There are several ferries per day between Dubrovnik and Lopud Island, but the last one leaves at 8 pm. Since we didn’t want to spend absolutely every day ferrying back and forth between the mainland and the island, and since we didn’t want to eat dinner super early, we got plenty of chances to try the food on Lopud itself.
Our experiences during the week eating and drinking on Lopud taught us that Croatia does three things really, really well: Italian food, seafood and wine. The Italian food part is obvious – Italy is just a short hop across the Adriatic, so it’s no surprise there’s a lot of Italian influence in the cuisine. Likewise, it would be kind of weird if the seafood and fish on an island weren’t up to scratch. But wine? Who’s ever even heard of Croatian wine? I hadn’t but trying it was a lesson I was very happy to learn.
Croatia is also blessed with a lot of proper bakeries, which the UK sadly lacks. The result was that we often just ended up snacking on baked goods, pizza slices and fresh fruit and then not really wanting dinner. If you were to travel to Croatia on a shoestring and not want to spend money on food, then I recommend this – it’s a great way to eat inexpensively.
That said, there are three restaurants on Lopud Island that I’d like to recommend. All look out across the bay and are great spots for dinner or drinks. Frankly, they’d be perfect places to eat simply because of the view across the bay as the sun sets, but it just so happens that they also serve great food.
Like many Croatian restaurants, Obala is proud of its fish. After much umming and ahhing and nearly choosing the octopus, the tuna and the seabream, I eventually settled on the swordfish, mostly because I hadn’t had good swordfish in a very long time. I was not disappointed. I got a good portion of perfectly seasoned and cooked fish on a bed of potatoes, cherry tomatoes and spinach, with some lemony, garlicky sauce. Delicious. Not being in the mood for fish, P had chosen the Dalmatian style grilled thin beef steak and reported that “we should just always do steak like this.”
Mandrać was the first restaurant we tried in Croatia. The menu is fairly simple but well chosen and very reasonably priced. I chose to get the king prawns in buzaru – a traditional sauce made with white wine, garlic, parsley breadcrumbs and tomato paste. It was amazing. It’s messy (you should eat it with your hands) but totally full of flavour and the prawns were enormous and very fresh. I was glad I’d ordered a side of fries to dip in the extra sauce. Meanwhile, P had ordered what turned out to be a very generous portion of very tender ribs. Happy faces all round.
Konoba Dubrovnik (€€€)
We’d been seeing other people order larger fish dishes to share. Often menus will have a section where fish is sold by the kilo, with a note that a kilo of fish is enough for two people. Then you just chose your fish, sides if you want them, and you’re done. The fish is cooked and then served up at the table. Since it seemed like a cool traditional way of serving fish we agreed to try it on our last night on the island. We were in luck – Konoba Dubrovnik had one hell of a catch to serve up that day, including red scorpion fish, which I’d never tried. Served with some polenta cake and traditional Croatian black bread (which tastes kind of olivey), the fish was amazing and very impressive.
We ate until we could eat no more and then lamented having left it until the last night to order this. The staff at the restaurant heard it was our last night and brought out free desserts, a slice of berry cheesecake and a perfectly creamy pannacotta (allowing the opportunity to prove, once again, that dessert goes into a different stomach). As we were scooping up the last of the pannacotta the heavens opened and a tremendous thunderstorm swept across the bay. It’s hard to imagine a better, or more dramatic, meal.