UJE Oil Bar in Split, Croatia, is an olive oil bar and delicatessen aimed at promoting top quality local produce and the easy, laid-back Croatian lifestyle.
In a nutshell:
If you’re looking to sample Croatian cuisine then UJE Oil Bar is the place to go. Croatia has always been famous for its olive oil production (although their Greek and Italian neighbours might disagree) and this is what this little bar-cum-bistro seeks to promote. Every dish incorporates a twist of olive oil in some shape or form. Whether that be in the sweet butter for your bread or the drizzle for your grilled meat, you’ll find it in, on, or combined with almost everything on the menu here.
What they’re cooking:
As you would expect from a seaside town like Split, freshly caught fish features heavily on the menu (the octopus looked particularly appetising). But if you’re not a seafood fan, there are also plenty of vegetarian options (grilled Mediterranean veg, etc) and a variety of meat dishes (veal liver with onion jam and minty lamb burgers, among others) on offer too.
Setting and atmosphere:
The far wall is lined with hand carved walnut cubbyholes. Vials of travarica (brandy made from herbs), ceramic cruets filled with olive oil infusions, Dalmatian honey liquors, stacks of fig cakes wrapped in rough, brown paper and bottles of local wine crowd these dark wooden shelves. Waxy wheels of Zigljen (an award winning hard Croatian cheese made from a mix of goat, sheep and cow’s milk) are propped up against the exposed stone wall in one corner while strings of garlic, dried chilis and legs of Dalmatian Pršut (dry cured ham) hang from the celling in another.
The lighting is low and warm and the roof is covered in old quaint newspaper cuttings. Extra wooden tables spill out on to the quiet cobbled alley, each decorated with little pots of olive tree saplings and a chunky candle to be lit when dusk falls.
Romantic would be the first word that comes to mind when describing this place. The rustic, cosy setting of UJE’s Oil Bar gives off a certain air of intimacy and you wouldn’t be disappointed if this was the restaurant you picked out for date night.
Do try the olive oil tasting platter. You’re given a big loaf of fluffy white bread to dip into a variety of different oils, some seasoned, some not. The highlight of the platter is an olive oil and honey butter which, if you haven’t tasted before, is guaranteed to leave you wondering why we don’t stock this wonderful medley at home. The sweet vanilla-y flavour and silky texture makes for a dreamy combination. The butter also provides a pleasant contrast to the slightly bitter taste of the platter’s salted extra virgin olive oil.
Another one to go for is the pork neck. It’s delicious. But don’t tuck in straight away. Leave a little time for the meat to rest and cool. Given a minute or… five, the pork will soften up and become wonderfully tender. The olive oil drizzle will also infuse and soak into the meat developing the rich fatty flavour of the pork even further.
The wine list is brief but full of regional gems. If you’re dining on the pork neck then the Alba Malvazija Matoševic is a good one to go for. It’s an exceptionally drinkable Istrian white wine which boasts a slight bitter almond aftertaste.
Likes and dislikes:
The service can be a little hit and miss. We asked for our bill three times and in the end just got up and handed the waiter the our money on the way out. However, despite this minor hiccup, the waiters were very chipper throughout the night and full of wine-pairing recommendations (exactly what you want in a foreign country).
This is the type of place that makes you want to go back for more. It’s relaxed, laid-back atmosphere and great food exceeded all expectations, and out of all the other restaurants we tried in Split (there were a fair few!) this was by far our favourite. Mains start from 70kn which translates to just under £8 so it’s well worth your money and time.
Dominisova 3, Split, Croatia