The best olive oils from the region
Knowledge of olive cultivation and oil processing was brought to the area of modern-day Croatia (primarily its coast and islands) by the ancient Greeks. In the Roman period, olive oil from Istria was regarded as one of the best from the entire Empire. In addition to written sources praising the high quality of Istrian olive oil, the Romans also left numerous remnants of ancient olive mills and amphorae along the entire western coast. Next to these remnants, olive plantations have been found with indigenous varieties such as Istrian bjelica, buža and karbonera. On the Brijuni Islands, there is a 1,600-year-old olive tree which still bears fruit.
Ideal conditions for olive growing
Thanks to its favourable climate, geographical location and type of soil, this area is ideal for growing olives and processing top-quality olive oil. As a result, the 2012 edition of the world's most respected extra virgin olive oil guide Flos Olei included 43 brands of extra virgin olive oil from Istria that are rated among the best in the world.
The olive branch has been a symbol of peace since ancient times, and olive oil – an indispensable ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine – is often called "liquid gold" due to its extraordinarily beneficial effects on human health (primarily because of its amount of unsaturated fatty acids). Due to the rather small size of olive groves in Istria, the production of olive oil here typically involves harvesting by hand, which ensures maximal preservation of the olives before processing, which takes place within 24 hours of the harvest. It is therefore no wonder that Istrian olive oils reach an average price of approximately € 10-20 for half a litre. A fresh olive oil festival takes place every year in Vodnjan at the end of the year, while there is an olive oil festival in Krasica in spring.
Superior olive varieties for high-quality oils
The leading local olive varieties are Istrian bjelica (the oil is of an intense golden colour with a touch of soft green, the smell is clear and reminiscent of freshly cut grass; the taste is elegant and strong and goes perfectly well with mushroom dishes; as a surprise, it is excellent when poured over vanilla or chocolate ice cream), buža (a popular oil characterised by a light green colour, strong fruity taste and a smell reminiscent of grass, artichoke and apples; a perfect match for raw fish, especially tuna, grilled fish and risotto with vegetables or seafood), karbonaca (also known as crnica, this variety gives a thick oil with a peppery sweet flavour which goes well with simple fish dishes, octopus, squid and tuna salad, but also with beans and chickpeas), and rosinjola (this gives a golden green oil characterised by an intense fruity aroma and bitter taste, an excellent match for chicken and turkey dishes, red meat, mushroom soup, mature cheeses and various types of pasta).
Italian varieties used to produce extra virgin olive oil that thrive in Istria are frantoio (a popular variety that gives a light green oil with a strong olive taste, the smell is reminiscent of almonds and aromatic herbs; it is characterised by a medium bitterness and strong peppery final taste; a perfect companion to strong red meat dishes such as steak, truffles, game, mature cheeses and wild asparagus), leccino (a refreshing light oil, the most widespread in the world, sometimes referred to as the 'Chardonnay among olive oils'; it is dark green in colour, smells of aromatic herbs, and tastes strongly of olives; of medium bitterness with a peppery touch, it goes well with raw fish and scampi, grilled squid and various salads), pendolino (a clear green colour and fruity smell, the taste is reminiscent of fresh grass, artichokes, mint and rosemary; bitter yet gentle, this oil is a perfect companion to cream soups and thick maneštre vegetable soups; it additionally enhances the taste of dishes with game, lobster and semi-mature cheeses), and ascolana tenera (a golden green colour, fresh aroma, balanced bitterness and piquancy; its taste is reminiscent of grass, oregano and tomatoes; it goes well with a wide range of dishes such as raw or cooked red meat and various pastas and vegetables; for a special experience, mix it with honey and add to fresh soft or hard cheese).
Olive oil improves the taste of every dish
As a top-quality ingredient, olive oil makes every dish even tastier and healthier. In the hands of the skilled chefs in Opatija's restaurants (one of them is Davor Capan, the renowned chef of the restaurant in the Hotel Ambasador), it becomes clear why olive oil has been known as 'liquid gold' since ancient times.
Located in Opatija
The five-star Hotel Ambasador offers top wellness, dining, lodging and service in a seafront setting.