Authentic experience. It is an expression thrown around by tourists all around the world – “we just want to find an authentic experience”, especially when it comes to cuisine. Here is the conundrum – if you are visiting busy tourist destinations, then chances are, the town and restaurants have set themselves up to please tourists. ‘Give the people what they want’ – fresh fast food, fine dining, cheap eats, traditional cuisine with a modern-twist…
I am not knocking it, I am all about gastronomy, but I think people need to understand that finding an ‘authentic or traditional dining experience’, is not necessarily so easy. However, there are still a few restaurants along the coast, which, regardless of the numbers, have managed to create and maintain as ‘authentic’ an experience as you can find – Hora in Stari Grad is one of them.
Stari Grad is one of the oldest towns in Europe. Neolithic tribes first settled the area between 3500 – 2500 BC, before it was officially settled and inhabited by the Ancient Greeks in 384 BC. After founding what is now modern-day Stari Grad and naming it Faros (mostly likely after Paros), the Greeks turned their attention to some 80-hectares of nearby fertile land – the UNESCO Protected Stari Grad Plain. This land produced the majority of their food and farming practises have continued on the Stari Grad Plain uninterrupted since 384 BC (no small feat). It is the most fertile and largest cultivated land among all of the Mediterranean islands, and the original layout has been carefully maintained over 24 centuries by the preservation of the stone walls.
Credit: Hora, Stari Grad Plain
The Stari Grad Plain was also known as Ager or Hora, can you see where this is leading? Agroturizam Pharos or Hora, stands proudly in the heart of the Stari Grad Plain – one of the few buildings present. It is an eco-farm owned and run by the Zuvela family.
I first visited Hora in 2012 and I was instantly in love. At the time, I was a guide on a ‘party boat’, our itinerary was the standard island-hopping itinerary they still do today, a new destination every day, from Split to Dubrovnik and return. You take in the main highlights of central Dalmatia, but you are on the same route as everyone else – in the heat and the crowds; which is exactly why Hora was such a welcome surprise.
A mere 7-minute drive from Stari Grad and you enter another world. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by any number of animals roaming the farm – a dog, donkey, rooster… as you step out onto the grounds, you are met by the expansive Stari Grad Plain, with no other buildings around to impede your view, you will take a deep inhale and lose yourself in nature for that brief moment.
Credit: Dragana Niksic
The Zuvela family proudly grow all their own, organic products – even their restaurant Marinero, in Hvar town, receives its produce from the farm. Which makes it, perhaps the only restaurant on the island to grow 100% of its own food.
Their speciality? They offer wine tastings, where you can try – Bogdanuša (a native grape variety to Hvar), Posip, Cuvee White, Rose or Barrique Plavac Mali and while you do so, order a plate of their homemade cheeses, pršut, sausages and olive oil. But save some space for the main reason everyone comes here – Peka.
Peka is a traditional meal of typically lamb or veal, cooked with potatoes, vegetables, olive oil and maybe a touch of rosemary, under an iron dome bell beneath glowing embers. When I go up to the village with my husband's family, this is what we will often cook. While Peka is a dish you can order (in advance) in a lot of restaurants along the coast; there are very few restaurants which offer the setting and ambience of Agroturizam Pharos. I mean, come on, you are literally sitting in the middle of a UNESCO Heritage protected site, eating from land that the Ancient Greeks first cultivated. If this doesn’t spell authentic, I don’t know what does.
Will there be many people there? Yes. Alas, this is the blessing and the curse of tourism. Agroturizam Pharos has only grown in popularity since I first visited five years ago and they have bench seating to accommodate large groups; but in season, you will be hard-pressed to find a quiet restaurant. On the positive side, with no other buildings around, you will not have hordes of scantily-clad tourists walking past while you dine or any doof-doof music to contend with. Just you, with your family or friends, sipping on your glass of wine, watching the sunset over one of the greatest testaments to the agriculture of the Ancient Greeks.
Credit: Tash Pericic, clients from Brazil I took to enjoy this gorgeous setting.
If this sounds like an experience you want, then book your table in advance. You can find more information on Hora, Agroturizam Pharos and contact details here.