In its bid to be Berlin of the Balkans, Belgrade has done plently of catching up with the global gastro-trends. Belgrade’s food sceene is benefiting from the increasing start-up mentality of highly educated, and tragically unemployed 20- and 30-somethings, who are trying to turn their hobbies and food passions into viable source of income.
Although we should not expect pljeskavica in ramen bun, or sarma with quinoa jut yet, there are decent and growing craft coffee and beer scenes, as well as an ok-but-not-there-yet burger offer, and an ever expanding offer of various cusines, of varying quality and success. Mikser and KC Grad are also starting up a food market scene with Mikser design food markets and “Delikatesni Ponedeljak” (rotating pop-up dinners made by various groups or organisations).
This comes on top of successes in development and exports of Bakina Tajna preserves and juices, whose delicious ajvars and jams is increasingly present in leading food stores, including Selfridges foodhall. Serbian wines are also experiencing growth and increasing creativity in production and design, however they are still suffering from the lack of economies of scale, and subsequent high prices (a decent bottle starts at about EUR 10).
Unsurprisingly, for coffee and beer loving nation, largest successes are microroasteries and micro-breweries. Pržionica and Koffein, the two most famous and successful microroasteries offer amazing range of roasts in hip settings, made for lounging with Belgrade’s in-crowd. Since three monts ago, Belgrade has its own coffee van, Tufna, with serving coffee around town (spotted by kula Nebojša) started by a couple inspired by London’s food scene.
Kabinet, the most ambitious micro-brewery, offer a range of outstanding ales in beautifully designed bottles. The stand-out is Supernova, a delicate IPA whose balanced taste is on par with some of the better American brews. The craft culture gave rise to an increasing number of beer only pubs, with Samo Pivo, leading the charge.
There is plenty of space to grow still and the city hall would help with the main issues that preevent the bourgeoning scene. Firstly, racketeering of small busines owners is still a sad issue and scares many from upestting the hornets’ nest. Secondly, deregulation is required for small food producersand sellers. It would be amazing to see Topličin venac, Studentski park and more public spaces turned into food markets during lunch hours on weekdays, however the bureaucracy makes that a distant dream.
Barring the larger systemic problems above, Belgrade food scene could still benefit from a few easier to implement concepts. There is still a distinct lack of good brunches at normal prices – surprisingly not even Beton hala establishments like Iguana and Comunale offer ommlettes and fresh juices for for early-bird joggers to enjoy, while enjoying the riverfront. Given the obession with looks and fitness, an Ottolenghi style deli brimming with fresh local salads would be a dream. Secondly, supper clubs and pop-up restauranys are not yet popular. I can see many wannabe cooks wanting to open their doors and pantries in exchange for a few euros from curious dinners bored with the normal fare. Finally, and bizzarelly for such a mutt of a cusine, there is little Serbo-anything fusion. Although Zaplet and Dijagoanala were making creative dishes, we are yet to see ćevapi with SrirachA or, heck, even that quinoa sarma.
In any case, Belgrade’s food scene is growing more interesting each month, and it may not be too long until we will be sipping Kabinet at a gastro-kafana feasting on Serbian-Korean bbq with dulcet sounds of a brass band in the background.
Belgrade’s best coffees (April ’15)
2. Koffein 2