You Will Find Us Under The Olive Trees
A Night in Montenegro
Seems rather fitting to call your restaurant Adriatica when it sits on a beautiful peninsula in Kotor Bay, situated in a oldy worldy area that is lightly sprinkled with new money. The tiny village was called Kamenari with a population of around 350. It was a short and free ferry trip across from my apartment in the sleepy village Lepetani, tucked right into the neck of the bay.
The short ferry trip itself was about 7 minutes, approx 1km in length and the views where stunning! The panoramic view of the mostly green mountains made the ferry feel so insignificant in the most beautiful of ways. It’s amazing to think that this area was once frequented by pirates who would sneak in during the quiet of night to loot goods from other ships as well as the coastline villages. The story goes that what is now the Lepetani - Kamenari ferry link once used to be part of an elaborate trap set up by the villagers to wreck the passing pirate ships. Underneath the water they would lay a metal chain sitting 1ft below the surface which would be tightened as the poachers approached only for the chain to puncture the bow, therefore sinking the ships, talk about Jules Verne meets Jack Sparrow!…
Stepping off the ferry was like leaving one fairy tale into another. A Mediterranean feel with an eastern European twist. After a very short walk of around eight hundred meters, passing what was mainly locals living in very typical rural detached houses central to small holds and minimal livestock, we eventually arrived at our destination.
As we approached the building, you really got a feel for, as I mentioned earlier, the light sprinkle of new money. My guess being that it was a Russian investment as there did seem to be a lot of Russians dining there and they all knew each other including the chefs and waiters… However, that could very well be my mind working over time as I did get “my google on” prior to the visit and read something about somebody recently being jailed for attempting a Russian coup in Montengro.
Anyway, back to the restaurant. Upon arriving, the building really stood out in contrast to the old smaller terracotta roofed buildings that sat alongside, it was quite a luxurious building with a grand entrance which I wasn’t expecting. Outside, it boasted a lovely private beach area where cocktails were served, an outside DJ booth that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Ibiza and a private speedboat, moored up to taxi people to and from Tivat and Kotor who wanted to eat there.
The terrace seating area was pretty quiet when we arrived, but it was around 7pm which isn’t exactly the Mediterranean approach to evening dining… I should have known better but when you’ve got to eat, you’ve got to eat…
I booked a table earlier that day by a simple phone call and requested a sea view, and that’s exactly what we got, it didn’t disappoint at all! The perfect romantic setting for any couple wanting to gaze into each others eyes.
Sneaking in a little inspection, I could see the cooking area was spotless, an open kitchen with smiley faces and just in front of them you could eye up the catch of day consisting of lobster, squid and octopus, all basking on a fresh bed of crushed ice… By this point my mouth was already in a watering frenzy of what was potentially going to be served up.
Already eyeing up the merchandise it was no surprise that the menu boasted a wide range of seafood mixed with traditional sauces and vegetables. Now I say traditional, but after first impressions of Montenegro it’s difficult to work out exactly what that is. The area itself was under Venetian rule for over four hundred years so it seems fitting that the area has embraced an Italian influence when it comes to Montenegro’s somewhat fusion based traditional cuisine, to coin a phrase.
After some inconspicuous people watching, I was totally convinced that the clientele was of Russian origin. Maybe a hangout for people of this denomination, but obviously welcoming to other nationalities. I’m sure our waitress for the evening was of the same nationality as well. As you can tell, I was not only trying out my dining skills, but I was also putting my spy skills to the test as well.
I politely requested the wine list and surprisingly, it was full of Italian and French wines ranging from thirty to three hundred euros, so you can maybe now get a feel for the kind of establishment we found ourselves in. I requested a nice, but not cheap bottle of 2014 Vino Rosso from the Toscana region for sentimental reasons which I won’t disclose here, but it seemed rather fitting for an old romantic like myself.
