Get beyond Belgrade to taste the authentic side of Serbia

Get beyond Belgrade to taste the authentic side of Serbia

With an emphasis on fresh, organic, high-quality ingredients, Serbia champions a farm-to-fork culture. No matter where you go, you are sure to come across exceptional flavours – and always in epic quantities.

I start my journey in Serbia’s second city, Novi Sad. Overlooked by the striking 17th Century Petrovaradin Fortress, the old town unfurls like a labyrinth of intimate corridors and sky-high spires. No wonder it’s destined to be European Capital of Culture 2021.

The iconic clocktower at Petrovaradin Fortress in the Serbian city of Novi Sad (J. Tufekcic/PA)
The iconic clocktower at Petrovaradin Fortress in the Serbian city of Novi Sad (J. Tufekcic/PA)

But the foodie highlights lie beyond the city, so I head 30 minutes south in the direction of Vinska Kuća Kovačević restaurants in Krstašice. Featuring grapes grown in Fruška Gora National Park, I’m excited to sample their five-wine tasting menu (vinarijakovacevic.com; five wine tasting menu 2,900 RSD/£22 per person). I delight in their zesty 2010 Brut, their 2017 Orpheline Riesling and, with my gooey cream slice dessert, their 2017 Bermet – this secret Serbian recipe contains herbs and spices and was, I’m told, the dessert wine of choice aboard the Titanic.

It’s at this table that I learn flavour is only half the story in Serbia; mealtimes here are as animated as Roman theatre battles. Forks probe from all sides of the table, stabbing at mounds of oozing goat’s cheese, crunchy vegetables and hunks of juicy sausage. Drinks are spilled, conversations get heated, and every morsel evokes the taste of the local, authentic side of local culture.

One of the many fresh, locally-sourced dishes served at Vinska Kuća Kovačević (Jonjo Maudsley/PA)
One of the many fresh, locally-sourced dishes served at Vinska Kuća Kovačević (Jonjo Maudsley/PA)

I hit the road again. No journey through Serbia is complete without a visit to its capital, Belgrade, which is shaking off its troubled history to re-establish itself as a punky party city. With its contemporary coffee shops and ornate, antique architecture, Belgrade embodies Serbia’s ambition to establish itself as a top European destination – and that, of course, means plenty to delight the taste buds, too.

I enjoy a wonderful dinner on the banks of the Danube at the historic Stara Carinarnica in New Belgrade (staracarinarnica.com; mains from 680 RSD/£5). The menu is rich with local fish, but before I’ve had a chance to consider it properly, I’m bombarded with samples of local rakia.

What is rakia, you ask? A nostril-stinging, gut-cleansing brandy, available in dozens of different flavours. Every Serbian, I’m told, starts their day with a good measure, and with so much delicious choice on offer, I can understand why.

Strolling around Belgrade, you can’t miss the waft of fresh coffee. Kafeterija is the perfect place to try some (Jonjo Maudsley/PA)
Strolling around Belgrade, you can’t miss the waft of fresh coffee. Kafeterija is the perfect place to try some (Jonjo Maudsley/PA)

The next morning, I head further south into the Morava Valley. Here, I discover the Aleksandrović Winery, one of the most renowned in Serbia – not only for its exceptional wine, but for the impressive history of the brand.

After the original vineyard collapsed during the communist regime, it was revived in 1992 and now produces half a million litres of wine per year. My cellar tour concludes with a feast of fresh food and a six-wine tasting session, featuring the 2017 Prokupac, made with a unique Serbian grape, and the sumptuous 2018 Triumph, a sparkling wine often found at the table of the Serbian royal family (vinarijaaleksandrovic.rs; six wine tasting menu 2,900 RSD/£22 per person).

I spend my final night in Belgrade at Ambar, a glam restaurant on the banks of the river Sala with a breathtaking view over the glitzy heights of New Belgrade (ambarrestaurant.com; eight course menu 2,900 RSD/£22 per person). On a weekend evening, expect to find it packed with the local hoi polloi sharing stories over rakia. Eight courses consist of warm breads and freshly churned dips, fried zucchini, pulled cabbage salad and beef sirloin, each with a memorable flavour that firmly establishes Serbia as my new favourite destination for fresh, local, organic (and, of course, delicious) food.

How to plan your trip…

Regent Holidays (regent-holidays.co.uk) offers an eight-day fly-drive holiday to Serbia from £1,150pp.

Fly with AirSerbia (airserbia.com) to Belgrade from £225 return.

Hire a car with Enterprise (enterprise.co.uk/en/car-hire/locations/serbia.html) from £50.28 per day.

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