Wednesday, 5 October 2016


So I've just returned from a week away sunning myself on the beautiful island of Lopud, just off the coast of Croatia. During this week of rest and relaxation I had some of the best food of my life including two meals at this little restaurant called Mandrac. Situated on the same stretch of seaside strip as our hotel we discovered this little beauty on our first day and enjoyed it so much we went back on our last day. Let me tell you in this post about our first meal and exactly what made us fall in love this amazing restaurant.

Mandrac is the Croatian word of a little port or harbor situated outside a home for small family boats and this is exactly what greets you on the door step as you approach. The crystal clear blue water of the Adriatic sea brush gently against the small enclave of water housing a few rowing boats and little fishes, bobbing up and down on the top of the water, mouths gaping open searching for a bite to eat. We took a seat parked right on the edge of this beautiful scene, the weather was far too good to hide inside and we were presented with our menus by our warm and friendly server.

The menu is small but Mandrac is a small family run operation and so keeping it small and seasonal is what works best for them. Items are added and removed from the menu daily depending on what fish has been caught that day or what cakes are being baked in the back. Generations of the family can be seen milling about the restaurant either taking in the sun or chatting with fellow diners. There is a warm and inviting family feel about the place which really puts you at ease, particularly as a new arrival on the island.

For drinks, you can stick to the local specialty of a litre of Ozujsko beer which would to be my weapon for the whole of his holiday (seriously, if anyone knows where I can buy it in the UK please let me know!) or you can sample any of the 60 types of wine that are are lining the walls inside the restaurant. This is serious wine business. Mandrac state outside that they are not a "wine bar" and I can where they coming from. This is not the cheap plonk on offer which you would get at a tacky chain pub at home but some proper local red, white and rose wines which you can sample along side any of your courses. The servers will be more than happy to help you pair your choices.

One item they suggest you pair a good wine with are the Ston oysters. Ston is a region of Croatia famous for its oysters and so it seemed only right that if I was going to try my very first oyster then I might as well have some of the world's best. I'm sure if you like oysters these would be stunning however I can't say I really enjoyed them but this was totally just me. Holidays are the time to be a bit adventurous and give new things a shot so I'm glad I tried them in such beautiful surroundings. For such great fresh produce at roughly £1.50 a pop you can't really complain can you?

Next item to the table were these two shimmering pieces of bruschetta. We didn't order them mind, our wonderful server just brought them too our table as a little surprise appetizer for nothing. How nice is that! The garlic rubbed on these pieces of toast was punchy but not overwhelming and the smell of it drifted to your nose alongside the chopped fresh basil as soon it hit the table. The little cubes of tomato were vibrant and bursting with flavor that I could of quite happily sat here all day being fed endless streams of the stuff whilst sipping white wine in the sun.

When the ingredients you're tucking into are as good as this even the most simple of dishes are elevated to the next level at Mandrac. This Greek salad for instance (a dish which would become a signature of our holiday) was a bowl of freshly grown vibrant fabulousness. Those tomatoes that made the bruschetta sparkle made their second appearance of the day alongside peppery rocket, skinned cucumber and the obligatory Greek salad staple, feta cheese. The feta was unreal, with a texture more akin to a ricotta but with that sharp salty feta taste, it really brought the whole dish to life.

With such a rich fishing heritage it only seems right that I would spend the whole of our holiday eating fish and seafood. Starting this adventure at Mandrac, I decided I would go for the fresh tuna steak and I wasn't disappointed. The steak oozed quality. Plump, juicy and cooked in a punchy garlic oil it was heavenly. Yes it may of been cooked slightly over for some people's taste but with flavors this good it really doesn't matter. There was a slight smoky bacon flavor lingering in the background which suggested it may of been slightly smoked or cooked on a charcoal grill. Perfection!
At this point we were enjoying everything so much that when we were asked if we wanted to finish of lunch with a dessert it seemed like a no brainer. All desserts at Mandrac are freshly made and this is evident in the almond tart that I ordered. I think it's a traditional Croatian tart that has a delightfully milky taste to it. It was scrummy and melted in the mouth. I think it just needed a little jug of single cream to balance the sweetness of the icing sugar sprinkled over the top but this is the only slight negative to our whole meal. Would I have it again? 100% yes! I'd love to know the recipe!

Star dessert goes to this fig and almond tart. Such is the islands amazing climate we actually walked past a fig tree just casually growing a bit further down the road and if these are the figs used to make this tart then you can tell. They just glistened on top of the tart as it was placed in front of us. The body of the tart was soft and crumbly whilst a sprinkling of flaked almonds over the top added an essential element of crunch that was needed in order to make this a well balanced dessert. I didn't order it; I was I had as I turned green with envy watching it be eaten in front of me. Incredible!

With slightly tipsy heads (that beer is strong after an early morning flight!) and full bellies we left Mandrac with massive smiles on our faces excited by what other foodie adventure we would have in Croatia. This was only the start of our holiday but we enjoyed our meal at Mandrac so much that we vowed that we would be back again before we left (and we did - read about that here!). That is the marvel that is Mandrac!

Mandrac is a small family run business and I can't find any website for them but you can check out their Facebook page here. If you do ever find yourself lucky enough to be on Lopud then hunt them out and be prepared for a meal to remember!

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