On the drive from Kruja to Shkodra in northern Albania, we stopped for lunch in Fishta. But this was no ordinary lunch: it was at the restaurant “Mrizi i Zanave”:http://www.mrizizanave.al/, visited by Rick Stein in episode three of his TV series ‘Venice to Istanbul’.
We parked under a vine clad arched structure, with grapes and gourds hanging down. We followed a steep flight of steps, adorned with potted plants, into the restaurant. At 12.40pm on a weekday it was buzzing, and it was clear that reservations were a must, as nearly all the tables were occupied.
The table was large for three of us, but we soon found out why as the food was served, dish after dish. There was no menu, but with such a varied assortment of foods, I’d defy anyone, except perhaps a vegetarian, not to enjoy it.
This is a list of the plates presented:
Individual dishes of white creamy Burrata with basil pesto and cherry tomatoes
An olive wood sharing board with two types of filo-pastry pie cut into squares and cheese
Four small bowls with two unidentified vegetables, capers and what we thought were Kalamata olives, which turned out to be marinated quails’ eggs
A charcuterie board with two meats and two cheeses, one of them having a red wine washed rind (not easy to say)
Long skewers of diced pork
Half a duck
Succulent pieces of kid
Grilled mixed vegetables
Deep fried vegetables in a tempura batter
Halved baked potatoes with a cheese dip
However, delicious as all this was, the star attractions were the puddings which arrived in a theatrical manner one by one.
A pastry tart full of cream and figs and a caramel dressing with an individual bowl of berries. One looked like a cherry but when our driver looked it up, Google gave the translation “pear as if”.
Coffee crème caramel with coffee beans being dispensed on high from a roaster
A hollow pink iced ball which, when smashed with a spoon, revealed a delicate pink pudding inside
A cylindrical ice lolly with a real rose stem as the stick which was held upright in a stone
Honeycomb and fudge served on a plate decorated like a spider’s web
We left two hours later feeling rather full. The service had been good and very friendly, and it was an amazing experience. The meal, with half a litre of wine, was around an incredible €25 per person.
Afterwards we looked around the outside and saw a fantastic children’s train tractor with tiny carriages made from oil drums, painted with children’s characters and with a steering wheel. There was also a small shop, a communist era bunker with plants growing on top of it, a menagerie of goats, sheep, cows and a donkey. Strings of bright red chillies were strung up to dry in the sun and a huge wooden crate contained a pile of watermelon.
This was a truly memorable experience and a far cry from the simple dishes served to and cooked by Rick. Our dinner that night was a packet of tortillas!