“We, the fishermen, are never satisfied. This is in our nature. Even my grandpa used to say – no, there’s no more fish. No more where that came from. My father Danilo said the same thing. That’s it. There’s no more fish in the sea, no more. And look at me now, doing the same thing. It’s over. No more fish…”
Well, despite the fact there’s no more fish in the Adriatic Sea, David Skoko has turned a small, family run tavern Batelina in Banjole next to Pula in one of the best restaurants in Croatia. And they only take cash, stay open as late as 5 p.m., don’t work on Sundays, and don’t carry some of the leading Istrian wines.
And as if that wasn’t enough, they serve fish offal – frog fish liver with figs in wine or shark liver pâté. Yes, you can get away with grilled white fish, but, really, the smartest thing to do is to let David come up with his “set of funny courses meal”.
Dab rolls in sesame. Spider crab, raw striped red mullet, boiled nurse hound offal. Reservations are a must even out of season. How have they done it? Really? Without compromising? Maybe this has something to do with David’s zen calm and Japanese-like precision in cutting.
Maybe it is the family heritage (fisherman father grilling, mother in the kitchen, other family members always around), honest work, and discipline. Batelina may be a tavern, but you won’t be struck with a usual Mediterranean easy-going attitude.
The atmosphere there is always full and a bit spiked; the whole operation runs smoothly, the house wine is good, the waiters are swift and savvy, the tattooed chef is nice, the family seems friendly, the check is more than fair, and the food… clear blue seas melting in your mouth – simple, crusty, fresh, innovative, strong, with just enough tradition to remind you where you are.