As part of Future Food’s European projects and our most recent project in Budapest, our team sets off to Belgrade to explore what the city has to offer.
There’s plenty of reasons to visit Belgrade, The capital of the Republic of Serbia, but as usual for us, it’s all about food!
Belgrade is the natural meeting point of the rivers, Sava and Danube. It is a very cosmopolitan city as you’d expect in a Central/Eastern European Capital and the raw, hard streets speak a story of the history of its people. But under the hard exterior, you’ll find that the people open up as soon as they realise you’re a visitor. Many can, and are willing to speak English and are happy and proud to demonstrate their culture, food and beverages (the infamous Rakija). And food is a big part of the culture!
During this visit I have eaten the best, ripest and reddest tomatoes I have ever tasted and onions that are so sweet and softly flavoured that you could eat them like an apple! Traditional meze of homemade cheese & prosciutto and are frequently offered to house guests along with rakija or slivavica, a homemade fruit brandy. Dinnertime conversation usually revolves around food, the best way to prepare it, eat it, where the best (fill in the food type!) can be found and who has the best price.
Whilst almost every corner of every block of the white city (Beograd) has some kind of “Restoran” or “Kafana” where the menus are simple and of a homemade nature, the city centre is truly cosmopolitan and has some great hospitality, fantastic food and generous, warm service.
There are three or four key areas in the City Centre that are heavily anchored with food and hospitality. The first is Knez Mihailova that runs from Kalamagden (the ancient walled city ruins) through to Terrazia. This Central City Mall harbours the world’s big high street fashion brands and these are heavily punctuated with cafes, restaurants, snacks and casual eateries.
EVERY one of them has externalised food and hospitality, or to use a familiar term - offers an al fresco dining experience. Al fresco dining is not only popular, it is just about a national sport. The aim of the game is to be seen, whilst watching the rest of the world go by. Traditionally clad wait staff in crisp starched shirts defy the 35 degree heat and humidity to deliver slick efficient service.
Many of the al fresco environments have high degree of customer comfort applied to them. In addition to the sun parasols many outdoor areas have “misters,” fans and heavy plantings of grape vines or other trees. Now if there is one thing I’ve learned this trip, it’s that a good grape vine, with heavy foliage will take more heat out of the mid-summer sunshine than a multitude of fans and man-made appliances!
Manufaktura is a new breed of hospitality that embraces the new arts of styling, placemaking and visual merchandising and delivers warm hospitality from within this new framework for a new breed of Serbian hospitality. Live music and entertainment light the al fresco dining area up
Without doubt, the best outdoor area, has to go to Boho Bar in Kalamagden. Situated on the top turrets of the ancient city (did they have rooftop bars in the 1300s?) and overlooking the Sava and the Danube, this is an impossibly romantic spot that has been beautifully dressed as a contemporary cocktail bar. Bar service however is almost unheard of and the beautiful young waiters and waitresses glide about and take your order with “compulsory” table service.
Strahinica Bana at the south-western edge of the City Centre and is the place where the trend setters go to see and be seen! This is a collection of the hottest café spots in Belgrade with appropriately attired glamourous Belgrade socialites and their entourages.
Of course, it would be hard to talk of the hospitality of Belgrade without mentioning Skadarlija. The Bohemian neighbourhood within the city has played host to poets, drunks, intellectuals, musicians, students and tourists for a thousand years. Fortunately, the advancing “fronts” of concrete and glass have left this treasure and its cobbled streets untouched. Many of (& I want to say “all of”) the restaurants have traditional Serbian bands every night of the week. Their waltzing, hypnotic rhythms are hard to ignore and the heady mix of great food, beverages and hospitality makes for a quintessential experience for any visitor to the Serbian capital.
Images of Belgrate
(Credit: Allan Forsdick & Palachinka)
Cover Image: Manufaktura
All other photo thanks to Allan Forsdick at Future Food