Croatian Fine Dining on the Old Town Walls at 360 Dubrovnik
I want to tell you about one of the best meals of our lives. I’ve got a tonne of food and travel recommendations, as well as plenty of photos to post from our recent adventure to Dubrovnik, but we ought to start at the beginning.
Flying out on J’s birthday, after we’d touched down at Dubrovnik airport and been driven to our apartment in the heart of the Old Town, we changed to dinner, headed out for gin and tonics on Stradun – the beautiful main street that cuts the fortified town down the middle – and then headed over to 360 Dubrovnik, a Michlen starred (I mention it because whilst I find that it is not always an indicator of quality, places like 360 are reminders why their word was once gospel) fine dining restaurant located up on the city walls with a view out over the Old Port.
Settling into our table as the sun started to wane in the sky, we started with some birthday bubbles. Whilst J went for a lovely and unusually complex glass of French champagne, I took the opportunity to try the Croatian sparkling, which reminded me of English sparkling wine, but with more depth and complexity. Like it is the same wine, but after decades more experience.
Honestly, Croatian wine is excellent and not widely exported, so if you’re visiting any part of the country use it as an excuse to sample as much as possible!
Next came a few snacks from the kitchen. A cup of tuna tartare with fresh yuzu, topped with a wasabi cream. Slightly mind bending as to how many brilliant textures and contrasts of flavours were involved in just one bite. Then a foie gras brûlée atop a wonderfully buttery spiced biscuit, a fresh, modern twist on the classic French treatment that was also excellent, and their take on ‘pizza’: layered, wafer thin dough, topped with truffle, spheres of extra virgin olive oil, tomato and basil, and in J’s case, burrata. Amazingly, tasting just like the perfect margarita, but with so many more interesting textures.
A note on my lack of burrata, because as we all know that I do eat it, but I really shouldn’t. The service at 360 is flawless. I can’t even contemplate where did it better, combining all the best elements of the very best dining experiences I’ve ever had, from the impeccable etiquette of dinner at Chateau de la Treyne in the Dordogne, to how the plates just vanished and the wine was topped up without you even noticing as at The River Cafe in West London. They were brilliant in taking into account, recommending and adapting around my no cows milk cheese dietary requirement as well J’s ‘no raw fish please’ preference – just remember telling them about things like this at time of booking (which, by the way is really easy to do online but they only release tables one month in advance, and especially approaching high season you’re going to need to set an alarm to do this to secure probably the most sought after reservations in Dubrovnik!)
The bread course was also excellent. The bread was good, but what really stood out was the selection of flavoured butters: from left to right we have basil, full of the aroma of smelling a basil plant that has been sitting in the sun, it made a delicious reminder that we were just across the water from Italy – something very recognisable in Croatian food – a good beetroot number, and a super delicious dried porcini one.
Forget what you think you know about wine after taking your seat, and let your table sommelier guide you. We made tentative choices, he told us we were wrong in the politest way possible without actually saying it, and we ended up with a bottle of Slovenian chardonnay, blended with two local grapes I could not pronounce, let alone remember the names of (!) which was both smooth and creamy, and light and crisp, and paired with everything we had, from raw scallops to red meat.
I was not allowed any of J’s starter, delicate homemade pasta filled with a slow cooked beef ragu, sitting in a comte cheese sauce and topped with a rich demi-glace, roasted squash and fried sage, so all I can tell you was that it looked beautiful, and he said it was one of the best dishes he’d ever eaten!
Which pretty much introduces the theme of our starters, as mine was also, literally one of the best dishes I’ve had in my entire life. And this blog is testament to the fact I spent most of my time eating.
My scallop tartare sat atop an etherial kohlrabi mousse, surrounded by a kohlrabi cream, garnished with yuxu gel, estragon (tarragon) oil, nasturtium flowers, samphire, and crispy chicken skin. Our waiter told me that it is their most involved dish with the most flavours on the plate, and honestly with only text and a photograph here I have no idea how to do it justice. The balance, the textures, the flavours. Kohlrabi was such an unusual choice here, but the texture of the mousse with the light creamy scallops…
This dish proved how food can be art of the highest form, combining texture, visuals, flavour, scent, into something that cannot be described as anything other than perfect.
Moving onto our mains, I was allowed to try a bite of J’s excellent mountain lamb, slow cooked and served with a potato terrine, sheeps cheese custard and pickled beetroot – meltingly excellent – but as someone who had no interest in my scallops (like I’d let him try any!) he spent the next few days going on about how the bite of sea bass I have him was the best thing we ate at 360, I remind you, the site of one of the best meals of our lives.
Firstly, when it arrived it looked so unusual, and so striking. Someone in the kitchen (which you can see set out in all it’s glory on your way to the bathroom, by the way, so go even if you don’t need to go) had painstakingly used tweezers to pull back each scale of the fish before briefly frying it, rendering them unusually edible to create fantastically crisp and crunchy skin with an enhanced fishy flavour reminiscent of that glorious moment you bite into that first, hot from the frier piece of fish from the chippy before you realise you’ve got a whole load of batter to get through. Atop perfectly cooked, delicate fish, and served alongside an addictive sweet and sour fish sauce, and delicate, toothsome fagotini filled with cuttlefish ragu with their own ink, memorable does not even cover it.
A little palette cleanser from the kitchen next (you may have noticed by the end of this we only had three courses: something I loved about 360 is that if you don’t fancy their two five course tasting menus – a new one and the one that won them their star – you can go a la carte instead, where all the tasting menu dishes are included, and order differently from each other so that you can be sure to order something you’ll love), a zippy pineapple sorbet encased in a light mousse and finished with a peanut crumb that did exactly what it said on the tin – I loved it, and usually I believe peanuts to be the devils own food!
We both ordered the ‘chocolate’ dessert: a chocolate parfait atop a coco biscuit, sandwiched with a hot chocolate foam encasing a stunningly fresh raspberry sorbet, with a caramel dish, fresh raspberries, basil and candied coco nibs on top. It was both unusual and familiar, full of wonderful textures, and finished everything off wonderfully.
We sat out in our seats overlooking the now dark port, watching how lights lit up the city walls with a little more wine as recommended by our wonderful sommelier – a Croatian red for him, and a Greek orange wine for me, along with some birthday sweets they brought out for J and I to share – not because I’d said anything in advance – but because they’d overhead me say to him ‘it’s your birthday so you get to choose’ – that is the level of attention to detail and service that made 360 truly an incredible experience (they’re on my Instagram if you want to see!) Exploring the old town at night for the first time, slightly tipsy, before bed, we both knew what we’d just experienced was truly special.
Seriously, if you’re in Dubrovnik for a special occasion, get organised and get that reservation. Not only does it sit a head higher than any other fine dining experience I’ve ever had, but it was actually slightly cheaper than the other one we did in Dubrovnik at Above 5, with much better food, wine and service!