The restaurant at Lešić Dimitri Palace offers al fresco fine dining. Our ingredient-focused menu is inspired by what is available seasonally on land and at sea. Our Head Chef and Head Sommelier are united in their desire to create a unique but local dining experience for guests; together, they have developed a gastronomic identity that is rooted in the rich Dalmatian cuisine.
Our restaurant terrace stretches along the Old Town medieval wall, with panoramic views across the Pelješac channel and the Korčula archipelago.
Our Head Chef and Head Sommelier work in partnership to create an authentic Korčulan dining experience. Our service team is comprised of highly motivated and creative individuals and we are all united in our commitment to offer a genuine ‘taste’ of Korčulan culture.
Head Chef Marko Gajski
One of the most talented of the new generation of young Croatian chefs, Marko graduated from college as an IT engineer who developed strong passion for cooking. Within a few years he was appointed Head Chef at DiVino Restaurant in Hvar (2011-2014) from where he moved to become Head Chef at Perivoj Restaurant in Split (2015-2016). In 2014 he also spent time staging in London with Gauthier Soho, Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Hotel, and Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester Hotel
Head Sommelier Dražen Matković
Dražen has roots in Dalmatia but was raised in Slavonia. Having lived and worked around Korčula’s vineyards for over a decade, Dražen has speciality knowledge about Croatian vintages and local history, with particular emphasis on the unique grape varieties of South Dalmatia, Korčula island and the Pelješac Pennisula. He attended the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) in London and is an associate of WSET Croatia, representing the country in wine forums internationally.
Q & A
MARKO GAJSKI: Head Chef
DRAŽEN MATKOVIĆ: Head Sommelier
Is the relationship between Head Chef and Head Sommelier an important one?
It is extremely important because we believe passionately in paring our dishes with the correct wines and oils to create a perfectly balanced tasting experience.
Croatian wines are not well known outside Croatia. What can you tell us about the local wines?
Croatian wines have had a presence in Europe for centuries. This small island of Korčula - connected to the Pelješac Peninsula by a narrow sea channel - is a precious micro location, producing two exceptional, indigenous white grape varieties: Pošip and Grk. There are only eight producer of Grk, making on the average 35,000 bottles per season. The taste is elegant, pure and unique to the wine from these vineyards.
Does this grape variety grow anywhere else?
Because of the “best story ever” among all indigenous Croatian grape varieties Grk is planted more and more even outside of Island of Korčula but only Lumbarda village has sandy soil in its narrow valley that leads down towards the seashore – it’s an exceptional place. This is where the Grk grape variety originated and gives its bestThe Grk vine also only has a female flower so we have to grow a pollinator beside it. It’s a very fine, premium crop and can be traced back to the Greek agricultural colonists who arrived on this island in the 4th Century BC.
You have spoken about how the Palace Restaurant prides itself on creating dishes that are connected to Korčulan culture and myth – can you talk more about that?
We want to represent our experience here in Korčula, our unique history and maritime culture in our guest’s dining experience at the Restaurant.
For example, our famous cuttlefish ragu: Night And Day. This was born from the mythological story of the Greek Goddess who lost her ability to create darkness after giving birth to her son, Orpheus. The Mistress Cuttlefish, who was driven mad without the night, was eventually sung to sleep by Orpheus (he had divine, superhuman musical skills) and only then did she release her black ink. It was this ink that replenished the powers of the Goddess and restored balance to the world. Our dish is a tale of balance and harmony; everything in life has two faces.
We want to create a dining experience that represents the harmonious balance of oppositional – yet complimentary – elements in this world: we need such dichotomies to survive. The black cuttlefish ragu is served in a clear glass with the sun yellow, whipped potato. Accompanied by Korčulan Grk wine, this is a fantastic, deep taste experience.
Is this balance reflected in the Head Chef’s commitment to cook food in tune with seasonal produce?
Yes, we are in tune on this topic! The seasons bring us different gifts from the land and sea. The first rays of spring entice the wild greens from the hills of the Pelješac Peninsula – this is where we gather our wild asparagus and wild Mediterranean herbs.
Easter is the month for fresh oysters from Ston and the gilthead bream; in early summer the blue fish start diving out of the sea onto our plates. Wild strawberries and the sweetest Adriatic lobster in June; in summer local fruits burst with the heat and the Scorpion fish is also a delicacy.
In early autumn, the vines are harvested and octopus and squid appear on our menus. As winter approaches we fall into the ground, celebrating the intense and earthy flavours of local truffles and root vegetables along with hunted red meat. This is our food calendar paired with exquisite wine harvested from an endless array of islands and hillside slopes dotted with small winegrowing estates. It is all about wild combinations! We endeavour to always honour nature’s cycle – and balance.