Vegan in Zagreb: Three vegan-friendly restaurants to try

When I first got off the bus in Zagreb, I couldn’t remember for the life of me why I’d decided to stay there for a week. The city looked bone meltingly hot, stuffy, unappealing, and a bit beaten up, and it definitely didn’t look like it was going to keep us entertained for one day, let alone seven. 

But bus stations are always ugly, right? Maybe it was just a bad start. Then we got to our hotel. Imagine that in the 1970s someone tried to build a place that was the dead spit of the 1920s and missed a bit. Well, missed a lot.  It was like an Agatha Christie film seen through a Boogie Nights filter. 

We dropped our bags at our hotel, and went for a walk, exploring some dull and gently falling apart streets nearby. We tramped up a hill that looked like it might lead somewhere interesting. It didn’t.

Me and Mr Flicking the Vs weren't making eye contact by then. We didn’t want to see the look of ‘we’ve come on holiday by mistake’ on each others’ faces. I wondered why we’d booked the plane ticket again. Abandon hope all ye who enter Zagreb, I thought.

Things looked up a bit, as they so often do, with dinner. We found Zrno Bio Bistro, which reckons it’s Zagreb’s first 100 percent organic vegan restaurant, and who am I to argue? I didn’t see any others over that week.

Zrno is a sort of healthy eating, macrobiotics type place. The food is grown on the Zrno farm, and there’s some nice outdoorsy seating for those bone-melting Zagreb summer evenings.

The menu runs to soups and sides, simple plates, bigger plates, and desserts. There’s also smoothies, wine and beer, depending on how virtuous you’re feeling.

I asked for a wheat beer and a macroplate. The beer, I was told, was too warm and the macroplate was off for the day. I gave up. ’What would you have instead?’ I asked our waiter. He told me an amber beer and gomaku, a brown rice dish with seitan, veggies, tofu and chard on the side. I liked this guy a lot. 

Here tis:

It was a pretty simple thing, but just what I fancied.

Mr Flicking the Vs opted for breaded tofu, for he is a wise man. He got three perfect triangles of tofu breaded and fried excellently, sat on a bed of stir-fried veggies. There was salad with sauerkraut, and the sort of thick sauce that people write poems too. I craftily stole most of it when his gaze was averted. 

Given the quality of the mains, I thought it would be rude not to check out dessert. There were about six vegan desserts (always a positive sign) but only one was calling my name deafeningly: the Hungarian cake.

I went to Budapest last year, and loved it a great deal (read my rapture here). But no morsel of Hungarian cake - that’s Esterhazy torte if you’ve feeling a bit fancy - passed my lips. Here was my chance, and I wasn’t going to let it slip through my hungry fingers.

While your traditional Esterhazy is made of meringue, this one was more thin layers of pancakey stuff, sandwiched together with chocolatey stuff. For good measure, ice cream and chocolate sauce. Heavenly.

Espresso-ed up, we wandered off into the night, thinking we  might have been wrong about that there Zagreb.

Next morning, we settled down to an impressively vegan friendly breakfast. There was soy milk! Aver! Vegetables! And even salad things with chick peas in. Zagreb, you scamp, you’d been holding out on me.

Next day, we stopped in at the Mimara - the best art museum I’d never heard of, replete with works from pretty much every big-name artist from the 13th century onwards. There were some Dutch 16th century still lives that I loved (sometimes just a bowl of fruit can catch your attention for ours) and a Palestinian icon from the 6th century that I’d never seen anything like.

We stopped by the Upper Town for some beautiful streets and checked out the churches, castles, and the excellent Museum of Broken Relationships. We also discovered some top-notch drinking spots there. 

Due to having discovered the drinking spots, we didn’t get to dinner until about 8.15pm. Not necessarily that late for me and Mr FtVs, but given the restaurant was closing at 9pm, we wondered if we’d still get fed.

Luckily the folk at Vegehop were exceptionally nice and didn’t try and hurry us out at all. Vegehop isn’t vegan, it’s vegetarian, but I only saw a handful of things that weren’t suitable for herbivores.

Still jonesing for some healthy food, I went for a gluten free platter - fried tofu marinated in soy sauce, brown rice with sesame, steamed veg, and a walnut and olive pate. Don’t get me wrong, this sort of food isn’t Michelin starred stuff, but it’s good, solid cooking, filled me up and pleased my tastebuds.

