On the very source of River Gacka, at the Tonković Vrilo, stands one of the best restaurants in Lika, Vrilo Gacke. Apart from the setting itself, situated in beautiful surrounding of Gacka springs, small wooden bridges and mills.
We arrived in the restaurant in late summer morning. Heat was taking its toll and sip of homemade plum rakija (brandy) was more than welcomed. The locals tend to believe that good rakija makes you warm in winter and cold in summer, and this one was true to this story. The owner, Ana Šlat, was out at the time of our arrival, which gave us enough time to soak in the atmosphere and enjoy glass of wine.
The wood-and-stone interior welcomes guests from all around the world, often with Croatian descent, as Lika was a place from where many people emigrated to Western European countries, Americas, South Africa, and Australia. During the summer they all like to come back to the old county and get more familiar with tradition and foods of their ancestors. Restaurant is family run business, and they too came back from Croatian capital Zagreb out of love for the Gacka Valley and restaurant work. Vrilo Gacke opens its door in early spring and is open until the beginning of October, omitting the period of winter, which brings cold and snowy weather in Lika.
This place is famous throughout Croatia for fresh trout. No wonder, as the Gacka waters is excellent for trout, as it is clean and the spring gives lots of amount of fresh water every second. Thus, our food experience here was centred on freshwater fish.
The appetizer may count as the best thing we tried in Gacka Valley – smoked trout. Forget the salmon, this is the real thing, especially if you enjoy pure tastes. The smoked trout fillets brings you meaty flavour of the river, fresh and rich. It has beautiful pink colour and smoky aroma, enough dried and with mix of salt and whole green pepper. Absolute enjoyment is further accentuated by olives and tomato cuts, but even alone the smoked trout is blissful star of the Vrilo Gacke restaurant.
We were ready for as traditional main meal as possible, and thus we were presented by the trout baked in corn flour in miller’s style, with boiled potatoes and parsley on side. Again, we were astonished by the fresh and juicy taste of trout, baked in the beautiful skin with fried corn bits. The baked potato, a standard side dish, added to the fullness of lunch, together with season salad. Traditionally, miller’s trout is baked in pork fat, which is available on request. Every meal is followed with homemade baked bread, which tastes as it came right out from the miller’s bakery.
Next to the traditional miller’s trout, the restaurant offers other varieties too, among these most interesting is trout filled with dried plums and bacon or baked in the vegetable sauce. The appetizers include famous Lika prosciutto, Škripavac cheese, basa, homemade dried sausage, Pole with bacon, and especially the homemade trout pate, made according to the family secret recipe. Even if you are more meat person, you are welcomed in the Vrilo Gacke, as the restaurant offers grill, veal or lamb, but it would be a shame not to try the signature dish in this place. And you can sleep over at the same place!
Finishing with pancakes, or another rakija-to-go, your visit will certainly not be the last!