5 places to eat cheaply (and well) in Dubrovnik
PUBLISHED: 19:00 14 October 2019 | UPDATED: 21:31 14 October 2019
Known affectionately as the Pearl of the Adriatic, this Croatian city has become a hot spot. Eating out can be expensive, but our food and drink editor found some little gems there which won't break the bank.
No city is without its flaws, but on a recent visit I found the Croatian city of Dubrovnik to be near perfect. The beauty of the place is infectious and to be frank, no pictures can truly do it justice. They cannot capture the golden hue of the old town streets, nor the juicy shades of nectarine and peach colouring the sky as the sun sets.
Out of the rocky, mountainous crags from the airport road, spires of cypress trees burst through the vista. Jungles of greenery shroud seafront villas, the blousy, soft hued pinks of bougainvillea framing their windows.
From the huge terrace of our apartment (Golden Streams - sadly no longer taking bookings after our visit but I'm not sure what we did) in the foreground stood Lokrum island. To the left, a cove frequented by flotillas of kayaks heading to and from a tiki bar. To the right, the ancient walled Old Town.
The sea sparkled as we'd never seen before. Like a blue velvet drape liberally dusted with diamonds. While tufts of cloud hung above - ships waiting to set sail on the wind.
A short stroll to the Ploce gates and over a wooden walkway took us into the Old Town, every street kissed by sunshine, and so meticulously kept it felt like a film set.
From the thronging Stradun (main street) hidden alleyways and precipitous stairs branch off, revealing shops, cafes, restaurants and bars - including the Buzas, set into the rockface with views of nothing but the beautiful abyss.
And the food. Oh the food. Let me tell you.
Where to eat
1. Poklisar - in the Old Town harbour
Happening upon this elegant restaurant seemed too good to be true. Surely it was a tourist trap - well the groups of visitors blindly following people carrying umbrellas and socks on sticks nearby gave us that impression. But we couldn't have been more wrong. To the toe-tapping melody of a jazz duo we enjoyed a wonderful courgette parmigiana, delicious pizza and a platter of finely sliced Dalmatian ham and unctuous pancetta, served with garlicky flatbreads, black olive paste and a surprising Istrian pesto - cured ham blended to a melting pot of goodness with lemon, butter, herbs and garlic. The restaurant has its own ice cream stand opposite where we found the portions huge and great value (around £2 for an enormous scoop). Flavours range from melon, to peanut, to whisky to deep, dark chocolate.
2. Pizzeria Mirakul - Nikole Guchetica 6
While looking for this in the side streets we embarrassingly sat at the wrong restaurant and had to do a runner before the waiter took our order. Whoops! While it wasn't the most amazing pizza I've had (that is reserved for a place I know in Rome) what we did have was reasonably priced, plentiful and really tasty. Thin, crispy pizzas with not a speck of grease. Some interesting flavours too, including a topping of Dalmatian ham and figs. Ideal if you're on a budget and looking for good grub.
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3. Kopun - Poljana Rudere Boskovica 7
There's a ramshackled gloriousness to the setting of this restaurant, sat in a crumbling square opposite a church. The outside seating area is extensive and you'll find heaters and blankets to ward off the cold of the night. The menu oozes locality and takes pride in ingredients sourced in the area. There were also some good vegetarian choices, although we did have to laugh at the owner's pride in his 'vegan fish'. Lobster and catches of the day can be picked out by the diner, but we had visited here for the speciality of Dubrovnik rooster. Stronger in flavour than a hen, and with a more robust texture, the meat fell apart in a sweet sauce of figs, peaches, raisins, honey, wine and orange marmalade, based on a centuries-old recipe. It was served with a warm boule of seasoned pearl barley. The place to go if you want to try something traditional.
4. Rajski Vrt, on the island of Lokrum
Boats depart from the Old Town harbour promptly on the half hour (150 kunas per person) to this haven of an island which felt to me like a more tropical version of Brownsea in Poole. Inhabited by rabbits and peacocks, the outpost tangles monastery ruins, and fort-capped mountains in greenery, and offers a spectacular sanctuary from the heat of the city- especially thanks to its inland lake and swimming spots (ideal for snorkelling). Sat under a canopy of trees, surrounded by birdsong, we tucked into an idyllic lunch of polenta crusted prawns with garlicky aioli and rounds of bruschetta topped with prosciutto and doused with local olive oil and crushed pesto.
5. Nista, Prijeko bb
My heart sank when I read this was a vegan raw restaurant. But it turns out they do have cooked food too and we couldn't allow our veggie mate to leave Dubrovnik without a proper feast. Bijoux and cutesy, this was a chocolate box of a spot full of delights, both in the daily changing menu and the décor (check out Barbie and Ken in the loos). We sampled a chilli topped with vegan cashew sour cream with sweet potato chips, tortillas and guac, and an exceptional daal with brown rice and flatbreads. All nourishing, but filling and tasty. Veggie friend also had the dark chocolate cake which came doused in a layer of apricot puree. She declared it incredible.
1. Avoid Saturdays and Thursdays when cruise ships come in.
2. Walk the city wall either early or late in the day to avoid the midday sun. There are bars/cafes on top but the best place to stop is at the first refreshment point where you'll find homemade ice cream and freshly squeezed pomegranate and orange juice.
3. It may seem a little touristy but you have to visit the central market which is open until the middle of the afternoon. You'll find jewellery, local wines and oils, figs, honey, fruits and the heady scent of lavender. It's also the cheapest place to buy candied orange peel - a speciality of the area.
4. As soon as the sun sets in the Old Town the wind picks up, blustering through every walkway. Take a jumper!
5. A guide to prices. One hundred kunas worked out at roughly £12 when we visited. Main courses in most restaurants were 100 to 130 kunas, in side streets could be from 60 to 115 kunas and in pricier restaurants were often 250 kunas or more. Know your currency!
6. Take insect repellent. I forgot mine and after many bites to my face ended up looking like a Klingon. There is a lot of water in and around the city and these little beggars are everywhere.