Looking for Traditional Dalmatian Fare?
The island’s coastal villages produce many unforgettable moments for tourists, with their idyllic waterfront settings and outstanding seafood, but for those who want to become better acquainted with the culinary delights, it is well worth the time to explore Hvar’s inland villages. For here, away from the spectacular coast lies a world of tradition, authenticity and a surprising diversity of excellent Hvar cuisine, all prepared with the freshest seasonal produce. Hvar’s inland village restaurant scene has grown considerably in recent years, as more tourists are heading inland to discover an entirely different Hvar from the one on the beach.
Nowhere is this more true than in Velo Grablje, the Hvar village which has perhaps seen more change than most in recent years. Once the centre of lavender production for all Dalmatia, the village was reduced to a population of just five until some enterprising locals with ancestral links to the village started to change things. Through the NGO Pjover, various projects were started to celebrate the traditions of Velo Grablje and to bring it to life again, most notably the annual lavender festival. The village population is now up to 14, and the heart of the village is at Konoba Zbondini, a delightful traditional restaurant run by a young couple and offering very traditional fare. They even offer cooking classes, so if you want to experience picking the ingredients for you lunch and learning how to cook the Dalmatian way, this is the place for you.
A little further down the hill is the hauntingly beautiful Malo Grablje, a totally abandoned village, whose property owners all go by the surname of Tudor. Legend has it that Malo Grablje was founded by an illegitimate son of Henry VIII, who was shipwrecked of nearby Milna. Whatever the truth, it is a modern-day Tudor, Berti, who operates one of the finest restaurants on the island. No Coca Cola here or any other such modern trappings, but some of the best lamb in Dalmatia. A restaurant in an abandoned village centuries away from throbbing Hvar Town just a few kilometres today.
The belt of Central Hvar provide wonderful gourmet experiences away from the beach. Head to Dol, home of the edible dormouse festival (puhijada) and Konoba Kokot, which is a vegetarian’s dream, especially if goat’s cheese if your thing – locally produced and a superb selection. If you do want to try the dormouse delicacy, it usually needs to be ordered 24 hours in advance.
Vrbanj is Hvar’s biggest village, but it is only in recent years that it has had its own restaurant. And a good one it is too. Open at weekends throughout the winter, Bogo’s is located on the corner by the church. Authentically refurbished, the traditional Dalmatian menu is complimented by some of the best pizza on Hvar.
Another relatively new arrival on the Hvar culinary scene, and a restaurant which is attracting many tourists away from the coast, is Konoba Vrisnik in the village of the same name. Here is where you should order the signature dish, peka, delicious slow cooked meat (or octopus) with potatoes or vegetables under an iron bell, washed down with the excellent local wine.
Svirce is home to some of the best wine and olive oil on the island from the PZ Svirce winery and the Bozic olive oil mill, and the village’s restaurant celebrates local ingredients and recipes. It is summed up in the name of the restaurant, Kod None (At Grandma’s). Simply Dalmatian food, prepared to recipes handed down from generation to generation. Fresh and local ingredients. A refreshing change in the modern world.
For a table with a view, it would be hard to beat Dvor Dubokovic in Pitve, the oldest village on the island, dating back some 2000 years. Now open over ten years, it is run by a popular family who returned from New Zealand, and includes one son who has been cooking in a four-star hotel in Munich for many years.
For true authenticity, it is hard to beat Konoba Humac in the village regarded by many as the best eco-ethno village in Dalmatia. Indeed it has its own eco-ethno festival here. No running water or electricity here, which makes the preparation of the fantastic menu all the more impressive. If you are looking to experience Hvar as it once was, there is not finer example.
Hvar, an island of true diversity, and while we can totally understand if you do not want to venture too far from the beach, an evening dining in an inland village will add to the unforgettable memories on this magical island.
*Author - Paul Bradbury
*Photo Credit - Romulic & Stojcic multimedia studio