Saturday, 12 September 2020

Djurina Hiza in Varazdinske Toplice Named Best Restaurant in Continental Croatia

September 12, 2020 - 2020 is turning out to be quite a year for Nikola Bozic and the Djurina Hiza team in Varazdinske Toplice, now named the best restaurant in continental Croatia. 

How many people do you know who are having a good year in 2020? They seem to be few and far between. I know one guy, and his good year has nothing to do with luck, and everything to do with hard work, vision and determination. 

And the results are remarkable. 

Given the amount of time I have spent with Nikola Bozic this year, it is perhaps surprising that I had only seen him once before this year - for an excellent dinner at his Djurina Hiza restaurant - since our first meeting in Zagreb four years ago. 

That changed in 2020, as I found myself with one of Croatia's true gourmet visionaries in a variety of situations - and locations - watching a fantastic success story unfold as everyone around went into lockdown, and restaurants laid off their staff. 


An invitation to dinner in February from legendary gourmet blogger and all-round hero, Ribafish, meant a second visit to the restaurant, which is renowned for its high-quality meat, and one of the few restaurants that regularly has diners from Zagreb driving out of the capital for lunch and dinner. 


And with the temptations of Nikola's dry-aged meat selection prominently on show in the restaurant, diners can feast on what is soon to be on their plates. 

The Hiza 2020 success story begins - for me at least - during the most depressing part of the year. Lockdown. What to do when you own a restaurant at a time when restaurants are closed, and people more or less confined to their houses? The answer for the majority of restaurants was to lay staff off, at least temporarily, then sit, wait and pray for the situation to improve. 

Not young Bozic...


I think I am correct in saying that his was the only restaurant in the whole country during lockdown that not only did not fire anyone, but actually hired more staff, as he adapted his business model to the new realities. The introduction of a nationwide steak delivery service, accompanied by other gourmet goodies such as quality olive oil, wine, burgers and natural juices, was a complete hit. Deliveries were across the whole country, from Osijek to Istria, and as far down as Makarska on the Dalmatian coast. 

The service brought plenty of media attention, and with it increased business to his core business at the restaurant in Varazdinske Toplice. So much business, in fact, that soon after reopening post-lockdown, Hiza recorded its best night's takings in its history. 

Crisis? What crisis?


Somehow I found myself in a car heading for Brussels and Munich with Nikola in mid-June as the borders reopened. If a national delivery service of quality Croatian products was successful, what about a European-wide service for Croatia's diaspora in various European cities? The take-up on the service, advertised on expat Facebook groups, was impressive, and slices of Croatian goodness were delivered to various addresses in the heart of Europe. 

New contacts were made, including the excellent Maison d'Istrie, an Istrian restaurant in Brussels. A relationship was formed, which will see Nikola return to the Belgian capital next month to present his food at a European street food festival. 

Speaking of street food, there was something to be salvaged from the summer season, and an innovative quality street food concept, in partnership with Katarina Vrenc, brought something a little different to various locations around Croatia. 

One only has to be in Nikola's presence for a minute when talking about food to see his passion for the very best quality and production methods. He has no time for fakers, and he is slowly realising that the best way to guarantee quality is to control the entire production process himself. 

"I am getting the first free-range Japanese Wagyu cows in Croatia next week. Want to come and see?"


A crazy notion from almost anyone else, but I knew he was deadly serious. And I knew it would be quite a story. And so it was that four black Japanese cows became the first residents of an abandoned village in Zumberak Nature Park, the first cows to graze there in more than 40 years. Learn more in Medjimurje to Zumberak: Transporting Croatia's 1st Free-Range Wagyu Cows.


September meant the Zagreb Burger Festival, where his Reshetka stand has been one of the most popular stands of all. Again. Last year's winner as best burger at the festival could well be repeated, as the Reshetka range of innovative burgers has been an unqualified success. 

