Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Hey, I'm back! I've missed you guys. Did anything happen while I was away?

I've been in Dubrovnik, Croatia for a short holiday. It's a lovely city and the weather was amazing. But you don't want to hear about that, right? You want to hear about whether it's a good place for the herbivores, I reckon.

Let me get on with it then! Before I went away, I did a bit of research about vegan options in the city, and found out that it's not the most exciting place for veg*ns. Because it was a cheaper (and in most cases, nicer and more convenient) option, we stayed in apartments in the city, so we cooked for ourselves a few times. We also stayed on Korcula, an island that had even less interesting food options for vegans than Dubrovnik. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we didn't eat out in Korcula, unlike in Dubrovnik, where we had some decent feeds. But more on that later…

One of our apartments in Dubrovnik was just down the road from Bio and Bio, a health food store that had a pretty decent selection of veggie and vegan options, including non-dairy milks, mock meats, raw bars, and all that sort of fun stuff. We picked up a few sweet treats, hot dogs and seitan slices for our trip to Korcula, as we knew we'd not find much there - it seemed like all the restaurants were fish places or touristy pizza joints.

That doesn't mean Korcula wasn't a great place to visit, though, so don't let me put you off - just don't expect to get a load of great meals out! (There's some lovely views and great places to drink, and the locally-available brews Ožujsko and Karlovačko are vegan friendly).

And while the restaurants aren't overly loaded with vegan options, Croatia's local supermarket chain Konzum has a fair few vegan items - vegan chocolate, crisps, non-dairy milk etc as well as all the usual fresh and store cupboard essentials.

There are also vegan pate type things - including this one I picked up at Konzum...


And these two I found in another supermarket that I've forgotten the name of. The top one had a sort of sweet orangey flavour which kind of made me gag when I first tried it, but by the end of the holiday I kind of liked it on toast with a load of tomato and lamb's lettuce on top. Maybe it was a sort of culinary Stockholm syndrome?!



If you want something better to dip your bread in than sweet orange pate, may I suggest ajvar?


Ajvar is sold in almost all the supermarkets in big jars, and it's a vegan spread/dip type thing, also known as "vegetable caviar", apparently. It's really good stuff, and it ended up doing double duty during our trip as a pasta sauce later on that week.

But what about eating out?

Our first dinner was at the Lapad Beach bar, one of a few bars around the Lapad area, a bit away from the old city. It's a really touristy part of town with loads of excursion and restaurant touts, which kind of put me off a bit. Anyway, when we found the bar, I was pretty happy to see a number of vegan options on the menu and a pretty nice view, which my phone didn't really do a great job of capturing. Here it is:


While the vegan options weren't overly exciting - soups, sarnies, pasta - I was still looking forward to trying my first vegan dinner in Dubrovnik. I ordered the vegan platter and crossed my fingers. Here's what arrived on my table:

The vegan platter was double the price of the rest of the vegan dishes so I was expecting something a bit special, and this wasn't it. It was OK - some salad, fried veggies, tofu and (I think) bacony seitan. Everything was swimming in oil, and the tofu was entirely plain. The seitan was bizarrely pretty tasty, but that must have been an oversight on the kitchen's part! The service was friendly but hapless - we weren't given any cutlery, and couldn't find any waiting staff to get them from for a good while.

If you're looking for a decent vegan meal in Dubrovnik, I wouldn't say you'll find it here, but if you were desperate and in the vicinity, at least you wouldn't starve to death. I was going to say the view's pretty nice so go for a drink and skip the food, but after we left, I discovered we'd been overcharged for the drinks we'd had, so maybe give the whole place a miss and head to Nishta instead.

Nista is a little veggie place in Dubrovnik's old city, down one of the side streets with a few tables indoors and outdoors. It's always packed, so when we turned up one balmy night, we were pretty lucky to get a tiny table inside. Alas, it was boiling and a little cramped, but we persevered.

Our starter was some lentil pancakes with curry filling and fruit and mint chutneys on the site. The pancakes had a few touches of burn on them, but not really the worse for that.

For a main, I went for the bar-bea-burger - a great thick patty in a homemade flatbread, sweet potato fries and a curry type sauce on the side. The sweet potato fries were a bit on the greasy side, and given the size of the burger, would probably have been better swapped for salad. The burger itself was hugely  flavoursome - a mix of seitan, barley, and beans with a rich smokey flavour. I ate it all.




It was all pretty good, but I spent the whole meal sweltering from the heat in the restaurant, and I was put out that Mr Flicking the Vs' vegan option turned up unvegan so I couldn't get to try it (he's not vegan, so he didn't mind himself, and was spared from me stealing his tea!). Luckily, Mr Flicking the Vs came up with the great idea of booking an outside table for the last night of our holiday so we could come back and enjoy another meal at a temperature that couldn't cause humans to melt.

