Restaurant Review: Speeza in Hvar, Croatia
Courtesy of Channel 4’s Made in Chelsea, Hvar has a reputation for being a playground for ‘gorgeous’, rich holiday-makers, and, in parts, it is. The harbour is lined with million-pound yachts and there are plenty of swish establishments offering £10.00 gin and tonics-and that only gets you a single! But step away from the main strip and you’ll find a more authentic taste of Croatia.
Speeza is a small restaurant which specialises in ‘slow food’ – more on that later. It’s run by a family, who do their upmost to make you feel at home – so it helps that the restaurant is located right INSIDE their home! Their fairy-lit balcony offers room for around 12 diners, most of whom get a direct view into the kitchen. All staff members are related, and each one has a designated role, from chef to front of house and sommelier. They kindly invited my friend Gemma and I for dinner in mid-September.
Speeza’s menu, much like the restaurant is in many ways, is unconventional. They allow diners to ‘freestyle’, and choose whatever they fancy for starter or main. Our kind and quirky waiter, Antonio, took note of our preferred flavours and recommended suitable dishes. For starters, we were urged to try the smoked ham with fig jam and goats cheese salad.
The generous serving of smoked ham was light and worked well with the sweet jam. The goats cheese salad wasn’t the best I had had on my Croatian trip; I like my goats cheese creamy and thick, but this was rather sour and liquid-like. Thankfully, the freshly-baked basket of bread helped mop up the dressing.
Everything they serve is local to the island, but although the food mileage is fast, their cooking style is slow. Many of the main dishes have been stewed or baked for over 5 hours and it’s not just the cooking time that’s slow but the service too. The family want you to enjoy your food at a relaxed pace. Once you book a table, it’s yours until close, there’s no fast turnover here.
In the spirit of all things ‘slow’, Gemma ordered the 8-hour lamb risotto and I went for the slow-cooked tuna steak with polenta and salsa. The risotto was hearty and comforting and, although it didn’t look particularly appetising, you could taste the 8 hours of love which had gone into the preparation and cooking of this dish. Unfortunately, the tuna was dry and a little disappointing. A real shame as I’d heard such great things about the dish. On a more positive note, the salsa was zinging with flavour and the polenta crumbled nicely.
After seeing my disappointment, Antonio, who was visibly concerned, made it up to us by sending over some homemade chocolate cake. I like my cakes dense and this one was exactly that: packed with rich cocoa flavours and topped with a light, whipped cream.
Despite some of our dishes not being five star, I would recommend dining with Speeza. The concept of a family-run restaurant, which strictly uses local produce, is something we can all support. And, on an island with fast, buzzy, lively bars, it’s certainly nice to go slow for an evening.
Address: Vicka Butorovića 64, 21450 Hvar, Croatia
Phone: 00385 989177386