Updated: Feb 19, 2019
If you have a yacht, you can park it right opposite the restaurant Sveti Nikola (St. Nicholas) on the Poreč's strand, and you might even get a high-class delivery of the beautiful fish and meat dishes stemming from the kitchen. For those of you less fortunate, don't despair! Sveti Nikola is possibly the most enchanting place to sit and dine in the Poreč Old Town. The name comes from the islet overlooking Poreč, but the owner carries the blessing of the same name. Mr Nikola Bijelić welcomes us in the T-Shirt depicting his famous restaurant and the staff is immaculately dressed despite the heat raging outside.
The fact that Sveti Nikola is listed on the 100 Leading Croatian Restaurants by the Gastronaut was just a final trigger to visit this place. After a sip of Ruta, herby rakija made from the Istrian rue (known also as the herb of grace), the interior becomes a place of enjoyable conversation with anyone approaching our table. The table we got is one of two most spectacular ones, as they are situated next to the signature image of the restaurants – two vaulted windows through which the islet of St. Nicholas and the yachts in the harbour are visible. Pure enjoyment!
Much more elaborative joy came with the first plates. The hawk’s eye of our photographers immediately pointed to the black flat plates as an excellent background for the photos. It is the remnant of the bricks we picked along the way, jokes the waiter Kristian who differs from another waiter Kristijan by one letter in the name. Both are jolly and knowledgeable about the foods and drinks arriving at the table, although both (together with Mr Bijelić) come from Grubišno Polje, a continental small town in the central Croatia. The appetizer gives us a sense the food here is taken seriously.
Tuna Pâté is served with the pea panade, marinated zucchini and marinated Champignons, while the other appetizer had the same spread but with cheese and truffles instead of fish. The strong aroma of Istrian black truffles, thinly grated over the cheese, fulfils the air and mixes with the usual sense of the sea coming from the kitchen below. The tuna is meaty and sweet, just as the Pâté should be. We are offered Istrian Malvasia Damjanić 2016, a fruity white wine with straw-yellow colour, floral scent, and excellent freshness in taste, just perfect summer wine (and yes, you can start humming the Nancy Sinatra’s lyrics). The cheese-and-truffles combination blends well with Anđelo Brčić 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Barrique, surprisingly mild wine with a scent of barrique in the background; naturally, as the wine is barriqued only for two months.
Venturing further we encountered the treasure box of Istrian favourite seafood and carnal achievements. The shrimp tartare with olive oil and root vegetables was followed by scampi tartare and additionally black caviar, both with soft and jelly flavour. The fish starter also included fish pannacotta, an ingenious mix of fish, cream, and Gran Padano cheese. We were instructed to eat it together with the cornel spread and heart-shaped toast and butter. The result is myriad of flavours in one, but with a distinctive essence of every ingredient. Bravo for the chef!
Another splendid entrée is beef carpaccio “Nikolina”, with Grana Padano cheese and mustard, and another version only with a hill of truffles atop. It comes handy to dip the carpaccio in mild horseradish sauce and you feel like flying away. In fact, you might if you get friendly with the owner. Mr Nikola proudly flies in his Cessna, obviously enjoying the skies and clouds, as well as the red soil of his home in Poreč. He took over the managing of Sv. Nikola in 2007 and before he was the manager of the Schladming Sports Hotel, and we might say both are indeed a challenge to which he succeeds lovely. Many of the meals listed on the menu bear some name, and among the interesting ones is “Summerwind”. It is the name of a yacht whose owner from Cologne comes here every year since 2008. He never steps inside the restaurant, but catering brings him delicious beef carpaccio with mustard, onion and prosciutto.
Favourite name on lips of guests includes the Motovun Forest, a crème soup with potatoes, boletus, and truffles. Waiters joke how easy it is to make it: “You just collect the leaves in the Motovun forest and mix it into a soup”. It is rich and strong soup, waking every bit of your body, a soup for giants. Well, of course, it comes from Motovun forest, where giants live, according to an old legend. Another soup is a crème soup of scampi, whereby the fried shells are crushed and mixed, and the scampi meat added. Tremendous and intensive flavour of fresh scampi keeps us wondering if they are still alive!
At this point, we transferred to Franc Arman Sauvignon Blanc 2016, a floral, sweet, and mild wine that goes great with any kind of seafood. For the meat, we opted for the Benvenuti Teran 2013 reserve, a strong and fruity wine with ruby colour, ideal when decantated and served with red meat or wild. We had it with duck breasts in orange sauce (all of you who like the crunchy and smoky crust, medium baked inside, and with refreshing orange sauce in which buds of dandelion are added, raise your hands!) and exceptionally tender beef medallions served with boletus crème. The fish main course was sole fillet in Jacob Scallop’s sauce, a meaty and spicy delicacy in a rich and excellent sauce. Next to it came bass in scampi sauce, which gave us feeling just of the endless sea, pure sea with a salty background! Both fish kinds are easily found on the western coast of Istria, and there is not a shroud of doubt about their freshness.
Culinary imagination galore – that is Sv. Nikola and if nobody would be particularly fascinated with the superb cuisine so far, they would kneel in front of dessert! Chocolate marquise, with cocoa cream and vanilla ice cream, comes in the forest berries and orange sauce, with waffle to remind you it is essential to keep your manners civilised before indulging into the firework of flavours. Others might go for the Istrian Rhapsody, i.e. white chocolate mousse with forest berries and teran sauce, dessert as red as it can be! None of these could be possible without the enthusiasm and expertise of the owner and his staff to whom we applaud greatly.
You have decided to park your yacht and check if everything tastes as we said? To find Sveti Nikola is easy, just walk along the main coastline in Poreč and you will easily spot a classy dining tables on the terrace or just contact them here: