Ok, I have to be up front and honest. When I was invited to a restaurant in the narrow streets of the historic Old City of Dubrovnik I was a little dubious. There are so many less than worthy restaurants that I was concerned that I could be falling into another tourist trap. But with an open-mind and a certain curiosity I arrived at Portun Restaurant.
They say that first impressions count, and I have to say I was off to a good start. Somebody had taken a lot of time, effort and knowledge to design the restaurant’s pavement seating area. It gave off a kind of Mediterranean bistro style vibe. Stepping out of the glare of the midday sun the interior was again a pleasant surprise. Just not what I had expected at all. A funky completely redesigned interior that had been done to create a concept. A sign advertised “family and local cuisine.” If the food was half as good as the decoration, then I could well have unearthed a hidden gem inside those stone walls.
Funky interior of Portun Restaurant
This isn’t a new restaurant, in fact it’s been family business for over 13 years, however to say it’s had a total and complete makeover would be an understatement. “We’ve strived to create a new dining experience but with the knowledge we’ve gained over the years,” explained the friendly head waiter. His English is perfect by the way and there’s a good reason for that, but you’ll have to ask him. It turned out that Portun underwent a major overhaul in the Spring of 2019, and boy does it show! I decided to find an al fresco table to soak up the Old City atmosphere.
Dubrovnik bistro style al fresco eating
The menu is relatively short (always a good sign that the food will be fresh) and includes some tried and tested classics but also some interesting twists. “As it’s such a warm August day I would recommend a light seafood lunch,” suggested the waiter. When the Octopus salad started landed on my table the sheer size was the first surprise, these are large portions.
Again the rhythm of the interior was followed by the rather trendy plates and bowls. I have had quite a few terrible Octopus salads, where it feels like I’m trying to bite through chewing gum. Maybe it was because I was hungry, or maybe swept away by a cute restaurant just a stone’s throw from Stradun, but I can say that without doubt this was the best Octopus salad I have ever tasted. I mean really, really excellent. I could have stopped right there and been happy with the lunch. “Give my compliments to the chef for that was first-rate,” I told the waiter. He smiled as if he had conveyed those words to the kitchen on many occasions.
An Ocotopus Salad to die for
There are only 6 tables outside, which again gives fast service and an intimate feel. And being located right in the heart of the ancient city, in fact right opposite the offices of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, you get a real local experience. Continuing the seafood menu I plumped for Sea Bass Fillet Dalmatian Style as a main course. Again a classic dish that can be easily spoiled. It wasn’t.
It could well be that the Octopus salad had raised my expectations, but this was not only a good looking plate but a high quality meal. The Swiss chard and potatoes, the traditional partners of sea bass in Dalmatia, were served with a new twist. Was all of this costing a fortune. No, another surprise. In fact, for the location, the quality of food and the fast service the prices were beyond reasonable.
A traditional sea bass dish but with a healthy twist
I observed a waiter guiding another table through the somewhat confusing world of Croatian wines. These aren’t names that roll off the tongue and far too often you are left to fend for yourself, without having a clear map. I was pleased to see that at Portun this wasn’t the case.
This new design, new look, new menu and clear and concise concept of what it wants to be has transformed Portun into a gem of the Dubrovnik gastro scene. I used to only have four or five restaurants that I’d recommend inside the city walls, now I have a sixth.
Ul. od Sigurate 2, 20000 Dubrovnik, Croatia
+385 20 321 614
Or try something more meaty
Text - Mark Thomas
Photos - Mark Thomas and Portun Restaurant