A Tale of Two Ivanas

Zagreb's food scene is as lively as ever – some brave and visionary people obviously see a window of opportunity in this wretched year.

It is always nice to see a new business open up, especially if it brings a refreshing breeze, if there’s a good story behind it, someone’s long-awaited dream come true. Recently, two interesting little places opened their doors, run by two ambitious and very capable young women. Both are named Ivana, and what’s even better, they are friends and support each other wholeheartedly. I am talking about Kut bistro and Neka jedu kolače boutique patisserie.

Slika 1. “Ivana and Grgo, the chefs and creative minds behind Kut.” Image credit: Taste of Croatia

In Croatian, Kut is actually labelled as zalogajnica, which has a ring of modesty about it, and simply means a place where you can grab a quick lunch, nothing fancy. It is tucked away in a passage connecting Varšavska and Ilica Street. Perfect because it is in the heart of the downtown bustle, yet so hidden and quiet. There are just a few outdoor tables and Kut is open for lunch only. When the food is sold out, they close. Every day there are three options, including a vege dish. The dishes are based on local, seasonal ingredients, but always with a touch of creativity. Kut is not afraid to serve grilled mackerel fillets with bulgur, for example. The atmosphere is always cosy and informal, and I still can’t tell if I love the food or the friendly staff better.

Slika 2. “Ivana on the right, and her assistant Andrea, in front of their workshop.” Image credit: Taste of Croatia

The mother of Kut is Ivana Bekavac, a young but experienced chef educated at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. Her talent, respect for quality ingredients and playful approach are reflected in each dish she delivers in collaboration with equally young and energetic sous-chef Grgo Bačelić. Although very serious and hard-working, you can tell they want to be different and have great fun just by looking at the menu board they post on Instagram every day.

Slika 3. “Plum frangipane tart is the autumn special at Neka jedu kolače.” Image credit: Neka jedu kolače FB

A Most Unusual Garden in Savska Street near Savski Bridge is a popular bar with a large terrace (and a treehouse!), one of the coolest places in Zagreb during the outdoor season. Just around the corner, the same house is now also home to Neka jedu kolače (Let them eat cake) patisserie workshop. The intriguing name is a brand, at first just an Instagram profile, created by Ivana Čuljak. And Ivana is a person as colourful and joyful as her cakes. As a cooking enthusiast, she took part in the first season of the Croatian MasterChef, then spent time travelling, learning and pursuing her interests. It turns out making people happy with desserts is her passion and she became a pastry chef. Apart for designing and baking ordered cakes for special occasions, Ivana regularly prepares all kinds of scrumptious and original desserts, depending on the ingredients she has at hand, and the inspiration she gets. The result is in the display cabinet every day in the bar; you can either eat it there or take it home.

Slika 4. “A totally different version of the usual calamari at Kut.” Image credit: Taste of Croatia

If you haven’t been to any of these two places yet, and want to try something new and exciting, I highly recommend both Kut and Neka jedu kolače. In fact, the experience can be combined, since Kut does not do desserts. Let the contagious positive energy of both Ivanas rub off on you.

Header image credit: Taste of Croatia

Author: Morana Zibar / Taste of Croatia