Head to Heaton Moor for authentic Croatian food and drink
SPECIALISING in Croatian cuisine, with a focus on truffle flavours, raw and grilled fish, and marinated meats, including a choice of sizzling steaks, Black Olive Grill opened earlier this year in the leafy suburb of Heaton Moor. We asked owner Darijo Rimac to give us a bit of history about his tavernas both here and back home in Istria – the peninsula where Croatia meets the Adriatic Sea – and take us through some of the specialities we can look forward to tasting next time we visit.
‘This is my second restaurant – I wanted to try something different and offer a Croatian-style restaurant in the UK, and I have been here now since January. My place in Croatia is located in Rovinj, Istria. It’s called Tipico Old Town and it’s a small place with only 32 seats and a fully open kitchen. I took it over from a guy in 2012 and we have been very successful, serving traditional Croatian and Istrian food and wine.
‘Croatia is a big wine and olive oil producer, and Istria is home to countless wine and olive yards, so we came up with the name Black Olive Grill. I run the front of house and that’s where I feel right at home. I have been working in restaurants since I was 15 (I am 36 now) and have worked in Croatia, Austria, Ireland – in many different places, cuisines and styles. I come from a chefs family – both my mom and dad are chefs – and I cook myself, so with my passion for food and drink, I’m working with my new staff to get the best of all of our knowledge to the plate.
‘With all my knowledge from the places I have worked at, I created a good menu to open Black Olive Grill, with classic dishes and good flavours, and I am going to work very closely with my new chefs to create new menus for the autumn and winter and the Christmas season, then with time we will introduce different traditional Croatian dishes to the menu. Croatia is a small country, but over the years it has been influenced with different cultures, religions and other factors, and has developed a huge diversity in food.
‘For any good steak in any country in the world, you need to have good-quality meat – if the quality isn’t there, then no seasoning or marinade is going to fix it. Second, a chef needs to know how to season to enhance the flavours of the steaks even more and how to cook them properly! In Croatia, at Tipico, we do all our steaks New York style – pan fried – as this gives the meat more flavour the just the charcoal, so at the Black Olive we will work on that too.
‘The wines are also going to change with time as we progress. At the moment, we serve a white Kozlović Malvazia from Istria – a light wine from close to Rovinj – and a red Teran Franc Arman, also a native grape from Istria. We also serve another red, Dingać Plavac Matuško, from one of the south Dalmatian islands, which uses the original grape for the Californian Zinfandel, and we serve a Muskat Kabola from Istria as our sweet dessert wine.’