Like most of its neighbouring countries, Belgrade is mad about meat. Meat is prepared every which way and is served in plentiful portions with a suitable amount of carbs (and by suitable, I mean enough to kill a (wo)man). If you are a vegetarian, or a foodie in search of something a little more inventive, don’t panic – Belgrade is experiencing somewhat of a food revolution with new restaurants popping up all the time. Sadly I didn’t get to try them all – such as the very tempting and trendy-looking ones lining the waterfront in Beton Hala – but those I did get to experience showed me that there’s more to Belgrade’s eating-out scene than just Pljeskavica. Here’s my Top 4:
Highlight: tasty, organic, healthy options in a hip neighbourhood
Hidden away in the up-and-coming district of Savamala, is Gnezdo organic bistro. Matrix-style, “follow the white bird” instead of a white rabbit (the steps leading up to Gnezdo are sprayed with impressive street art, which includes cartoon birds directing you to their ‘nest’…Gnezdo). Cross over the fairylight-lit courtyard of neigbouring jazz club Jazz Bašta and down some rickety stairs and find yourself in this rustic yet modern, minimalist restaurant, which also happens to be one of the oldest buildings in Belgrade. Upon entering it’s clear that Gnezdo is not just about the food, but rather a testament to an organic and healthy lifestyle in general (and yes, ok,ok, it’s got more than a little bit of a hipster vibe). Mains are a little pricier than elsewhere in the city, but still cheap when compared with Western European standards. What’s more, the extra pennies spent are more than worth it – the food is fresh, light and tasty. This is no doubt testament to the Gnezdo team’s determination to source only the best ingredients from organic farms all over Serbia. I had a Thai Chicken Curry, which more than lived up to the expectations I had after reading the delicious selection detailed on the menu. If you’ve paid Gnzedo a visit for dinner, then I’d recommend a stopover in Jazz Bašta next door to soak up some cool sounds before heading home for the night.
Highlight: organic, fresh ice cream to die for
Some of the best ice cream I have ever had was sitting in the sunshine in the surrounds of the ever-chic Porto Montenegro. Then, upon tasting the flavours at Mortiz Eis in Belgrade I was thrown – had I finally found an ice cream parlour that would knock Montenegro off the top spot? The irony is, that it was only later that I found out that they were both one and the same – the ice cream I had had in Montenegro was in fact from one of Mortiz Eis’ few daughter parlours. So, it turns out I had unknowingly gone on a pilgrimage to Moritz Eis’ birthplace: Belgrade. And what a birthplace it is – the interiors of the parlour are akin to a place of worship for ice cream lovers everywhere, with white clean lines set against pastel-coloured ice cream pots stacked up ready and waiting. Moritz Eis encourages you to try several flavours before settling on your final ice cream du jour (well…who am I to say no?). In the end I opted for a decadent peanut, caramel and stracciatella (yes, all in one!) and a refreshing lemon and mint sorbet. I definitely was just as delighted with the experience as the first time around in Montenegro. As with anything good, imitators come along – and there are several new organic ice cream brands that have popped up recently in Belgrade – but I’d advise you to still pay a visit to the original.
Highlight: Reasonably priced Italian staples in a lively spot
It may be at the crossroads of two of the most bustling streets in Belgrade, but Snežana made me go against my usual rule of ‘get as far away as possible from the areas filled with tourists if you want good food for a good price’. A friend of mine who used to live in Belgrade suggested Snežana to me – and she was spot on. Despite looking like a chain from the outside, Snežana is actually an old staple which has been around in the city since 1958. It’s the perfect place to dine alone for several reasons, the first being its location. In summer, pull up a chair outside and people-watch to your heart’s content, or listen to the music drifting over from one of the nearby buskers. The second reason it’s great for solo diners is the wait staff – if you want company then they are more than willing to provide it, chatting away with you in a way that isn’t just a ply for a bigger tip but rather, a demonstration of the amiable nature of Belgrade’s locals. The third and final reason? You can get a massive pizza for a more than reasonable price and devour it all by yourself. If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.
Highlight: traditional food without the tourist price tag
When questioning where to go for some traditional Serbian food, look no further than the ? kafana. Kafanas are the Belgrade equivalent of a British pub I suppose, serving traditional Serbian food in a cosy setting. It’s said that ? is one of the oldest kafanas in the city. It’s housed inside a traditional 19th century Balkan-style building opposite a cathedral – which just adds all the more to its charm. Of course, this means that it is somewhat of an attraction for tourists, but it’s the better option by far than opting to eat in the über touristy Skadarlija, and you’re still more likely to be surrounded by Serbians rather than visitors here. The frontage is a little sun-trap and a very pleasant place to sit if you aren’t visiting in the height of summer. If in search of shade though, just head out back to ?’s extensive cool courtyard which will give a break from the rays. In terms of food, go for the most traditional things on the menu, because that’s what they do best. And, have a little rakija (Balkan fruit brandy) to wash it all down, go on.