But in the unlikely event that burger success eludes him, Nikola has another reason to celebrate today, as influential gourmet media Kult Plame Kamenice has just published its list of top 11 best restaurants in continental Croatia. And top of the list is... you guessed it. Djurina Hiza. You can read the full list here

Can you succeed in the hospitality industry in the middle of a pandemic? It is certainly not easy, but hard work, vision, a quality product, great team, and determination are qualities which are helping this man succeed. And with 3.5 months still to go in this unusual year, I wouldn't bet against more innovative stuff coming from Nikola. Especially after hearing some of his plans. 

I salute you, Sir! And we all look forward to the next chapter. 

You can follow the Djurina Hiza story on Facebook

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

The High Grounds Festival Ready to Rock in Varazdinske Toplice

July 29, 2020 - At a time when almost every event has been cancelled, the High Grounds Festival in Varaždinske Toplice lives on.

In northern Croatia, the town of Varaždinske Toplice is home to a forest in which The High Grounds Festival takes place. July 31 to August 2 are reserved for peaceful nature, high-quality music, lots of educational content, and good vibration features. "As a highlight of the festival is the exterior itself and alternative content that is not so much shown and referred to at festivals. The program is mostly in the woods with a large open meadow connected to the forest," event organizers told TCN.

Kako nam je bilo? / HG II from High Grounds Festival on Vimeo.

The program starts at 9 p.m., and the one can choose between two platforms; Mystic Forest and Base Ground. Depend on what kind of music people prefer, they can choose between House, Electronic, Funk, Soul, Groove, Tecno, Dub, Reggae.

After partying night, Reshetka International will be there to provide high-quality food and the craft beer is being served to you this year by the Udruga Pivara Sjever.  Check here TCN's review of Reshetka. The HG Festival also assures camping places for those who want to feel the event at its fullest. Through Saturday, there will be various lectures about hemp - history view, law issues, and medicine usage.

Kako nam je bilo? / HG IV from High Grounds Festival on Vimeo.

Sunday is the only day with free entrance, so make sure you don't miss the comic book workshop, board gaming, circus aerial skills workshop, and fairy of handmade products. The main message from organizers is that this year, the HG music and educational festival connects people in the shade of the forest and spreads messages of love, peace, and togetherness - which we all need.


Monday, 13 July 2020

Rešetka's Superior Summer Street Food Brings Fine-Dining Quality at Coastal Pop-ups

July 13, 2020 - In their first venture to the Croatian coast, Rešetka's summer menu brings fine-dining quality to seaside streets in 2020

Sometimes you just want a burger, a sandwich, or something you can just eat from your hands. But, just because you haven't got the time or can't be bothered with the faff of fine dining, that doesn't mean you're volunteering for a drastic drop in quality.

That's where Rešetka comes in. Street food providers renowned for sourcing and selling only quality meats, the grill specialists have been a highlight of Zagreb Burger Fest and several pop-ups in recent times. This summer, the experience that has won over the Croatian capital's burger connoisseurs can be found instead along the coast.

Rešetka owner Nikola Božić has embarked on the summer venture with chef Katarina Vrenc. You'll be able to find their new concept 'Fine Street Food by Reshetka & Katarina Vrenc' at several pop-up locations along the Adriatic this summer. They'll be visiting Istria, Kvarner and Dalmatia, including the islands of Cres and Pag.

Rešetka and Đurina Hiža are renowned for using only high quality, locally sourced produce within their dishes including, this year, beef from a hybrid of Japan's famed wagyu and Holstein, sourced from the first range herd of its kind in Croatia © Rešetka

With a commitment to cooking only with high quality, locally sourced produce and ingredients, the team is known to use premium meats and seafood for their dishes. This year they will offer beef from a hybrid of Japan's famed wagyu and Holstein, sourced from the first range herd of its kind in Croatia. Within a summer menu that combines the best of continental and coastal Croatian ingredients, you'll also find superior snacks such as rich pork belly paired with octopus.

Nikola Božić is also the proprietor of Đurina Hiža near Varaždinske Toplice. As recently covered in TCN, thanks to some quick and positive thinking, though the restaurant closed for a while in the Coronavirus lockdown, Nikola was able to adapt his business in order to remain successful during the period; relying on high quality, locally sourced ingredients, he became a bridge between the small producers he'd spent time finding, and those shopping online from their homes. Their 'Deda Goes Around the World' service delivered meats and other produce throughout Croatia during the restaurant's temporary closure.