I'm glad we went back. While the food was decent on our first visit, what we ate on the second visit was really great. We shared a starter of veggie tartare, which looked like this:



Don't let that unassuming appearance fool you - this was really a winner. There was tofu in there, and tomato, capers, and who know what else? Fairy dust maybe? I've been dreaming about recreating this one at home since I've eaten it.

Next up was Kokofino, a rich mix of curried vegetables and millet, with marinated and coconut-coated tofu sticks. This was a solid gold winner, and has converted me to the cause of eating millet.


Despite the fact I'd long since stopped being hungry (Nishta doesn't stint on its main courses), we decided to go for a dessert to share. Nishta has a fair amount of raw food on its menu and while I'm not raw foodist, I like a good raw pudding, and chose the appropriately named Rawnie.

It was a solid, chocolatey puck of a dessert, but not heavy to eat, and the forest fruits sorbet helped cut through the dense date sweetness. We sent back another clean plate to the Nishta kitchen.

  Dubrovnik may not be vegans' idea of culinary heaven, but it's a great place, and Nishta more than makes up for its dining shortcomings!

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13 comments :

  1. sounds like a great holiday - glad you found a meal excellent enough to leave you dreaming of recreating it - I want to go to nishta (funnily enough I went to school with a few kids whose parents were croatian but it was only as an adult that I found out that croatia looks like an amazing place for a holiday)

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  2. A lovely holiday, indeed! For my holiday - starting Thursday, I'm headed to your country...

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  3. Nice! I've heard Croatia is gorgeous. And hot, yes. Do you speak Croatian? I would have had a hard time deciphering the ingredient lists on the pates and such you bought.
    I've vacationed in the South of France and it's not easy being vegan there either, but we are a resourceful people! And that last coconut tofu dish sounds great.

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  4. Really interesting blog post!
    I'm going to Croatia for 3 weeks this summer (to Supetar, Brac).
    I expected even less vegan options to be honest. Especially the vegan products you found at the organic store suprised me.
    So maybe it's not as bad as I thought :)
    Avilia

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  5. Glad to hear you had a good holiday. I love reading blog posts like this and seeing what there is for us in different cities. They seem to have a case of what we call in our house 'the Jamie Oliver's' in those restaurants, otherwise known as olive oil tourettes! The food in those last shots looks fab though.

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  6. I loved Dubrovnik but I wasn't vegan when I was there, and possibly not even vegetarian, though I can't remember it was so long ago. It was such a beautiful place but I can't remember a single thing about the food except we were camping beside a fig tree one night. Booking an outside table in the summer months is the only option for enjoying the meal in some spots!

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  7. Looks like you did really well! Part of the fun of vacation is bringing back culinary souvenirs. I've always wanted to visit Croatia and have heard great things about it.

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  8. What awesome finds! Croatia is probably one of the last places I would think you could get decent vegan eats, so it must have been all the more thrilling to get such edible treasures. You're making me want to go explore for myself!

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  9. I've found that Eastern European countries tend to have bland-ish food. When I go there, I just put my mind to the traveling experience, and I worry about food second. It looks like you have some real winners, though!

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  10. Ha! I love the idea of food Stockholm Syndrome. I'm pretty sure I experience this often. Especially because I'm too cheap to throw food out just because I don't like it!

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  11. I love seeing all the different foods you come across on your travels. Glad you were able to find some yummy eats at the end. :-)

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  12. Ah, Dubrovnik, such stunning area, I’m glad you had a great holiday there and that the weather was perfect. Awesome that the flat you stayed at was near the health food store, it’s very convenient to live near these type of stores where you can pick up snacks or explore vegan products. The flat I’m staying at in Turin is near the Italian vegan fast food chain, ‘Universo Vegano’, about few minutes walk away where you can get hamburgers, sandwiches and desserts right away! Viana products are my favorite, their vegan meat alternatives are pretty tasty! Interesting blurb about ‘Ajvar’, is it salty or what does it taste like? What a gorgeous view from the beach bar, such glorious sunset you’ve captured on your iPhone…Thanks for the tip about vegan dining, as long as you have a health food store nearby, you won’t starve….but the later dishes you featured look pretty delicious - yummy millet & curried veggies!

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  13. I had the same Ajvar and pate from Konzum! And I loved Nishta, but had a few mishaps myself with their vegan vs. nonvegan options. Their servers still need better training in what vegan means, apparently! Did you at least buy lots and lots of Bajadera???

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