As is so often the case, Mr FtVs got the better end of the stick. He just asked for their daily plate with soup and salad. First, a little bowl of courgette and mint broth got him started. Then there was a bowl of green(ish) salad, and a marvellous plate that I sadly didn’t photograph. You’ll have to imagine this one a bit - steamed veggies, turmeric sauteed potatoes, a crisp beetroot and apple salad, and four little fritters of veggies and grains, topped with a sauce that Mr FtVs thought was a bit like the taste of cheesy Doritos, and I thought was more like Marie Rose sauce. Either way, very good.

In case you, like me, are quite partial to booze with tea - no such thing is available at Vegehop, but the grapefruit juice they made instead was rather stellar.

Having decided by now that Zagreb was in fact the best thing since sliced bread, we hiked up the mountain known as Sljeme. We didn’t reach the top, mainly because I was sweating and cursing at having to do something approaching exercise for several hours. We met a nice retired Croatian guy on the hike up that chatted with us and had a very friendly dog, and that was the highlight for me, but Mr FtVs is an outdoorsy guy, so he liked the whole thing.

Luckily, more food can numb the pain - dinner at Nishta. I’d eaten at the Dubrovnik branch last time I was in Croatia and enjoyed it, so I was happy to try out its Zagreb sister. Again, it's not entirely vegan, just veggie, but the vast majority (including all desserts!) was vegan or had a vegan option.

We shared a starter of pakora between us, which was more dense and chewy than pakoras rightly should be, but you'll no complaints here though, because the sauce that came with it - a green bean-based raita - was fantastically interesting. I’d have been happy with that alone.

The main event was falafel for him:

And a thali for me:

Huge, huh? I still got through it, because I’m that kind of trooper. The waitress warned me that the subzi (at the top there) was a bit on the spicy side, but after two days of plainer fare, i ploughed through the lot. There was also a more gentle dhal, and a tofu curry type dish that I wasn’t mad about, as it tasted a lot like tomato puree and not much else. The naan bread was great, and the chutney was a welcome touch.

Equally welcome - it was huge! All the more for me to enjoy. Sadly, it meant no dessert for me, but if I could, I would have thrown myself gladly on the vegan tiramisu on the menu if I had a spare inch of space in my stomach. Zagreb, we both agreed, is a great town.

Zrno Bio Bistro
Medulićeva 20, Zagreb 10000

+385 1 4847 540

Vlaška ulica 79, Zagreb 10000
+385 1 4649 400

Masarykova ulica 11, 10000 Zagreb
+385 1 8897 444

For what it's worth Zagreb has another vegan-friendly eatery, Sumski Kuhar, but it was shut for a holiday when we were there. It looks good, so here are the details:

Sumski Kihar
Tkalčićeva 7, 10000 Zagreb
+385 1 4819 634

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  1. I highly doubt I'll ever make it to Zagreb but it's good to know there is food out there just in case! The torte looks fantastic.
    Hope the sights were lovely as well, what an interesting vacation choice.

  2. Thank goodness you found some reasons for being in Zagreb :-) That Hungarian cake is particularly amazing but all of this food sounds great!

  3. I am so jealous! I would love to get to Croatia. Living in Europe as you do, you are so close to such diverse and adventurous travels!! It sounds like quite the experience getting there and upon arrival, but I'm so glad the holiday turned into something amazing. Not to mention, lots of deliciousness!!

  4. I could never have imagined such vegan delights in Zagreb! I sure hope I have the opportunity to experience it myself, but at least I can dream about that Hungarian cake for now... I know it won't be the same, but maybe I'll just have to try baking on myself.

  5. Sounds like a great holiday - I really love the sound of your meals but the museum of broken hearts sounds like just my sort of niche quirky museum. Good on Mr FtVs for getting soup and salad and finding a winning meal - it is such hit and miss when you are told soup and salad. The cake looks great at the top meal and finding good healthy food on holidays is priceless.

  6. Love your holiday posts. Sounds like some interesting grub!

  7. I'll admit it, I had to look up where's Zagreb. Glad to see things turned out better than it started, that's some awesome looking food. :-)

  8. Just catching up, it's been ageeees (sorry!), you went to Zagreb? Looks like you fared a lot better than I did in Croatia (Dubrovnik - one pitiful vegetarian restaurant, although it was decent at least!). The Hungarian cake looks really interesting! I didn't find vegna Hungarian cake in Hungary either!

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