If you're planning to visit Dubrovnik, Biograd, Pula, Premantura or Split this summer and can't face another pizza slice, kebab or burger of questionable origin, be sure to look out for the Rešetka logo. Fine Street Food by Reshetka & Katarina Vrenc will visit Plavica Bar on island Cres on 7 & 8 August and the Michelin-starred Boškinac on Pag in the middle of September. Further inland, they'll also be available at the High Grounds Festival in Varaždinske Toplice on 31 July, 1 & 2 August. Grab yourself a handful of delicious food and pick a spot to watch the stunning Croatian sunset, the Adriatic coast and its breathtaking backdrop has long been lacking exactly this standard of street food to accompany.

© Rešetka

Monday, 29 June 2020

How Djurina Hiza Owner Overcame Corona Crisis and Created A New Brand

June 29, 2020 - Nikola Bozic, the owner of Djurina Hiza near Varazdinske Toplice, did not fire his workers during the corona crisis. Moreover, he added more employees to his team. His restaurant uses home-grown produce, avoids large-scale production, and produces as much as it can within the family and facility.

Nikola is not afraid of a new wave of the coronavirus because, with the project 'Deda Goes Around the World', he started the delivery of family products and expanded his business. He calls his team his family, saying he could not have progressed without them. The entire family helps in the production, from wine to homemade juices. Through his work, he creates more and more cooperation at the European level. spoke with Nikola about his great success in the middle of a pandemic.

You have covered 30,000 kilometers in 3 months. Did you expect so much work?

"When the restaurants were closed, I didn’t want to fire my people. I have a great team with me, we are like family, and I went with my head through the wall. My team is a great support to me, and I know they work hard when they send me videos about grilling in the middle of the night. If they weren't so persistent, I couldn't be either. Fortunately, the number of deliveries started to grow very quickly. I delivered all over Croatia, but also abroad. I am offered many opportunities."


Luka Šalamun

Where does the meat come from?

"I am starting to raise the most expensive cattle in the world. The grass will grow on Zumberak, as they must have a good diet. I can't watch cows locked in small barns, I want to act humanely in everything, so I will be guided by the Swiss model - 1.5 hectares per cow. The animals will not be under stress. I have regular partners from whom I supply the necessary products, but I am constantly making new contacts with ideas for collaborations, including meat, wine, beer, etc."

What does an ideal burger look like?

"The ratio of bun and meat should be 1:3. If the burger weighs 180 grams, then the bun should weigh 60 grams. The lowest I went with the weight of the bun was 80 grams, and I didn’t dare go any further. People are not used to it. It is difficult to combine all the parameters of the burger that should be met - toppings, sauces, buns, meat, methods. I tried grilling on a gas grill, which is a bit harder for me because it only heats up to 280 degrees and the fat melts at 320. Everything I know I learned by reading and studying."

Nikola owns 13 grills, including four different types - kamado, smoker, gas and kettler.


Luka Šalamun

Do you drive all deliveries yourself?

"I hired Nikola, who will drive deliveries around Croatia, and I will drive abroad. I can’t get everything by myself because we really have a lot of work to do. I drive my products to Munich, Brussels, where people are interested and where there are a lot of Croatians. He will also be in charge of running the festival stands when they return. We will continue with everything we have done so far."


Luka Šalamun

Nikola is proof that a crisis does not have to mean doom, and he is aware that his business can only grow. He creates new products every day, studies, and says he wants to create an even bigger base with people willing to collaborate.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Harpist Doris Karamatić Delights Audience at 2018 Aquafest

The concert was held at the Roman basilica in Varaždinske Toplice.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Wellness and Heritage: Varazdinske Toplice

When you mention wellness and heritage in Croatia, Varazdinske Toplice is not to be missed. 

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Wine Roads of Croatia: Varaždinske Toplice

TCN's look at the wine roads of Croatia continues on August 4, 2016, with a visit to top spa resort, Varazdinske Toplice.