Giaxa Restaurant, Hvar: Traditional Dining with an Artistic Flair
Giaxa Restaurant in the heart of Hvar town is a traditional dining experience with a modern-artistic flair.
I first came across Giaxa three years ago, it instantly stood out as a restaurant worth investigating. Like many restaurants in Hvar it is tucked down an alley-way, but unlike many Giaxa holds something of a magnetic allure. The setting is bright and inviting during the day, while by night it creates a moody, intimate environment, befitting the setting of a 15th Century Palace; oh, I didn’t mention that Giaxa resides in the late noble family Jakša’s palace (slightly renovated of course)? Well now you know, the word Giaxa also derives from the Venetian-dialect of the word Jakša. Ah, Croatia, how I love thy history.
Though Giaxa is within the original stone walls, it has managed to add a modern, bold statement; when you first step inside the restaurant, you will be met by a dramatic contrast – bright artworks by local artist Darko Šoša fill the space, creating a beautiful harmony between art and history, traditional and modern. And this is exactly how I would describe their menu – a traditional menu, with a modern-artistic flair.
Even though Giaxa is just off the main Piazza, it still manages to blend itself into its surroundings, remaining somewhat inconspicuous and away from heavy foot-traffic. So, sitting on the outside tables is still pleasant; however, if you wish for more privacy, there are tables inside as well as a gorgeous little courtyard adjoining.
Now, the food? Chef Ivan Vukasović Lončar recently took over the Head Chef position after years working around the world. Like many restaurants in Hvar now, he is leading a young and enthusiastic team, all eager to prove themselves and grow within the industry. Lončar’s menu is a delightful read and has something for all tastes. They also pride themselves on using fresh, local produce and seafood – turning a downside of island living (low access to many items) into an advantage.
If you like to have a true gastronomy experience, I always recommend sharing a starter or two to begin with. The cold seafood platter is perfect for two people, with likes of carpaccio, oysters and octopus, the beef carpaccio with black truffles and parmigiano is also a house specialty and an absolute work of art; or for a warm starter, the prawn safron risotto is cooked to creamy perfection with just the right, subtle hint of safron to balance to the dish.
For mains they have a wonderful selection of fresh fish and seafood as well as many traditional dishes like ‘gregada’ – a very simple way to prepare food, fresh fish, potatoes, olive oil, white wine and a few herbs. This is something we often prepare at home and it reminds me that sometimes, going back-to-basics, is what we need to appreciate food in its simplest form. They also have Pašticada on their menu, another traditional dish, slow-cooked stew with red wine, herbs and prošek (sweet wine) to add to the depth and richness of the dish.
However, it is hard to go past lobster linguine. Many restaurants do this, but not all do it well. The linguine is perfectly ‘al dente’ and the lobster, cooked in the fresh tomato and white wine sauce, will melt in your mouth.
But take your time and save some space, because there are still deserts. The Pastry Chef Hijacinta Aga has also created a menu which ties in with the rest – a beautiful modern-take on traditional deserts. There is a gorgeous, understated almond and orange cake, or for the more decadent they have a light and fluffy chocolate soufflé.
Overall, Giaxa is the complete dining experience, the setting is beautiful and intimate, the menu is unique, thoughtful and well-executed and the staff are attentive without being intrusive. Not to mention you get a free art exhibition while you dine, in your surroundings and on your plate.
Giaxa has a very strong reputation for dining in Hvar, so I strongly recommend reserving a table, particularly during high season, you can find their website and contact information, along with the full menu here.