The old walled city of Split is full of character and charm. Narrow walking streets wind between centuries old stone buildings and the base of each building is usually the home to a cafe or restaurant. While the view is spectacular the food is hit and miss. Some places are true to Dalmatian tradition with fresh seafood and local seasonal vegetables while others pump out international favourites, lovelessly cashing in on the tourist dollar. You can take a punt here or you can leave the walls of the city and take a long stroll along the port and around the point. Under the shade of the pines overlooking a tranquil bay you will find restaurant Dvor.
Usually careful of our budget on our year long circumnavigation of the globe we knew today would be different as we opened the menu. The tasting menu of five courses seemed irresistible and so after a month or so of searching out cheap tavernas and tasty but affordable street food we decided today would be the day to splurge.
Before we could order the waiter arrived with a plate of traditional flat bread filled with spinach, some tasty green olives and fresh olive oil as an amuse bouche. He also brought with him an amazing knowledge of local wine and culinary history. In this part of the world waiting tables is a profession not just a place to earn a few bucks while you study or travel as it is at home in Australia. A well informed and genial waiter can really make a difference to any dining experience. We ordered the tasting menu and after hearing his recommendation we ordered a local wine to match. A crisp dry white made with the “debit” variety of grape which has been grown for centuries in northern Croatia. Then the gastronomic journey really began.
Plate 1 Marinated Adriatic Prawns
As the plate came to the table it looked more like a desert with no trace of a Prawn. Tiny green micro sprouts standing out on a white background comprised of a powdered olive oil. As you submerged the fork through the powder the marinade with raw fish and small prawns began to appear and mix with the olive oil powder. The zesty vinaigrette marinade and the fat of the powdered oil blended perfectly in the mouth for a taste sensation.
Plate 2 Skradin Risotto
Ultra slow cooked beef formed the heart of this loose and brothy risotto which takes its name from a small village in Croatia’s north. Rich in flavour and perfectly seasoned, the eight hours of cooking brings a rich well blended flavour to the dish. Mixing the stripe of chopped herbs into the dish at the table adds a fresh touch.
Plate 3 Boneless Rack of Lamb
Personally I love taking the bone in hand and extracting every last morcel. The chef here decided to serve only the tenderest eye of the rack with a delicate Jus and roasted vegetables. The carrots, sliced thin for sweetness and crunch, made this like a greatest hits medley from an old fashioned lamb roast .
Plate 4 Caramel Foam
If you have ever imagined what caremelised air would taste like this pre dessert answers your question. Little crumbs of hazelnut floating on a caramel cloud. This texture tricks your mind into thinking you need to eat more even after the three generous serves preceding it.
Plate 5 Honey and Mascarpone Cream
A delicate simple dessert with a light cream texture on a crispy biscuit. A drizzle of sweet wine and dried fig reduction gave a stickiness to the dish.
Plate 6 Four Cheeses
Four local cheeses from sheep, cow and goat milk. All with a sharp aged flavour one with a hint of smoke, a great way to finish the meal.
Six delicate Dvor dishes that you will devour and want more. Split is a travel hot spot right now for good reason. The view out to the islands and the clever combination of tradition and experimentation in the Dvor menu makes a visit to this restaurant just another good reason to book your ticket to Croatia today.
Words by Wade Ranson Images by Michelle Ranson