Updated: Feb 19, 2019
Walking around Zagreb and not visiting Maksimir would be a real shame. Namely, Maksimir is one of the largest and most beautiful parks in the city. The park is a favourite place for walks, sports and simply enjoying the beautiful nature in the heart of the city. A special place in the park itself is its zoo. One of the three zoos in Croatia is the largest and I dare say the most beautiful one. It's not just my subjective thinking, it's also proven by the number of visitors. And I learned that Zagreb Zoo is the place with the most-sold ice cream in the country, which certainly means something! Zagreb Zoological Garden was founded by Mijo pl. Filipović on June 27, 1925, and is the oldest zoo in Southeast Europe. At the opening day there were only 3 foxes and 2 owls present. Today, the picture is fundamentally different from the number and variety of the animals, but also the dwellings themselves, which are renewed and adapted to today's consciousness of human treatment of animals.
Huge job of keeping the zoo, continuous restoration and improvement in all directions is a big and successful work for Mr. Damir Skok and his team of experts. It is known that he lives and works for the zoo so you can almost always meet him in Maksimir, even on weekends. The park is greener, animals are housed in new homes, while the rest are refurbished because they are mostly protected monuments of culture.
A great novelty in the zoo is the newly opened restaurant "Kod morskog lava" (At Sealion’s), which we visited and tasted excellent food. Kitchen’s Chef Siniša Terzić is known for its gastronomic deeds in Zagreb. His experience and knowledge were recognized by expert team of Damir Skok, primarily the marketing manager Anita Scheling and the restaurant manager Danijel Cahari, who are very enthusiastic and lovingly invited us to taste their rich menu. The restaurant is new and full of gastronomic offer, as a novelty not only of the zoo but of the city of Zagreb. After an exciting visit to the zoo, visitors can finally dine well.
The kitchen is a blend of excellent continental and international cuisine. Particular emphasis is placed on the ingredients from the Zagreb area. For those who may not have time to dine in a pleasantly decorated restaurant with a terrace and surrounded by greenery, the staff offers sandwiches. That information would not be interesting in itself if these sandwiches were made of supermarket saucers. No, they are preparing them from the famous Samobor salami which is a delicacy in itself, unfortunately still too little used in the Zagreb offer. As a proud Samobor resident, Skok was the key to offering also the famous strudels prepared by the Nikl bakery from Samobor's Rude, known for its long-standing reputation as a top-class traditional product.
The delicious culinary course for us was prepared by the head of the kitchen and it would delight every gastronomad. With the arrival of colder days, the warm and rich cream soup is a great choice, and we tried the corn cream soup slightly spiced with chilli strips as well as the lentil stew, perhaps too little used food that the chef turns into true delicacies. After that, the pljukanci, homemade Istrian pasta, with truffles in a rich white sauce, which makes the inhabitants of the Croatian capital always tempting. The continental cuisine of this town is greatly touched by the roots of the famous Austro-Hungarian cuisine, which in this area received its special dimension, so we continued with the excellent roast duck drumsticks traditionally served with buckwheat and simmered red cabbage. Duck is also a special delicacy especially in the northern part of Croatia and its preparation requires knowledge and skill to keep the meat soft and soft, and the one made at the "Kod morskog lava" is simply melting in the mouth.
Autumn is a time of mushroom, and the Zagreb’s neighbourhoods beneath the Medvednica mountain are full of forests so it is a logical choice to blend mushrooms and excellent meat. Medallions in a rich mushroom sauce are brilliantly blended with potato chips, which were this time enriched with pieces of vegetables, accompanied by bread dumplings and thus given a special visual appearance. Such rich dishes are a real example of the famous cuisine of the former Danube monarchy and its roots go to the Viennese court. The culinary tradition of cooking thick sauces that matches soft meats is preserved especially in central and northern Croatia.
The menu continues with chicken fillet filled with broccoli and cheese, and served with pumpkin and curd. This is another seasonal meal when the gardens are full of autumn fruits, again so specific to northern Croatia. Just filling a chicken is a great counterbalance to a bit of boring plain chicken fillet, and when it is added to the potatoes la Parisienne, a real pleasure for the palate is created. If you thought that the story here stops you are wrong because for the buncek (cooked pork), češnjovka (garlic sausage) and debrecinka (hot sausage) served with unavoidable sauerkraut and potatoes there is always a place! Of course, the selection of meat and sausage comes from small home-made butcheries that every continental kitchen lover does not refuse. After such an abundant dinner, for dessert we decided for a light pannacotta with forest fruit and chocolate mousse.
Many zoos in the world have restaurants, but little that really are touched by true local gastronomy. "Kod morskog lava" is a real surprise, so we hope that Maksimir visitors will turn to the Zoo not only to bring their children to see the animal kingdom, but also to enjoy the ultimate gastronomy. The restaurant "Kod morskog lava" runs from 11 am until the zoo itself is closed. Particular attention is paid to small visitors and their favourite dishes, so they too will enjoy it. The restaurant is a type of self-service and there is no wait or crowd, and after a great lunch you can continue exploring the rich world of animals that in the capable hands of Damir Skok is visibly progressing as they are looking forward to new visits. In the end, however, keep in mind the house rules as they are in function of your safety and protection of animals ... See you at the Sealion’s!