It’s raining when we arrive at La Puntulina – the grey skies relentlessly sending heavy drops of rain onto the cobbled streets of the medieval town. A smattering of people are still out and about – negotiating umbrellas in the narrow spaces between buildings, presumably also seeking lunch.
We’d arranged our lunch at La Puntulina through the Istria Tourism Board and had scouted the restaurant location the night before on our way to our hotel – even in the evening light we could tell there was something special about the location, perched precariously on the rocks on a headland with unparalleled views across the harbour to Red Island. We’d seen pictures of tables and chairs literally inches from the water but, with the inclement weather, the outdoor eating area had been cleared. Ange was most disappointed, believing that if given half a chance I would end up in the water.
We deposit our umbrellas in a handy receptacle at the front of the restaurant and are shown to our table. We’ve got views straight out over the water and during our meal are treated to a view of various yachts, fishing boats and ferries plying the waters – which was surprising considering the bad weather.
To the meal! We start with an amuse-bouche of sardine and olive on bruschetta which sets the tone – from what I know about Croatian food, it’s going to heavily influenced by Italian cuisine.
The wine that accompanies the first course (the Kozlović Malvazija) is very much like a NZ Sauvignon Blanc to my palate – fruity and clean.
The starter is a variety of fish served different ways – salmon, pureed white fish, a delicate dollop of fried fish and shrimps accompanied with mini cherry tomatoes and rocket.
The Italian influence is proved by the pasta course – a handmade thick noodle called Pljukanci accompanying shrimps and scampi. We move on to the Radovan Malvazija Istarska – another local white, which is not quite as light on the palate, but a good match for the pasta.
The main comes and we see why La Puntulina has such a good reputation (4.8/5 reviews) – there are two different servings of battered fish. One is delicate and flaky, but the other has an olive crust and the saltiness of the olive matches the fish to perfection. Delicious! They’re accompanied by three different sauces – a sweet chilli, a pesto and a pink concoction which I’m not quite able to nail down.
But the dessert is where we are really wowed: I’m not sure what they call it, but it is a deconstructed mille feuille with a yellow custard creme and covered in berries. I try the “look at all that fruit – it must be healthy” line, but it is really decadence on a plate. Ange asks why the Italian/Croatian cuisine would have such an obviously French pastry. I tell her that the Croats served in Napolean’s army so maybe they spread it that way.
La Puntulina is not a cheap place to eat, and in the summer it becomes impossible to get into, but from our experience, it’s well worth the extra effort to get in and well worth the extra Euros for the quality. A brilliant dining experience that we both enjoy immensely.
Ange and I collect our umbrellas and head back outside. The rain has stopped and we make our way back home, avoiding puddles and taking care on the slick cobbles.