Of course I let my good lady try it first, I’m not an animal! The wine ‘got the nod’ and it did not disappoint at all! Quite full bodied, which can be rare when it comes to Italian wine. Quite
typical in taste and a fruity soft finish - Salute!. I am no wine expert, but I know when it tastes good, and this bottle tasted fantastic.
By this point in the evening people started to arrive and the place became about half full. Now for a special touch that I wasn’t expecting at all… whilst looking out to sea in awe of the magical view of the terrain and pin-pointing specific dwellings amongst the sparse scattering of buildings, a four piece Venetian style band appeared from nowhere and started to create the perfect ambience, adding that vital ingredient to what was quickly becoming a unique dining experience. It really did feel like I had stumbled across a setting from James Bond movie, maybe with the odd Russian villain thrown in for good measure. This place oozed class! I was half expecting to see Anthony Hopkins tucked away in a corner somewhere donning his panama hat whilst looking out to sea. Quite an experience this was turning out to be.
Time was of the essence, so I decided to order my food. I opted for what was simply listed as traditional Octopus cooked in a traditional Montenegrin sauce and vegetables. I didn’t bother with a starter because the waitress said that the meal was a “big one”. Before the food was served, I managed to take a few obligatory snaps of the restaurant and views, as well as notice several young people smoking hooka pipes on the next table, also enjoying the sound of waves lapping against the waters edge just a few feet away. All the while the band in the background were playing the perfect set list that included the soundtrack to godfather, venetian waltz, classic Sinatra and a mix of wonderful tango music. It was perfect for people who like an intimate dance between courses…
By this time in the evening the sun was disappearing behind the tree line summit. Ambient lighting had now been thrown into the mix, offering an even warmer feeling inside. That kind of feeling you get when you relax into your comfy chair and the wine offers that slight numb feeling from the stomach down. Several spotlights were perfectly situated underneath the wooden pier, lighting up the water’s edge and illuminating the crystal clear water and tiny fish below our feet.
Now for the crescendo! The food was on it’s way and I must add there was no rushing or hovering around the table either. We were totally left to the comfort of our own company. I was even asked if I wanted bread to accompany my dish instead of using it as a hidden cost item. When the dish arrived, it came in a sturdy circular metal bowl on a thick wooden block and like the waitress said it was a “big one” indeed! Now, I have eaten plenty of Octopus in my time but never have I seen a whole one, literally a whopping full Octopus on my plate. Normally it’s just the tentacles chopped from the body, grilled and served in a delicate oil and garlic based sauce with minimal vegetables but this dish meant business. The sauce seemed to be of Italian fusion influence, a beautifully rich tomato based sauce with basil, salt and pepper. The vegetables consisted of thinly sliced, perfectly tender courgette, aubergine and baby potatoes, all combined and cooked perfectly to compliment the star of the show… very nice indeed! It was a little strange to see the Octopus's centre with it’s mouth wide open as i eat through my vegetables, but as the saying goes, when in Montenegro…
Forty five minutes, and a couple of intervals later, I had eaten the lot, Mamma Mia, what a perfect dish that was! The meal complimented by wine was something to savour and all the extras really did make this a special dining experience that I was craving for since my arrival in the county, it was only our first night!
After letting the food settle over ponderous thoughts, we paid the bill and got up to leave this fine establishment. Upon leaving, I personally thanked the chef and said our farewells to our host.
As I left through the front entrance and said goodbye to the waitress, who almost replied with “dasvidaniya” only to stop herself half way through, remembering that we weren’t Russian…
10/10 - This place really is something special and I can only imagine it’s a new approach to dining outside of Kotor, the main tourist area. I can’t really say it’s a hidden gem because being situated right on the sea front, The Adriatica really stands out, all lit up and shining like a jewel in the bay. The place really is aimed at people seeking a special dining experience and the building offers a special and exclusive feel. Adriatica you did not disappoint one bit… Hvala!
Written by Richard Antonio Alsop