Mare e Monti: fine dining by the sea

If you love good food, Istria is a great place to come on holiday. It’s long had a strong reputation for the quality of it’s konoba food, but how about fine dining? 

Eating our dinner at Mare e Monti in UmagMost of our dining experiences here in Istria are of the local konoba variety – and excellent they’ve been too. But, as part of Croatia Restaurant Week, we decided to be more adventurous and see if Istria really can offer haute cuisine. We visited Mare e Monti in Umag and the answer is a definite yes!

Set in the up-market Stella Maris resort on the outskirts of the town, Mare e Monti has a fantastic location next to the sea, with terraces hugging the shoreline. We arrived in the dark on a surprisingly warm, late September evening and, with its stonework flood lit against the night sky, it set exactly the right tone for a sophisticated, elegant dining experience.

For their 100 kn, Croatia Restaurant Week menu (see below), Mare e Monti offered three courses, each with three options. Fish is clearly one of their strong suits: for me, the highlight was my oven-baked fish – some of the best fish I’ve Pork loin in a beer sauce, on a cabbage and potato tartlet at Mare e Montitasted anywhere in the world – while Phil was equally impressed with his fish tartar starter. My carpaccio was tasty and succulent, and Phil’s ombolo (pork tenderloin) in beer was delightfully tender. And we both agreed the rich, dark chocolate mousse was delicious, better than the tiramisu (very light, if slightly bland). Everything was beautifully presented – exactly as you’d expect from a restaurant of this calibre.

Perhaps the only slight let-down was the service. While it was perfectly acceptable and prompt (too prompt for my taste, but then I love a long, drawn-out meal), it lacked that ultimate polish. Part of the experience of such dining is the theatre, with a  reverence shown to the food by the servers, and the lack of ceremony and somewhat impersonal service was a slight disappointment. That said, it was nevertheless wonderful having a great meal outdoors, next to the sea, on the last day of September: the weather, food and location combined for a memorable evening.

 

Restaurant Week menu

Starter

  • Tartar od plemenite ribe s emulzijom od agruma, maslinovog ulja i crvenog papra (Fish tartar in a lemon, olive oil and red pepper dressing)
  • Carpaccio od junece pisanice na rukoli s parmezanom (Beef carpaccio served on rocket salad with parmesan)
  • Krem juha od buce (Cream of pumpkin soup)

Main course

  • Filet plemenite ribe zapecen s ružmarinom i pomidorcinima s blitvom i krumpirom (Oven-baked fish fillet with rosemary and cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard and potatoes)
  • Poširani filet plemenite ribe s korjenastim povrcem i tikvicama (Poached fish fillet with root vegetables and courgette)
  • Svinjski ombolo u umaku od piva s torticom od kelja i krumpira (Pork loin in a beer sauce, on a cabbage and potato tartlet)

Desert

  • Tiramisu (Tiramisu)
  • Mousse od crne cokolade (Dark chocolate mousse)
  • Sladoled od vanilije s lješnjacima i cokoladom (Creamy vanilla ice cream with hazelnuts and chocolate)

 

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