I have friends who research their forthcoming trips with the zeal of Francis Crick on the night before he cracked the DNA code. They can tell you about the population, climate and geopolitical history of the country; who its presidents have been; what its farmers grow; and how many times they have won Eurovision. They can wax lyrical about its local cuisine; its traditional dances; and the difficulty of pronouncing diphthongs in the local dialect. I am not one of these people. Don’t get me wrong – I am not the kind of traveller who books no hotels and shows up at a foreign train station at midnight with an optimistic attitude that “something will come up” as regards accommodation. I like to have my hotel carefully selected and booked; and often I like to have a couple of restaurants booked. But other than that, I quite like showing up in a foreign country with no preconceived expectations and a mind like a blank canvas waiting for the country to leave its unique imprint. That’s pretty much how I arrived in Montenegro. Montenegro is a small country on the Adriatic coast, sandwiched between the coasts of Croatia and Albania and directly opposite the Italian region of Puglia. The name literally means “black mountain” and it’s not hard to see where it comes from: mountains rise steeply and spectacularly up from the coast and the inland peaks that we flew over on our short but very pleasant flight from Belgrade were high enough to be covered in snow, even though it was already mid-April. We were lucky with the weather and the gloriously clear and sunny day afforded us fantastic views not only of the snowy peaks but also the dramatic coastline on our short but very comfortable Montenegro Airlines flight from Belgrade to Tivat. Tivat is situated at the far northern end of Montenegro’s coastline on the Bay of Kotor and from there it is only a half hour drive (depending on traffic!) to our destination of Buvda. Budva is a 2,500 year old walled mediaeval city around which a more modern town has sprung up. The surrounding coastal area is known as the Budva riviera and it is the centre of Montenegrin tourism, blessed with sandy beaches, clear blue waters and many restaurants and bars.
After a brief stop at our hotel to check in and freshen up, we set off for our lunch destination: the Dukley Beach Lounge across the bay from Budva old town in the Dukley Gardens residential complex. Dukley Beach Lounge is a chic, modern restaurant and bar located on a spectacular deck cantilevered out over the beach and aquamarine waters. There is no such thing as a bad table here – every table has a spectacular view over the bay and in summer there is a shuttle boat that brings diners across from the Budva marina. It is a venue that would not feel out of place in Cape Town, Barcelona or the Cote d’Azur with its clean lines and crisp white umbrellas and furnishings. I was already in love.
Having had our fill of the view, we turned our attention to the food. The head chef is Durga Misra who used to work under Eric Chavot at his Michelin-starred restaurant Brasserie Chavot in London, and he had put together a special menu for us that afternoon. On the normal menu, starters range from €6 to €18; mains cost between €15 and €20; and desserts are between €8 and €10. We started with my favourite dish of the meal: a spiced lamb terrine, wrapped in caul fat and served with hummus and salad of shredded cucumber, pickled red onion, radishes and herbs. I adored everything about this – from the gentle spiciness of the lamb to the kick of the hummus and the fresh crunchiness of the salad. It was served with warm flatbreads and excellent homemade chutney – such an assured, stylish dish using bold, rustic flavours and definitely my dish of the day. This was followed by turbot Grenobloise (a sauce of browned butter, capers and lemon) with a slab of creamy, cheesy polenta. The fish was excellent with a perfectly golden and crisp skin, and it went beautifully with the tangy sauce, while the cheesy polenta was a decadent slice of heaven. For dessert, we had an excellent creamy rice pudding with orange puree and raspberry jelly while Michelle had panna cotta topped with fresh strawberries, strawberry sorbet, ice cream and honeycomb. Both were light, refreshing and excellent (and photogenic!). We also enjoyed an excellent bottle of Macedonian wine – the unusual and spectacular Chateau Kamnik 2011 Vranec. The Vranec grapes are slightly dried before being vinified and the resulting wine is a whopping 17% alcohol with an intense, spicy nose and a palate of dark berries, plums and chocolate.
After lunch we were taken on a tour of the adjacent Dukley Gardens, one of a few residential developments by Dukley. Dukley Gardens cascades down the hillside to the ocean and consists of 202 stylish contemporary one, two and three bedroomed apartments ranging in size fro 80 to 212 square metres. There are also a number of duplex executive penthouses that span up to 535 square metres and boast spectacular decks for outdoor living. On site there is also a spa, a private beach, the Dukley Beach Lounge restaurant, a kindergarten school and a hotel, plus residents will enjoy a 24-hour concierge service, valet parking, childcare facilities, a private pool and a boat shuttle to Budva old town. I loved the stylish open-plan interiors, but most of all I loved the mesmerising views which the architects have cleverly maximised from every conceivable public and private area.
As I said, I arrived in Montenegro with no idea of what to expect, and I left extremely impressed. There are still signs of the conflict of the early 1990s to be seen, but it’s not hard to see why the tourism industry along the Budva riviera is thriving when it is dotted with pockets of world-class luxury and cuisine like Dukley Beach Gardens. I suspect this is very much what Croatia was like 20 years ago before it was discovered as a tourist destination, so my advice is to visit soon before the crowds arrive!
For more information on all the Dukley properties including Dukley Gardens, see the Dukley website.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy my other restaurant reviews or my review of another Dukley property, Dukley City Lounge in Belgrade. For other accounts of our lunch, please see my dining companions’ blog posts:
DISCLOSURE: I enjoyed this meal as a guest of Dukley but received no further remuneration to write this post. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own.
Dukley Beach Lounge
Tel: +382 69 160 000
E-mail: [email protected]