Set in a previously moribund-looking yard in one of the city’s central neighbourhoods, everything about the new Beštija screams fresh or if you’d like, purposely dismal. The decor is modern and unpretentious, managing to avoid many of the industrial tropes that have come to define the typical bistro – there are no hanging naked lightbulbs or exposed brickwork, instead, you’ll find plaster peeling off the walls and a neon sign of Beštija scribbled on the wall.
The owners, Ante and Maja, are known for their successful burger joint on Island Hvar called the Flying Pig and this new venture of theirs has already proven to be just as big of a hit. Beštija’s Chef Ante has prepared a menu divided between lunch and dinner.
The menu, however small, changes daily. It is comprised of fresh seasonal ingredients, highlighting a few light meals in the morning and more serious dishes at lunch, and you can expect a cast of Adriatic favourites prepared with flavourful and fruity embellishments. Unlike on the Island, it is much easier to find a wider variety of quality ingredients in Zagreb, making for a more compelling menu. But although the concept and menu at Beštija differs from the Flying Pig, the commitment to quality remains.
The starter arrives: octopus is grilled tenderly with roman beans and a delightful beetroot puree, finished with a reduction. The flavours are subtle and yet rousing, making for the perfect refreshing appetiser. Alongside this we order a basket of fresh homemade artisan sourdough bread to soak up any remaining puree and oil and divine doesn’t even begin to describe it.
The mains that follow are the grilled seabream, which is cooked perfectly crisp-skinned and soft-fleshed, and is served with lemony chickpeas, two dollops of orange puree and swiss chard. The lemon dressing and orange puree brings a fresh acidity to the dish and is well paired with the seabream.
Pulled lamb is prepared with buttery grilled potato, spring onion and sour cream. This dish is deliciously wholesome and easily one of the better lamb dishes I have ever had in the city. If I were to score it, without a doubt, I’d give this dish a ten out of ten.
As for drinks, craft pivots, select wines and natural juices fit into the entire concept of the restaurant. The bistro has definitely marked all of the criteria for me: excellent food, great atmosphere and even better hospitality. I will definitely be coming back again.