Croatia Restaurant Week comes to Istria

Restaurant Week in the sun, what a great holiday idea! We’ve just had our first Restaurant Week here in Istria – and delicious it was too – why not come and try it yourself next time with a short-break holiday in Istria.


Beautifully present delicacyFollowing its successful launch in Zagreb last year, Croatia Restaurant Week has expanded this year to cover the whole of Croatia – including our own Istria. It runs from 26th September – 9th October (yes, I know that’s a fortnight, not a week) and ten top Istrian restaurants are involved, in Funtana, Pula, Umag, Vodnjan and Vrsar. They offer superb three-course menus for 100 kn and so, of course, we had to try one (Mare e Monti in Umag) – and had a fantastic meal.

 Croatia Restaurant Week was launched in September 2010, by Željka and Ozren in Zagreb. Ozren’s a photographer with a special interest in fine wine, food and cigars, and Željka’s a marketing expert who’s just back from living in New York. “Many big cities have a Restaurant Week,” explained Željka. “It’s very popular in New York – we certainly loved it while we were there. So we decided, why not try it in Croatia?”

Ozren & Željka, founders of Croatia's Restaurant WeekThey started first in Zagreb, persuading twenty of the city’s finest restaurants into having a unique menu at a ‘bargain’ price for a week, in an attempt to draw local people into going out to restaurants. “The restaurant scene in Zagreb is far less developed than in New York, where there’s a culture of trying new dining experiences” explained Željka, “By offering menus for 100 kn, our aim was to tempt people into trying places perhaps more up-market than they would normally believe they could afford. We hope that, having been once, they’ll come back again and again.”

Beautifully present delicacyWhile the idea maybe well established in New York, it was radical for Croatia. As Ozren says, “Some restaurant owners didn’t understand the concept (and some still don’t). Others weren’t happy NOT to be included – and made a fuss about it. And some got it wrong, not producing their best cooking. But as a whole, there were obvious benefits for the owners and diners alike, and the general public loved it.”


In fact, the idea was so successful they repeated it again in February, expanding the programme to over forty Zagreb restaurants, and followed that up with the roll-out over the whole of Croatia, including Istria. “We’re hoping this will grow even more,” said Željka, “and we’ll be able to expand the programme to include more restaurants next time.”


Plan your own culinary treat

I only heard about Istrian Restaurant Week recently, so by the time you read this, it will probably be over – but you now know about it for next time, so you can plan new dining experiences for next year! When will it be? Željka’s not sure yet. Initially the plan was February, to coincide with Zagreb’s Restaurant Week, but she’s now thinking of shifting it to April or early May, to give more people, including tourists, the opportunity to sample the best of Croatian cuisine. I’ll be keeping in touch with her and let you know the dates, as soon as I can.

For more on this September’s visit the Restaurant Week site – it’s in Croatian (good practice!) and gives you an impression of what to expect.

Thanks to Goran and his wonderful Taste of Croatia website for his help with this piece. Taste of Croatia is an independent wine & gourmet guide to Croatia.

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One Response to Croatia Restaurant Week comes to Istria

  1. John Morris on 09/10/2011 at 11:22

    An excellent idea. What were the top dishes,and how innovative were the Restaurants? This is just what Istria needs to not only bring the locals out, but perhaps extend the letting season too!

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