Konoba Batelina has been on my restaurant wishlist for quite some time. I must actually be the last foodie in Croatia to visit konoba Batelina. Dammit, how I am even supposed to write something new about it, when it seems to me that everybody has already been there.
This place is really exceptional. It's not a hidden gem, because every foodie knows about konoba Batelina. It's even been featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservation.
But to get a table there, you really need to plan it in advance. And I am bad planning in advance.
There are few things, beside the most divine seafood, that put konoba Batelina apart. No walk ins. No credit cards. Not open at lunch time. Not open on Sundays. Not open during the first three weeks of August. No extensive wine list.
These guys are tough. And yet, they are always busy.
Here is to all of you who haven't yet had a chance to eat here!
Konoba Batelina: where the blue fish is the king, and eaten from head to tail
For majority of us, home cooks, the fish head is for the soup, the fillets are for a main course. The rest is for the seagulls and cats. At konoba Batelina, seagulls and cats are actually very skinny and furious (although when I think about it now, their cat is pretty fat. Hm, a real mystery!). Everything is used to create an amazing and delicious dishes for the guests.
Small, family-owned restaurant is located in a seaside village of Banjole, just south of Pula. The restaurant is tiny. it can accommodate maybe 30 people inside and another 40 at the outside terrace (weather permitted). It's run by family Skoko. They are fishermen. In the morning they fish, in the evening they prepare the daily menu based on the catch of the day. Awesome, isn't it?! I know what you might think: The shoemaker's children go barefoot. But trust me, at konoba Batelina it's not the case. I don't know if they are great fishermen (must be if I judge them by the freshness and variety of the fish served here), but they are certainly great cooks.
The chef star is David Skoko. All the dishes are his innovative creation, although his mother along with other family members help him in the kitchen. You'll have a chance to eat here the dishes you've never thought possible: fish tripe, catfish french fries, fish liver mousse, fish lollipops, etc… If you visit konoba Batelina, just follow a simple formula: let the chef choose the dishes for you.
On our visit to this little restaurant, we had three courses. But each course comprised of various small bites. We started with cold starters that included: marinated anchovies, sardines, red mullet, raw gilt-head bream, octopus salad, crab salad, and conger pâté. But also some catfish french fries. I'll not be repeating how delicious everything was, 'cause everything was delicious beyond the words!
Warm starters came next: potato and curd gnocchi with crab, tagliatelle with salted and dried roe (itl. bottarga), and a crab and cuttlefish stew (itl. brodetto) with scallop shell shaped cornmeal (itl. polenta). We were really full, and didn't feel like ordering the main course. Instead we jumped straight to the dessert. And this was seriously another moment when I was completely blown away.
I don't know why, but I never expected much of a dessert. I always heard a praise about this place in terms of its delicious seafood. But, the sweets we had were equally divine. We had five different desserts that we shared: a mint jelly with a chocolate mousse, chocolate cake with olive oil and chili, the mascarpone cream with wine cooked figs and home made biscuits, cheese cake, and another cake that I just forgot about (except that it was equally tasty!).
Wine list is not extensive, as I've already said. It goes with the chef's concept: this place celebrates seafood, and everything else is here to accompany it, not to steal the spotlight from it. Thus, the wine served is local and very good, but don't start asking for the fancy bottles. You'll get none. And you might even annoy the chef.
On the final note: at konoba Batelina, they managed to turn underrated bluefish into a sublime, gourmet experience. The place is unpretentious, sincere, and charming. The prices are affordable (20 – 40 € per person with drinks; it depends on number of courses and choices of dishes). A must visit restaurant in Istria!
Contacts: Čimulje 25, Banjole; t: +385 52 573 767; Not open on Sundays. Cash only. Reservation needed.
What is the latest restaurant you've visited that blew you away? Let us know in the comments below.
38 thoughts on “Konoba Batelina: absolutely delightful experience”
Hello, would like to make a reservation there.
Wonder if they have an e-mail address yet?
Two and a half years later, I’m wondering if you’re still monitoring this thread. I’ll be in Pula around Aug 12, 2016. I read in your blog that the restaurant is on vacation around that time, and they don’t have an email address? I’m hoping there might be some changes since 2014.
I was wondering if they have an email address. I’d love to make a reservation for my upcoming trip, but calling from the states seems a bit tricky.
Hi Kayleigh, unfortunately they don’t list their e.mail address anywhere. So I guess that’s not how they take reservations. Try to call via skype or what’s up. It’s much cheaper than via a standard phone line.
