Mixed grilled meat, salads containing various Balkan vegetables, rakija, and wine, everything is a typical Serbian lunch, part of well-known fiestas and Serbian street food. Often regarded in some neighbouring countries as simple food, without any real gastronomical significance, grilled meat is also the favourite meal in Serbia. Thus, we strongly disagree with any idea of grilled meat as not worthy of gastronomy pleasure or particular cuisine to be proud of.
The best way to comprehend the significance of grilled meat is to visit some of the old Belgrade restaurants where the grill is understood very seriously. The restaurants are a scenery for fine dining, waiters are dressed immaculately, and the accordion and violins play old urban songs. Everything evokes some past times, whether it is the interwar period of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia with a cultural upbringing in posh Belgrade cafes and clubs or a long tradition of hunting in central Serbia.
And the meat here? It's gorgeous. It comes in large quantities, just like in the street food bars. Serbs know well that people come to their restaurants to enjoy food according to a triangle good-grilled-plentiful. While you wait for your meaty ecstasy, you might sip some local rakija. Any of them is really good (hey, it is a question of pride in Serbia to drink rakija!) but we would always choose aromatic and fruity quince rakija or apricot rakija. These two compete in scent and flavour; quince could be addictive due to its beautiful and deep scent, while apricot keeps your mouth wanting more.
Every time we visit some other restaurant in Belgrade, and most of the famous ones are in the Skadarlija area. It is a high tourist spot, a remnant of the old-style Belgrade, with cobbled streets and lots of restaurants and inns to choose from. Any of them is a good one, as they all cater for visitors' gastro-maniac expressions for meat and alcohol. There is much more than that in Skadarlija, a home to actors, artists, poets from the turn of the century. Usually, the actors didn't eat before their shows so Skadarlija opened many cafes that were working late into the night. Some of them are the oldest in Belgrade and many celebrities of Serbian culture welcomed dawn in them.
You can spend time in them indefinitely. Famous places such as Tri šešira (Three hats), Dva jelena (Two deer), Ima dana... (There are days...), Putujući glumac (Travelling Actor) are the foundations of Belgrade's tourism. People often come here after other celebrations, but the hordes of tourists and guests arriving in Skadarlija bring also unavoidable consequences: you should bring lots of money. Part of it goes to the roaming orchestras, accordion and violin players and accompanied singers who will sing any song from near and afar for as long as you pay. Romantic and bohemian Skadarlija is now accessible online in a virtual way, so you can even plan your route: https://www.360vr.rs/bg-vodic/skadarlija.php
This time we avoided Skadarlija in an effort to learn more about other places in the city. By chance, we went to the restaurant Lovac (The Hunter). Situated on Vračar, an area in the very centre of the city, between the most important state institutions and the remarkable Orthodox church of St. Sava (the saint protector of Serbia), it is a hunting-decorated and cosy place to have a nice friendly chat along the exquisite national cuisine. Grilled meat is the prime specialty, but the orientation of the restaurant includes many game dishes. The restaurant was open in 1963 and became a favourite gathering point for citizens and culture vultures.
There is an atmosphere, but even more history and tradition in Lovac. They are particularly proud of Ćumur na stolu, in fact, mixed grilled meat served on a small hot grill which is brought to the guest table. Another must-try dish here is Lovačka korpica, deer fillet served on chestnut puree and homemade hunting sausages. It is a token of a long tradition of making game dishes, sauces and small gastro-secrets of Lovac's chefs, including the hunter goulash, wild duck, and boar. They claim they have the best ćevapi in town, the best gourmet pljeskavica, and roast meat soft as a butter. We opted for gourmet-pljeskavica and we think they might be right in their claims. Beautifully grilled and served with various sauces and additions, this could easily be one of the best gastronomical excitements in Belgrade.
We are not sure if there is a nation in Europe so much connected to meat as in Serbia. Not that vegetarians cannot survive there. But in establishments such as Lovac, vegetables come as a necessary addition to the glorious grilled meat intertwined with the Serbian identity. More often than not, vegetables are also grilled, soaking in the meat sauce, and served in a manner of baked peppers with garlic. Otherwise, people order the Serbian salad, which can easily be called Greek salad, Šopska salad or in some other way if you remove just one ingredient. At the same time, it is delicious and a reminder of historical Balkan enmities. Grilled meat is often filled with ham, cheese or kajmak, a creamy dairy product similar to clotted cream, a remnant of the Turkish cuisine from the Ottoman times.
And if you still have room for desserts, Lovac will not let you down. Pancakes, fruit salads, Balkan sweets, and special Tito's creampie from Bled (obviously, Tito was a passionate hunter) will do the trick. Maybe you would opt for a beer with grilled meat, but it is a shame not to try some of the classy Serbian wines, stemming mostly from the Vojvodina region north of Belgrade.
Adresa: Alekse Nenadovića 19
Telefon: 011 243 61 28, Mobilni: 060 36 54 020
All pictures are property of Restaurant Lovac