At both a culinary and cultural level, Montenegro proves to be a pocket dynamo. It's barely one fifth the size of Ireland, but with a diversity of landscapes, cultures, dishes and experiences to rival nations many times bigger.
Incredible as it may seem, there are still parts of the world immune to the globalised wave of food, The rapidly-emerging destination, nestled on the breath-taking Adriatic coast between Croatia and Albania, is however rich with stellar local produce and an exciting, nascent dining scene.
Where to eat in Montenegro? Here are some tips to discover the country's gastronomy.
In Montenegro, popular dishes include gibanica or pie made with the aforementioned kajmak cheese and spinach, while kačamak is hearty and warming polenta with buttered potato and cheese.
Rastan is a dark green cabbage like cavolo nero which joins ham hocks and pork ribs in more slow-cooked stews, while pomegranates are found all over the country and made into a syrup which appears on pretty much every domestic table.
Veal and lamb are two of the most commonly-found meats and fresh fish from the peaceful and picturesque Skardar Lake, the largest in Southern Europe, also features, especially carp and trout.
A number of small family-run restaurants dot Lake Skardar, while the best way to visit them is on the leisurely small boats which pull up outside, allowing you to relax in the Montenegrin way.
Farm to Table
A farm-to-table experience in the mountains is a great way to discover the most authentic local food in Montenegro. Roadside stalls sell olive oil, apricots, watermelon and walnuts, but as you climb higher up, these disappear and the landscape gets wilder and even more beautiful.
In a valley with snow-capped peaks, out of nowhere comes a tiny ancient farmhouse. Totally self-sufficient, Milijanka and Misko Puletic are an elderly couple who have lived here all their lives and share an amazing lunch, all from produce within metres of their table.
First is a brilliant selection of cheese, made in the tiny kitchen. There’s sheet cheese which is always eaten within 12 hours of being made. There is Trappist goat and cow cheese made with mint, delicate and sublime, as well as kajmak or cow’s cream pressed and folded to become rolled cream sheets. Think Brillat-Savarin for comparison. Prosciutto is air-dried in their barn, tomatoes explode with umami and a delicious pie bursts with vegetables from their gardens.
But we haven’t even reached the main course of corba or slow-cooked young goat stew, served with floury potatoes. To finish, walnuts from the garden appear in a dessert called urmashica, while the lunch has been interspersed with shots of 50% alcohol home-made plum brandy called Rakia.
Rural Household Puletić
Gornje Lipovo, Kolašin Municipality, Montenegro
With the Adriatic coastline comes brilliant seafood. At the luxurious island retreat of Aman Sveti Stefan, around the bay from the resort of Budva, well-heeled local and international visitors enjoy some of the country’s finest ingredients and cooking in al fresco dining spots overlooking the azure waters below.
They enjoy char-grilled octopus, local fish cooked on the bone served tableside or Adriatic rock oysters. Their show-stopper, however, is another Montenegro classic of traditional lamb braised and roasted in milk.
Aman Sveti Stefan
Sveti Stefan, 85315, Montenegro
Seafood options also dot the Adriatic coastline and inland such as in the Bay of Kotor, around the ancient walled city of the same name. Monte Cristo is a charming restaurant adjoining a hotel of the same name which dates back to the 1200’s, where meals can be eaten al fresco in a shaded terrace.
Old Town, Kotor, 85330 Montenegro
Verige 65 sits outside the old town walls but is a regular draw for sensational views and a menu strong on carpaccio, octopus, smoked carp paté or a Montenegrin plate of prosciutto, smoked sausage and cheese from Njeguši.
19 E65, Kostanjica, 85330 Kotor Montenegro
Bars and nightlife
Understandably, the nightlife in the Adriatic resorts is by far the busiest and most popular in the country thanks to some huge clubs, bars and high-profile DJs flown in.
The town of Budva is popular and spots like Greco pack in the revellers, as does Top Hill which can accommodate up to 5,000 people for drinks and dancing all night long.
Topliski Put B.B. 85310 Budva, Montenegro
In the capital Podgorica, the rooftop bar at the Hilton is the top spot, with views across town, decent small sharing plates and excellent cocktails.
Bulevar Svetog Petra Cetinjskog Podgorica, Montenegro