The first EatFIFA of 2013 took a crowd of twelve to the outer limits of London’s sprawl to find a dedicated Croatian restaurant. An hour on the Piccadilly line (for me, not for Adam, who lives conveniently locally) and we found ourselves at Acton Town, ten minutes’ walk from which is a little restaurant called Riviera. From the outside, it could be mistaken for a greasy spoon, however it is like the Doctor’s Tardis on the inside, and surprisingly spacious and modern.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the charismatic owners Dara and Tomislav, quite possibly the loveliest people in Acton. Never before has EatFIFA been showered with so much attention, although we were admittedly the only customers – and would remain so for the rest of the evening. The night kicked off with a round of drinks, including some distinctly un-Croatian bottles of San Miguel, before Dara came round and took our order for starters. Now, at this point, it must be made clear that Riviera’s menu isn’t entirely Croatian. It is a mix of Mediterranean staples, with four or five traditional Croatian dishes. Dara and Tomislav, however, are proud Croats and that was already enough for us.
To kick off the Croatian feast, a plethora of dishes found their way onto Dara’s scribbled notepad – whitebait, deep fried calamari, meat platter and a “Croatian salad”. This salad, being the only apparently national dish among the first course, looked suspiciously like a Greek salad, but I’m no professional food critic. The general consensus for the starters was positive – the fish dishes were cooked very well, including some well-seasoned whitebait. To accompany the food, Riviera pipes out some Eurovision-worthy Croatian retro-pop into the room – Dara tends to nudge the volume button up a couple of notches for her favourites, too.
On to the mains – a couple of steaks (a la Dalmacija, no less), pašticada, Dara’s very own grilled lamb recipe and a grilled sea bass were ordered. If I had one qualm then it was with the Croatian idea of a medium-rare steak – it was a little on the tough side. That aside, the sauce and side dish of sautéed potatoes were delicious. There was an air of envy when the fleshy sea bass was delivered to the table. That looked bloody good. A wide range of Croatian wine was on offer, including a (no doubt opinion-dividing) white by the name of “Zlatan”.
So, to finish off, we were treated to some of Tomislav’s snenokle, “eggs in snow” in Serbo-Croatian, a kind of meringue plunged into custard. We also had some rožata – Croatia’s answer to crème brûlée. Both were pleasant, but just lacking the wow-factor that other nations’ desserts had provided previously. All the food was helped down with a complimentary shot of pear liqueur Marasaka Kruskovac, which was delicious.
To the scoreboard…
Value For Money: 62.3
Dara and Tomislav hail from a country with a cuisine that’s hard to pin down, but they have created some very nice dishes in their small enclave in W3, enough to sneak them ahead of Portugal in our rankings. Pay them a visit!
Next stop – Greece.