The fire roars and dances around the kettle with Danube fish. It is early autumn, the sun is still merciless, but real hellish temperatures can be felt with these enticing products of Slavonian hospitality. Hot? Never minf! The hosts provided us with Slavonian plum rakija šljivovica in no time, according to the golden rule "it warms in winter, cools in summer". Every passer-by is welcome. We drank two, three, and then tasted some fish. The master laughs and says he is leading us to a small pool with fresh fish. We can't stay long with these beauties, because the waitresses from the Stari mlin restaurant in Dalj are already calling us back to our table. With a view of the Danube and in the company of smiling staff, this is a place of true Danube pleasures!
There once really was an old mill and warehouse here, which was destroyed during the Homeland War, as evidenced by the yellowed photographs preserved in the winter hall. In fact, the mill in Dalj is mentioned as early as 1850, and it worked until 1970, according to the memories of older residents. It was powered by the Danube, and later by steam, and its memory is preserved through the restaurant. With quince brandy that entices with its wonderful aroma and mild taste, we listen how Marko and Snježana Đurkov started this inn upon their return from Austria, where they were in exile.
After returning, the owners started to create a restaurant with local cuisine and Slavonian specialties, especially fish stew, Slavonian shepherd stew, fish plates, all right next to the banks of the Danube where river tugs and long cruise ships sail. We wave to them while the restaurant manager brings us local wine, Graševina, which is produced for the restaurant's needs by the neighbouring Antunović winery. The wine list is a wonderful reflection of the Erdut vineyard, and Đurkov family offers only those local wines that go well with the food on the menu.
Our first bites left us delighted. We were served garlic soup in a dough basket. The white creamy soup is rich in pure flavours that remind us that the combination of strong and mild tastes is a permanent mark of the Danube culinary tradition. Along with excellent homemade bread, this is an appetizer that should be recommended to every visitor to the Old Mill.
And there are many of them! Many groups of retirees visit the Stari mlin after visiting Aljmaš and the Erdut winery. People arrive here from every corner of Croatia, but also from neighbouring countries. There are many visitors who appreciate the Stari mlin, and among them is Croatian President Zoran Milanović, who even visited this remote restaurant three times. This oasis of peace next to one of Europe's largest rivers offers an intimate atmosphere with a rustic style, although every Friday and Saturday evening the tambura players "Sanjalica" from the area around Vinkovci come and dance "both on the tables and under the tables"! Those who overdo it can rest in the rooms that serve as a wonderful bed and breakfast.
For the main course, we tried the fish plate with catfish, perch and carp. Nicely served in the middle of the plate is presented the Danube freshwater wolf - perch, which is distinguished by its wonderful white meat and juicy texture. It is perfect with sips of graševina. Catfish surprised us. This fish can be somewhat fatty and heavy, but in Dalj it is prepared with obvious culinary knowledge. Hearty chunks of whiskered river fish are the perfect balance to the perch. In Stari mlin, catfish is the main ingredient of perkelt, which is served with dough. Due to the diversity of the offer as well as the wishes of the guests, they also introduced perkelt made of perch.
Finally, Stari mlin boasts its carp. The Danube region cannot find a more "native" fish than carp, because its wild ancestors grew up in the waters of the Danube. The ancient Romans bred carp in ponds on a large scale, and this tradition has actually never been interrupted. In neighbouring Hungary, carp fish is a traditional dish for Christmas Eve, together with stuffed vegetables, walnuts and poppy seeds, and the same can be found in Slavonia and Baranja.
Perhaps the most famous Slavonian fish specialty, especially in Stari mlin, is carp in forks. The fish must be marinated the day before. The carp is cut in half from the tail to the head so that the spine remains on one half. It is salted and coated with sweet and hot paprika. The halves are inserted into a wicker fork and secured with wire. Bake on an open fire, on both sides, until they get a golden crust and remain soft on the inside. Each serving comes with a cat on duty who tries to make sure there are no leftovers.
Carp is part of the traditional fish stew, which we noticed immediately upon entering the restaurant. Homemade paprika is an important ingredient of this legendary Danube dish. A quick boil is the key to a good fish, and that's why it looks so hellishly enveloped in live fire. Every fish stew, before it is given to the guests to enjoy, the master must try it. From ordering to enjoying, the guest has to wait 45 minutes for a great meal, and we ourselves played stew master (several times) and tasted an almost ready kettle. The huge range of flavours creates a special pleasure, and it is not difficult to conclude why the numerous fišijada events (including the one in the neighbouring Aljmaš) have become so popular.
In Stari Mlin ships looking for their harbours are observed, but people often sail here into marriage harbours as well. Namely, from the very beginning of the work, a wedding hall with 120 seats was opened, which immediately became popular because there are no such facilities in Dalj and its surroundings. During the pandemic, the restaurant was expanded and enriched with another hall for 500 people.
After numerous tastes, we ended our visit with Stari mlin pancakes, which are called "three in one" because they are offered fillings with walnuts, marmalade and chocolate. The sweet hit on the palate led us to a natural desire to sleep on the banks of the Danube, but we regained our composure and started walking along the distant shores. Stari mlin is truly a place of gastronomic delights and many returns, so we can't wait to try other delicacies from the menu!
Restoran Stari mlin
Braće Radića 23, Dalj
+385 31 625 810