Updated: Mar 2, 2019
In the very center of Bregi, restaurant Kinkela has been open for 107 years. Before, there was a post office and a shop here, led by members of the Kinkela family, who opened an inn, which is still working under expert guidance of Ines Kinkela. She and her husband Franjo are the fourth generation of family that offers homemade food and drinks at this legendary place high above Opatija.
In this homely atmosphere, we are welcomed with a wide smile by Ines Kinkela and her niece Marina who prepared us a real winter feast with the gastronomic traditions of the Bregi and Učka region, which are especially popular among all the carnival bell ringers. While Mrs Ines gives us a short introduction to the history of this inn, we drink a sweet sage brandy that her husband Franjo makes with lots of love. There is also her sister Mirjana who is most responsible for preparing food and desserts. Immediately there is a family atmosphere here where the whole family is doing their best, and this is widely heard. So, Mrs. Ines received a life award of the Primorsko-goranska County for her work at the restaurant!
It is more than deserved, as the life goes on in the restaurant itself. Everyone will enjoy here, with a glass of wine, a wonderful cold platter, with prosciutto, bacon, pancetta and Pag cheese, all the time a great remedy against colds and flu in this winter time of the year. On weekends at Ines on Bregi there are also many families because the restaurant included in the Saturday and Sunday offer a full lunch for only 65 kuna per person, which includes the whole menu! This offer is unique throughout the Opatija Riviera and should be utilized! And when Kinkelas began to show all they had prepared for us, the enthusiasm was only getting bigger! Our happiness was that we were three because the generosity of this warm welcome was really overwhelming.
Bregi, as the name just says, sits in the hills. Hilly and curved streets below Učka Mountain, in the municipality of Matulji, connect houses with a beautiful view of Kvarner. It is also the home of the Brežanski zvončari, the old carnival group whose members are recognizable by white pants, cladded shirts, sheepskin around the neck, and wearing a krabuljosnica or hat with paper flowers symbolizing the spring. In Kinkela's house there are always proud members of the Brežanski zvončari, which is also witnessed by the little hat situated at the restaurant table. Walking around the village with the bells is becoming more and more rare, but the Kinkela family is faithful to the tradition and every family man is a bell ringer, even the smallest boys!
After a tasty cold plate, we started with ravioli stuffed with cheese and gnocchi with beef stew. It may sound like a standard dish of Istria and Kvarner (which it is), but these ravioli and gnocchi were made in the restaurant itself. The difference in taste is obvious because the Kinkela restaurant takes care that all guests are delighted with home-made food. It's probably something in the veins. The surname Kinkela is mentioned in Croatia only in this area, around Opatija and Matulji, mostly in Bregi, Zvoneća and Rukavac, i.e. all places where the tradition of making stuffed pasta is common.
There are no winter and carnival foods in Kvarner without sauerkraut with dry meat! Učka has always been good place for cabbage, and a little north of Bregi still one can find autochthonous sorts of cabbage. The old-fashioned cabbage always went well with dry smoked ham, but the fatty pancetta is also good enough! This classic dish comes with a homemade polenta. Beautifully yellow and full of tastes, the polenta in Bregi reflects the basic idea of a restaurant guide: homemade, made in the house, without the need for modern instant products. Such foods are hard to do even for ourselves!
Sausages are inevitable wherever there is cabbage! Meat is regularly obtained from local butchers, which with Kinkela Restaurant have a long and good tradition. Sausages, bacon, sour cabbage and polenta make a magical carnivorous square that reflects the taste of the winter of Kvarner. Along with that, Carnival groups often prepare blood sausages. In Bregi, however, there is an entirely interesting tradition of making sweet blood sausages called olita. Only a few households are still preparing them today. This recipe includes rice, onion, fat, sugar, white farina, cinnamon and raisins, and of course pork blood. The lucky ones can try olita in some Bregi households.
All this was an intro in the restaurant's specialty, a meal that had been reason for years of culinary pilgrimages to Bregi - a roast veal shank, served with baked potatoes. Because of veal shank people are coming from afar, and we've been convinced why. Beautiful roast, shank stood in front of us as a gastronomic trophy. Surrounded by old pictures of the restaurant and Kinkela family, with the carnival decoration in the inn, we enjoyed every piece of it. Kutjevo graševina was also served with the shank, and those who prefer red wines can choose refošk and frankovka. And as much as Kinkela is known and praised for its roast shank today, so much the family members were known for roast chickens in the past. Everyone who liked the taste of homemade roast chicken stopped here! Today, the tastes are a little more refined. In addition to the shank, guests will be happy to order a piglet roasted on the spit, and from Easter on offer is roasted lamb!
Sweet-tooth do not have to be afraid to go to Kinkela. In addition to baked pancakes with cheese and honey, there are some wonderful traditional carnival desserts here. First of all, there are supice, freshly baked bread without which feasts and events like carnivals and baptisms in Bregi are unimaginable. It's a better bread, deep fried with sugar on top, which is as tasty as it is simple to make. Additionally, Kinkelas have prepared us a white and black presnac, a variant of cake known throughout the northern Adriatic. There were also kroštule and baked pancakes, without which no carnival season in Kvarner passes.
Bregi saw birthday and wedding celebrations, the last greetings were given to the loved ones and friendly evenings with homemade food and wine are beyond the count, all showing the legendary status of the Kinkela restaurant. At a more enjoyable time of year guests are enjoying a great terrace, offering some of the most beautiful views of the Kvarner Bay. Foreigners, guests of the hotel on the Opatija Riviera, come here, but still the most common and most trusted are domestic guests. Too bad, because there is a lack of restaurants with truly great local and homemade food in Opatija. Such places can be listed on the fingers of one hand, and they are not affordable by price and service to everyone. So, we should talk more about Kinkela in foreign languages!
The real treat that is prepared in the restaurant shows the great kindness, cordiality, hospitality of Mrs. Ines and her family, but above all the enormous love this family has given to the restaurant and its centuries-old tradition. That's why we'll be back in Bregi again and again!
Bregi 54, 51211 Matulji
00385 51 711 177, 00385 98 257 797, 00385 99 2711177