I don’t know 90% of the things that you guys ate but it looks delicious! Are catfish french fries really made out of catfish..? I just can’t wrap my mind around it haha.
Hahaha, Samantha! Yes, I think blue fish is more Mediterranean fare and not so known in the States. And yes, they are made of catfish.
The presentation is fab, and everything looks delicious. It certainly looks like it’s worth all the planning to make it in there!
Thanks, Ace CB! It was really a divine experience. And totally worth all the planning.
The food looks gorgeous, though probably the cuisine is a bit too adventurous for me… except for the desserts. I’ll have them all!
Thanks, Chamisa! Lol, maybe it is a bit adventurous, but hey you can always order a grilled fish or alike :-)
Sounds like a great place, and the meals look scrumptious! I’m also curious about the catfish french fries :).
Thanks, Rachel! Catfish french fries are alone worth the visit to this restaurant :-)
Oh man this all looks so good, and to make it even more tempting I’m fasting today, so how hard was it to read about all that scrummy-looking food! I haven’t heard of this restaurant and certainly haven’t read what other’s have said before you, but you’ve whetted my appetite to get over there soon. (It’s not sooooo far from the south of France, is it???)
I admire you for fasting (OK, it’s not maybe the best time to read a food post). However, I always want to fast, but then in the morning I usually forget about it. Istria is actually 8 hours drive from Cannes – so not that far. Let us know if you decide to visit. We’ll love to show you around.
When you said that the fisherman do the cooking, I was expecting much simpler fare. This sounds fancy! I wonder if they only catch a much as they expect to serve that day. I also wonder if they were fishermen first who became great chefs or if they were chefs who decided to do their own fishing. Everything looks so delicious.
Thanks for stopping by, Michele! As far as I know they started as fishermen. As for fishing I know that they are closed in August basically because that is the period of the year when fishermen are requested to stop fishing. So it seems fair enough. No fish, no diner :-)
I love the uniqueness and variety here. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of catfish french fries or red mullet. I have such a sweet tooth and a chocoholic that I was drooling over your dessert. They all look delicious. What an awesome foodie experience.
Oh, desserts were really delicious. And I was sorry that my photos didn’t come better. The light was dim, and I only had my telephone camera. But I’ll go back and try to do a better job. Very, very good cakes :-)
Ooh, that looks good! I love that they do the fishing and the restaurant. You know it’s fresh!
Right, Jess! Freshness guaranteed :)
That all looks absolutely amazing! Every week you give us another reason to make time to travel back to Croatia! Thanks for sharing and safe travels!
Lol Travis! I hope you guys will be back, and we can meet in person!
I am going to have to hide this from Mr. CtD this place is RIGHT up his food alley and he will make us drive there JUST to dine here. But I have to say I would not stop him, it looks so unique.
I told you it was special. Next time in Istria, you know where to go.
Catfish french fries!? That sounds incredible. I had catfish spring rolls once in Vietnam and they made me swoon. Looks like a wonderful little place, looks so homely :)
Uh, catfish spring rolls sound great too. Did you really swoon?!
The gnocchi and desserts look incredible. I hope you starved yourselves before this meal.
Dave, gnocchi were really the best. Very special taste and texture with a cheese curd added
Another restaurant I MUST visit! The place looks really cosy, great for spending hours while enjoying food & wine. I’m a sucker for all kinds of fish, seafood and pasta, seriously craving now!
Thanks, Nina! When are you guys coming? Kidding! Yes, if there is one seafood place to go in Croatia, this is the one.
Everything looks so delicious especially that gnocchi. I love gnocchi.
Thanks, Adelina! And yes, those gnocchi were really special. Instead to make classical gnocchi with potatoes and flour, they mixed in some fresh cheese curd. They were actually my favorite dish of all warm starters we had.
Oh my gosh…you’re taking me here when I come to Croatia! I love seafood and that pasta looks amazing!
Anytime, Ashley. Just let me know at least a week in advance. Really tough to get a table :-)
I’m a seafood and dessert lover. I would love to try Croatian dishes one day! I wonder what catfish french fries are like?
Thanks, The Dessert Engineer! Catfish french fries were delicious. A bit crunchy on the outside, but really soft inside. Yummy!
Sounds phenomenal! Intrigued about those catfish french fries! Would love to visit when in Croatia – and hopefully that will be very soon! :)
Thanks, Jessica! Oh, catfish french fries were delicious, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside (I keep repeating this, but talking about it makes me re-experience it; I’ll need to go back!). Let us know when you decide to come, maybe we can catch up for a drink or something.