Fine Wine

Meet the Top 12 Gault & Millau Restaurants in Zagreb County

January 9, 2022 – Looking for a great dining experience on a day trip outside Zagreb? Gault & Millau has published its first top 100 restaurants guide for Zagreb and Zagreb County. 

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. 

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(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

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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. All the dishes are small works of art – put together combining authentic local ingredients such as homemade cottage cheese, skuta cheese (similar to ricotta) for tortellini, wild herbs from the family estate, trout from the local trout farm, wild rosehip. The chef finds inspiration in the changing seasons, so one of his seasonal menus is called ‘Welcome, Autumn’. Homemade sourdough bread and handmade salted butter, bread crisps with ham and cottage cheese doused with tomato oil are an overture to the mouth-watering bites where pieces of steelhead trout from Zumberak are combined with purslane and other wild plants as well as with trout roe. Green beans with clams and mussels is the only dish which does not contain exclusively local ingredients, in which shellfish is used as the source of saltiness. When at Korak they say ‘suckling piglet’, they mean a piece of roast pork belly served on roast peppers and black garlic, and behind the simple name of ‘potatoes’ one can find lamb sweetbreads cooked in spelt, glazed in sweet Riesling, caramelized apples and cider, served with crisps and creamed baby potatoes. The testament to the creativity of chef Bernard Korak are his desserts: his soft mini-doughnuts with raspberry cream filling, elderberry mousse decorated with elderberries and a carmelised white chocolate grid. The restaurant’s concept is based on total devotion to the guest, so the number of visitors is limited and you need to book your table in advance. Those who don’t have time for a hedonist lunch can come for a glass of wine, make themselves comfortable in the loungers on the meadow and enjoy the colours and the scents of Plesivica vineyards. 

www.korakwinery,com/hr/o-imanju 

2. Gabreku 1929, Samobor – 13.5/20

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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. We started our classic lunch with grilled porcini mushrooms – meaty, fragrant, and undoubtedly fresh, and the indispensable mushroom soup – thick and aromatic, packed with pieces of seven types of mushrooms of gentle, natural flavour. The soup is enhanced by dried black trumpet mushroom powder. Our lunch also included wild boar with gnocchi in cranberry sauce as well as duck with mlinci (a sort of thin flatbread scalded with boiling water and coated in meat and roast juices). The gnocchi that came by the slightly dry boar were excellent and were accompanied by plum jam and slightly sour cranberries. The very tasty roast duck came with equally tasty and not too fatty mlinci. Gabrek has probably the largest offer of pancakes made following their grandmother’s recipe, and you have a choice of as many as 50 different toppings. The service is equally good: nice, friendly, honest and, above all, attentive waiters, who will happily tell you about the details of their kitchen and make the guests’ lunch a pleasurable experience. When the weather is nice and at weekends, it is recommended to book your table in advance. 

www.gabrek.hr  

3. Karlo, Jastrebarsko – 13.5/20

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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. Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong: duck with mlinci (a sort of thing flatbread scalded with boiling water and coated in meat roast juices), pork fillet in mushroom sauce with croquettes, rump steak with vegetables, wild boar pasticada (braised meat in an aromatic sauce) – everything is delicious and fresh, pleasing to both the palate and the eye, because everything is served on beautiful, large white plates. For dessert, you can choose between kremsnita (custard slice) and crispy apple strudel served with a scoop of ice cream, and you can end your lunch with a glass of cherry liqueur. Apart from great food and excellent wines from the local winemakers, what will take your breath away is the view from the restaurant’s terrace, stretching far and wide across the sea of vines of the well-known Plesivica vineyards. Karlo is about 30 minutes’ drive from Zagreb, and it is easy to find. As it is a very popular place, we recommend booking a table a few days in advance. 

https://www.facebook.com/Restoran-Karlo-Ple%C5%A1ivica-349403015176262 

4. Mon Ami, Velika Gorica – 13.5/20

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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! We started our lunch with porcini soup, octopus salad and shrimp risotto. Abundant portions of all that arrived, but especially of the generous risotto, which would have been enough for at least 3 people. The delicious creamy soup was full of porcini mushrooms that kept their firm texture, which is to be recommended. The octopus was soft but unnecessarily garnished with two olives and a cherry tomato. We liked the pickled sea fennel. which complimented the salad nicely. Then we ordered their so-called ‘best buy’, ie a dish with the best value for money: two pieces of finely baked sea bass fillet with shrimp tail skewer and vegetables, with a side of chard and potatoes. We decided to try the meat as well: the classic beefsteak in green pepper sauce was great, a thickly cut piece of fillet prepared as we ordered it, in a thick green peppercorn sauce. Mon Ami has a good wine list. We had some fresh Malvasia from Kozlovic. We sweetened the lunch with some Skradin cake (a chocolate-coated walnut and almond cake). At Mon Ami, the staff is very professional, and the prices are reasonable and lower than in Zagreb fish restaurants. When you crave good fish and some delicious Mediterranean food, be sure to head to Velika Gorica and visit Mon Ami.

