brunch, such as tripes and beans, is eaten at nice prices at Škver and a bit further away from the town at Malta Family Farm.

If you are already in your car, go to Torkula for the best olive oil, stop at one of the most beautiful terraces and the best wines with Jakša Krajančić in Čara, return to the wine beginnings at Cebal, Bire or Luka… and enjoy with all your senses! When? The sooner the better.

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