Island News

Artichoke Wine Bar and Restaurant: Raising the Jelsa Gourmet Level (Photo Special)

By 16 September 2017

When I first bought my house in Jelsa back in 2002, there were plenty of restaurants to choose from. I had an early favourite (which continues to be excellent - Faros, in the old town), but after a while it was hard to find something new. The Dalmatian menu seemed to be the basis of absolutely everything, and while one restaurant might have a house special or two, the variation in menu theme was extremely limited.  

It has been a joy to watch the changes that have occurred on the Jelsa gourmet scene over the years, and things got so exciting that a French chef even opened a French restaurant one summer. He was sadly ahead of his time, and he ended the season making pizzas before closing down after one season.  


When I heard of plans to open a fine dining restaurant and wine bar on the old town waterfront a few years ago, I was intrigued, but also a little disheartened for the owners. Restaurants come and go, and while something new in the offer is always welcome, Jelsa simply didn't have the clientele to support such a project. I was invited down to have a look at the place before it opened, and I was truly stunned.  So much attention to detail, quality fittings and expensive investment - this was a project which did not deserve to be a one season wonder.


The owners, who also run the popular Mojito cocktail bar across the water, had done their homework and were in this for the longer term. Jelsa was in the process of a huge infrastructure upgrade, which has cause considerable disruption over the past few years, but the results are beginning to show for themselves. The newly extended riva is now more full of life than it ever was, and it has become a serious rival to the pjaca as a place to be. With the moving of the catamaran, the harbour will be much more welcoming for sailboats, and sailors love to eat quality food. And here on the banks of the old town, a gourmet delight awaits.  


I was particularly impressed with the philosophy of Artichoke and its stated aim of supporting local winemakers and food producers of the island. In an effort to promote Hvar, the wine island, Artichoke has the biggest selection of Hvar wines available by the glass, including several producers I had not heard of. Similarly with the approach to food, where 90% of the ingredients come from the island, with only quality items such as truffles being imported to the island, as they do not grow locally.  


It has been a pleasure to watch the Artichoke team grow in confidence over the last three years. Running a cocktail bar and a fine dining restaurant are two completely different things, of course, and through a little trial and error, they have got themselves firmly on the right path. This has been an excellent season for them by all accounts, and with Jelsa infrastructure due to be completed for 2018, the future is looking very bright indeed.


My occasional visits to Artichoke are always accompanied by an enthusiastic chat with owner Dino, who is constantly looking to improve the menu and to introduce new ideas. The food presentation is now excellent, as has been the food the last time I ate there, while the selection of wines has enabled me to try and get to know new producers. 


The Artichoke season is still in full swing, and so if you are coming to Jelsa, why not drop by and check it out for yourself? And if you are not in the area, but have to wait until 2018 for the Artichoke experience, here are some dishes which might get your mouth watering and you booking a ticket to Jelsa for next summer. 

The menu certainly looks nothing like those old Dalmatian menus of 15 years ago, and I was impressed to hear that Artichoke also offers a special Chef's Menu, which changes daily, and which is subject to the inspiration of the chef that day. The gourmet scene in Jelsa is changing...

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