We stayed for three nights in North Macedonia’s capital Skopje at the “Hotel De KOKA”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/accommodation/203347-review-hotel-de-koka. As it had neither bar nor restaurant, we ate out. Although ideally located between the Čaršija, the “old Turkish area”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/203391-review-sightseeing-in-skopje-part-1-the-old-town, and more “modern part”:https://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/attraction/203408-review-sightseeing-in-skopje-part-2-the-modern-centre, we tended to frequent the old town with its smaller, atmospheric places.
Before our trip, I’d read about Vinoteka Temov, temptingly described by Bradt as a ‘quaint wine bar in the old town, serving a wide range of Macedonia’s finest wines’. Despite walking up and down the cobbled area pinpointed on the map, we eventually assumed it had closed.
Instead we headed to Kapan An, an old trading inn, built during Ottoman times, where the central courtyard housed a seating area for the surrounding bars and restaurants. We snacked on bread and two dips: ajvar, with red peppers, and tarator, with cucumber and yoghurt, so rather like tzatziki. With a large draft beer and water, we paid 440 Denar/£6.30. On our second visit, we sat in a slightly different area, belonging to another restaurant. We ordered a Greek salad and large draft beers, but the two small bottles that arrived were not what we wanted on a hot day. We decided to leave much to the annoyance of the waiter who had already opened the bottles, but we said he should have told us on ordering that there was no draft beer.
We were more successful at the rakija bar, “Kaldrma”:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rakija-Bar-Kaldrma/166459313409575, which we’d passed many times. It was a small pavement bar with high wooden stools and tables and although they stocked 40 flavours of the fiery schnapps like drink, it was too strong for lunch. However, beers were large, draft and cold and went well with a snack of chicken fingers. The service was friendly, and we returned again and had a second positive experience.
Another unsuccessful outing was the corner bar, “Destan”:https://www.facebook.com/kebapcilnica.DESTAN/, where we’d seen people with glasses of wine. It supposedly served simple kepabči, according to Bradt, ‘made using an acclaimed family recipe handed down over the years’. Service was appalling and having been given menus, we struggled to attract the attention of the staff who were enjoying a fag and chat at the waiters’ station. We decided to have a drink, two small bottles of white wine, and left.
We continued onward to the “Old Town Brewery”:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Old-town-brewery-Kale/215770095105116 and although there were small pavement tables at the front, around the back we found a large beer garden. Roy ordered a Pilsner, but it was a cloudy beer and he eventually joined me on the white wine, great value at £1.45 a glass. A ‘wine plate’ comprised of sliced garlic sausage, prosciutto, cubes of two types of cheese and bread which was a lovely nibble. Other couples were tasting racks of beers, which came in two glass sizes. Our second glass of wine was warm and sweet and although the waitress offered ice, we protested and she eventually returned with two very chilled glasses of wine, although we think they were different to each other.
After a busy, lunch-less day of sightseeing which ended at the Jewish Holocaust Museum, we wanted drinks and a snack, and found the nearby “Mal Altan”:https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Restaurant/Mal-Altan-130275354392610/. We bagged one of the last outdoor tables and having ordered two glasses of wine, the delightful waiter easily persuaded us that a bottle was better value. This turned out to be a bottle of Tikveš Chardonnay: we’d visited the Tikveš Wine Vaults, in Kavadarci earlier in our trip. On ordering a plate of mixed white cheese, the waiter suggested the sheep’s cheese was tastier as it was homemade. The wine was brought in an ice bucket and the good-sized portion of cheese was served with oil and a large flat bread cake. It was all exceptionally good, and the waiter was attentive, checking we were enjoying things, but without fussing. The bill came to 1140 Denar/£16.30 which we were able to pay by credit card.
After the late-afternoon cheese snack, we wanted a light dinner and stopped at “Snoshti Minav”:https://snostiminav.business.site/, in a pedestrianised narrow street, with a few outside tables. An A board advertised 10 kebab and chips for 190 Denar which we decided to share, along with a large beer (which turned into two) and sparkling water (which came in a 1.5 litre bottle but was much needed and finished). The food took a while, but through the window we could see the kebabs being grilled. It was simple but good, and when the bill came, we spotted we’d only been charged 80 Denar for the kebabs. However, as the waiter spoke little English, we went along with it and left a decent tip. At £5.50 it was an exceptionally cheap meal.
Our only ‘proper’ dinner was at the “Old City House”:https://www.restorani.com.mk/en/restoran/restoran-stara-kukja-skopje, recommended by our driver. It was on the outskirts of town, but only a five-minute walk from our hotel. Located in an old family house built in 1836, it was huge. However, it was divided into small more intimate areas and with a courtyard fountain and lots of plants it had a wonderful ambience. We adventurously ordered ‘canapes with pinjur’ which turned out to be small squares of toasted bread with a bruschetta style tomato topping. For mains we chose traditional dishes which we shared. The Old House Pot had pork, chicken, mushrooms and vegetables in a tomato sauce all baked in a clay pot. The meat was tender, but some pieces varied in temperature. The second dish was chicken and prosciutto, in a cream sauce, accompanied by potato wedges. The ‘house wine in bulk 1 litre’ was served in an elaborate flat-bottomed decanter, which was difficult to pour from. Service was professional, but a little curt with no interaction or smiles. A band of three musicians performed traditional songs at tables, but fortunately before they got to us, were waylaid by a large tour group. With sparkling water, our bill came to less than £25.
Skopje was not one of the culinary highlights of our Balkans trip, with service and food standards varying. However, it was good value, and there was plenty of choice and maybe as the city becomes more visited, things will improve. Perhaps they need to engage those who dreamt up the statue project to overhaul the restaurant trade – from plinth to plate.