The fancier – the worse, still seems to be the rule with restaurants in Belgrade, but the quality and diversity are increasing
Somewhat increased standard of living translated in many high-end places popping up last year, but sadly the pretence did not translate into quality, although it certainly provided enterntainment. I thought it could not get worse when I read that a restuarant offered an avocado carpaccio next to a photo of a simple sliced avocado with no apparent garnish, but then I discovered that Faust, a new incarnation of the permanently blighted Langouste, offers a vegetable carpaccio with the cold cream of Šopska salad. As you may have guessed, this pretenstious menu entry hides just a very tiny portion of Šopska salad, which is an insult not only to the common seense but also to the Serbian cuisine.
This funny arrogance sadly extends beyond the menus.
Although failed food and service attempts that are excused for novelty are the norm, in the scene from the perma-burnt pestries at Le Petite Cantine to the whole menu at Tri, it hurts the most when prices are high. At Homa, after an underwhelming but ok meal during which we heard maitre d’ shout at one of the staff, it took another waitress waited for 20 minutes to give us back our change, probably assuming we will just leave her with a largish tip. Similarly, one of the perpetually annoyed staff at Cveće Zla, which also markets itself as a breakfast place, was annoyed at our surprise at the absence of tea or lighter breakfast options on the menu. Needless to say we decamped to a nearby cafe. Yet the pinacle of poor customer relations in Belgrade’ restaurant scene comes from Salon 1905, where a read through comments on Tripadvisor reveals a hilarous habit of their team to bully people who rated them down (but they have other problems too).
Unfortunately, even the pleasant high-end places usually do not deliver, food wise. The coveted goal of elevating Serbian/Balkan cusine to new culinary (and instagrammable) heigths eludes two prominent contenders, Ambar and Iris, leving you probably better off to go to a Kafana. The former settles for just doing the same thing as any decent kafana but decimating the porttions under the guise of “sharing concept”. The latter, although offering fantasic service, did not deliver (during my one visit) on its promise to focus on ingredients from Serbia, mostly by erring on the side of too fatty dishes. Another fault at Iris was significantly overpriced wine pairing to its tasting menu, which amounts to the volume of about 2 glasses of averageish Serbian wine. Still, Iris team seem genuinely committed and hopefully they will persevere: after all some trial and error is needed, but maybe not at the EUR 50 price point (for tasting menu + wine pairing). I know that this is much lower than in the rest of the world, but it is still huge for Serbia and indefensible given that few really pricey ingredients are used.
So do you have to go to the same old? Well thankfully, Belgrade’s foreign food scene improved significantly. Beside my beloved Marukoshi, affordable fantastic Japanese, two great pizzerias (Šumatovac and Campania) got us hot from their wood-fired oven mastery. Žuta Kamilica, a recent opening, serves the best creative sandwiches from a small window in Cetinjska. The mid-range Serbian is getting better (Don Gedža, Mala Slavija), while even toursit haunts in Skadarlija are deliver great hearty Serbian food, with a special mention to Dva Jelena (their beef tail goulash is to die for). There are also beautiful new sweet shops (Fini and Ispeci pa reci) and many more great coffee places (Aviator chain). Finally, the beer scene got a boost with a fantastic new festival – Vrteška, which is a great beer alterntaive to the fantastic Wine Jam. Then there are Belgrade Night Markets which try to sex-up Belgrade fresh food markets (worthy cause indeed).
The direction the food scene is going is the right one, but sadly the excess money from toursist and richer Serbs, and their unquestioning hype seem to be slowing down the progress as chefs rest on their laurels and think creativity is enough. It isn’t. You still need to make the food edible. We are still waiting for a master chef in Belgrade and a good bruch place, but in 2017 we are in a better place than we were last year.
Best of Belgrade 2017
Best foodie neigbourhood
Best overall experience
Best traditional Serbian
Toro (Beton hala)
Dijagonala 2.0 (now closed)
Best mid-range Serbian
Best budget Serbian
Best light option
Best sushi and best rooftop
Best takeaway sushi
Best fish restaurant/ river restaurant
Best sweet shop
Mandarina (by far)
Best sweet shop if Mandarina burnt to the ground and we forgot about it
Ispeci pa reci
Best traditional sweet shop
Best coffee and neighbourhood cafe
Best coffee chain
Best bakery and burek
Best street food
Best (non-burek) breakfast
Croissants at Mandarina on fridays and
Meduza (for the G&Ts)
Best craft beer bar
Best Serbian craft beer
Svetlost (Dorćol brewery)
Best people watching
Best chill bar
Belgrade Night Market
3 thoughts on “Best of Belgrade 2017: Haute or not?”
Prijatelju kako dva jelena mogu da imaju ikakve veze sa the best traditional… najbolja hrana u beogradu nije u centru grada a skadarlija je sramota i dobra samo za turiste…prosetaj malo po obodima grada da vidis malo sta su dobre kafanice
Iskreno, meni je hrana u Dva Jelena dobra a i tradicionalni kafanski ugodjaj (tj muzika i ambijent) je super. Veruj mi, istražujem kafane po obodu grada ali saveti za nove su uvek dobrodošli.