www.monami.hr 

5. Restoran Potkova (Trajbar), Zapresic – 13/20

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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, it is mostly meat and vegetable-based, and the only fish-based main course is sea bass fillet in a pouch. They also offer a vegetarian menu. Of the four soups, we tried the cauliflower with toasted hazelnuts and bacon, and the clear noodle soup with vegetables. Both were excellent, homemade, and an excellent introduction to the main course. The juicy chicken fillet roll is wrapped in thinly sliced bacon and stuffed with ham and mozzarella. It was wrapped with tasty cream risotto with pumpkin cubes, which were a tad too soft. The medium-rare beefsteak in cranberry and red wine sauce was pink inside, laid on top of a small bun, so that it does not drown in the slightly sour sauce. We can highly recommend the grilled duck breast marinated in honey and orange, served with crispy sweet potato chips, but overly decorated with lamb’s lettuce and endive. The waiter was well-informed about the menu, and the wine list had around 20 carefully selected labels of Croatian wineries, 13 of which are served by the glass. Potkova is a pleasant place for lunches with children and friends, offering good value for money. 

www.trajbar.hr/vjencanja/restoran-potkova 

6. Cowboy Western Rancha, Markusevac Turopljski – 12.5/20

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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. There are a lot of handicraft details, the fire in the fireplace adds to the atmosphere of warmth, and because of the waiters in plaid shirts and cowboy hats as well as the country hits coming from the speakers, you think for a moment that you are in an authentic saloon. The restaurant’s menu includes about 30 meat dishes, tortillas, and veggie burgers, a solid selection of salads, side dishes, and desserts. You come to the Cowboy for their juicy steaks; you can choose between various steak sizes, ranging from 350 to 1200 gram. Arizona, Bull’s Eye, T-Bone, or Tomahawk are all properly matured steaks, medium done and soft, served on wooden boards with the addition of chimichurri salsa and some tasty chips. The most expensive steak is the 900-gram Tomahawk – 394 kuna, but it is enough for two hungry people. We recommend Sedona spare ribs – grilled pork ribs, glazed with homemade spicy BBQ sauce, served with chips and some delicious spicy Indian beans, baked with bacon, chili, and peppers. Among the most popular dishes are the hearty pork and beef shoulder burgers, served in burger buns together with a huge portion of chips and accompanying sauces. Although they offer a solid selection of labels from local wineries, at Cowboy, guests mostly order their homemade beer. This place provides a truly different visual and gastronomic experience, the staff is casual but professional, and the value for money is good. 

www.cowboy.com.hr   

7. Gostionica Kod Spilje, Otrusevec – 12.5/20

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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. If it is mushroom season, it would be good to try the grilled porcini – sometimes they are large, sometimes small, but they are always compact and fragrant, as if they have just ‘walked in’ from the nearby forest. Main dishes include wild game, veal, duck with mlinci, (a sort of thin flatbread scalded with boiling water and coated in meat roast juices), various steaks, the well-known Samobor trout… They make terrific beef cheeks in cinnamon with homemade gnocchi, and an amazing venison goulash with bread dumplings and cranberry sauce. Grgos takes vegetarians into account as well and offers them porcini mushroom and courgette risotto, homemade polenta, gorgonzola gnocchi. When it comes to desserts make up your mind – you need to choose between walnut roll, poppy seed roll, blueberry pancakes, kremsnita (custard slices), cherry, apple or blueberry strudel, chestnut cake – but whatever you decide on, it will give you enormous pleasure. You can arrange a visit to the cave with the owner, and the restaurant is also the starting point of the Otrusevec educational trail. The 90-minute easy hike through the forest leads to a viewpoint with a beautiful vista of the Sava River and Medvednica Mountain. 

www.gostionica-kodspilje.hr  

8. Zeleni Papar, Samobor – 12.5/20

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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. The hosts offer what they most probably eat themselves – traditional dishes from urban continental parts of Croatia. The stars of the menu are beefsteaks and rump steaks in combination with various sauces, but there is also white meat, seasonal mushrooms, a variety of risottos… Their offer of fish, shrimp, and shellfish makes this continental menu slightly inconsistent. Nonetheless, everything on our plate was prepared wonderfully, and the stuffed turkey breast (usually dry) was juicy and fragrant from the smoked homemade ham in the stuffing. The two extremely charming and attentive waiters could earn Zeleni Papar a high rating; however, there is quite some room for improvement. The menu includes about 40 dishes, and a good number of them is not always available. Furthermore, there is no wine list, so the guest who wants to choose the best bottle for an affordable price might get themselves into an awkward situation.  

www.zelenipapar.hr 

9. Ampelos Hotel Princess – 12/20

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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… At the time of our visit, they also offered two autumn menus created by chef Dominik Severinec, priced at 125 kuna, and both had three courses accompanied by a glass of wine. We tried both! You start with a salad of roasted pumpkin, goat cheese and lamb’s lettuce, dressed with pumpkin oil. Simple ingredients, but they work together perfectly. The crispy duck and duck liver is served on red cabbage cream with roasted Brussels sprouts and pine nuts. Their stuffed pork loin with bacon and prunes comes with roasted beetroot and potatoes. Both dishes were fantastic, the meat soft and juicy, and appropriately seasoned; the accompaniments such as pine nuts and red wine sauce gave it an additional delicious note. And finally – the chestnut cheesecake and chestnut tartelette, which, however, could have been less sweet. The chef and his menu of seasonably available ingredients is to be thoroughly commended. The wine list includes a variety of wines but not all are served by the glass. The staff is friendly, and the restaurant is good value for money. Organising various family celebrations is also possible there. The Ampelos restaurant is certainly a nice discovery and a gastronomic stop worth visiting if you find yourself in the Jaska region or need some refreshment on the way to or from the seaside. 

www.princess.hr/gastronomija/restoran-ampelos  

10. Baraz, Etno-Farma Mirnovec, Samobor – 12/20

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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. He has put together a predominantly meat-based menu, which includes his own interpretations of steak tartare, lamb minced meat steak, French-style lamb chops, and Parmigiano and egg white crust veal cutlets. He has also added the mature Black Angus steak, as well as grilled sea bass fillet. They also offer dishes typical of the Samobor/Zagreb area such as cottage cheese with sour cream (which they make themselves) homemade boiled ham with horseradish, or the Samobor sausage platter. Objectively, everything is delicious and made from quality ingredients; the downside can only be the high price. The pace at which the meals arrive is quite slow, we found out that there was a problem with there is a mismatch between kitchen capacity and number of tables. The interior of the restaurant seats maximum 50 guests, but when the weather is nice, both terraces fill up quickly, so the number of guests can reach 150. The wine list has not yet been put together, the information about their wine offer can only be given by the waiter, but they offer Croatian bottled wines as well as a house wine made by the Samobor winemaker, Zupancic.  

https://www.facebook.com/EtnoFarmaMirnovec

11. Taverna 1860, Donja Zelina – 12/20

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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. It is difficult to figure out what the speciality of the house is because on the menu you can find burgers, wok dishes, pork, chicken, tuna steaks, rump steak, ribs, and grill platters. On the waiter’s recommendation, as a starter, we had the Taverna platter, filled with homemade cold cuts, sausages, bacon, cheese, and some lovely fresh bread. Pljukanci (thick rolled homemade pasta) with pieces of steak and tartufata cream were delicious, and, unexpectedly, the waiter grated a generous amount of fresh truffles from the Zelina forests. Pork fillet stuffed with black Slavonian pork bacon and gorgonzola, with fried sweet potatoes as a side dish, accompanied with lettuce, was, as to be expected, a very filling but good combination of flavours. The chocolate cake on their daily offer, decorated with blueberries and almond flakes, concluded our feast. The wine list is dominated by the wines of the Zelina region, and the light  Kraljevina (one of the oldest indigenous white grape varieties in Croatia) goes well with meat dishes. The service is professional and friendly, the portions are large, and the prices are reasonable; the restaurant is located on a busy road, and parking is provided at the front of the restaurant – plenty of reasons for a trip to the beautiful Zelina area. 

www.facebook.com/Taverna-1860-114220496955337  

12. Vina Kos – Jurisic, Donja Zelina – 12/20

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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. You can also enjoy them in the Kos-Jurisic family’s cellar, together with the remainder of the gastronomic offer. The baskets are very generous (ou get one whole fried chicken), all the food in them is delicious, homemade, prepared in a simple, fail-proof way. The menu differs from weekend to weekend – pork or veal roast with side dishes, Zelina escalope, stuffed pork fillet, soups, apricot, or Turopolje truffle strukli (sweet or savoury dough with cottage cheese filling, either boiled or baked)… The view from the winery is marvelous, the hosts are exceptionally hospitable, and for children, they have built a playground with swings and a trampoline in order to attract families for whole-day outings. The prices are affordable, and it is advised to book a table or a basket in advance. The winery is open only at weekends, and it is suitable for smaller family gatherings or celebrations. 

www.vina-kos.hr

Learn more about the gastronomy and tourist offer of Zagreb County on the official tourist board website.

 

 




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