One of the most impressive buildings on the Stari Grad waterfront has recently been renovated in fine style and will be opening for the season as the classy boutique Hotel Apolon. The restaurant opened a couple of weeks ago, and we went along to see how it all looks.
This was originally the villa of Šime Ljubić, built for him in 1872 in classical style, complete with presiding statues of Apollo and the Muses on the roof. They’re appropriate because Ljubić was an eminent archeologist and historian, one of the first to research the fascinating past of this ancient town, and indeed, wider Dalmatia. He’s the founder of the Croatian Archaeological Society, the original director of the National Museum in Zagreb, researcher and translator of important documents from the archives in Vienna and Venice, including the Hvar Statute of 1331. His favourite place was always Stari Grad, which he thought was the most beautiful town of any he’d seen!
And so it is beautiful, especially with the new waterfront. That evening, I counted 39 yachts tied up, which isn’t at all bad for early May! The annual regatta from Samobor was in, celebrating the end of their race down the coast with some wine and traditional tamburitsa music. We stopped to listen for a while, as we enjoy the songs, and loved the idea of bringing a double bass along on a sailing trip!
At the Apolon, the menu looks exciting. It’s still early evening, but there’s a table of folks from the nearby yachts already eating. The grand restaurant opening won’t be for a couple of weeks yet, but this is the soft opening, to get the process ironed out.
The hotel’s general manager Rico and his staff are friendly and very proud of their new hotel & restaurant and especially the wine bar. The designers have translated the old konoba/store room into a stylish bar with the old rock still in place, but now it’s the bottle rack. I want one!
The decor in the dining room is quite minimalist, at least for now. It does show off the old architectural features that have been retained in the new design. Lovely!
And the food is beautifully prepared from fresh locally sourced ingredients. They have their own garden at the back, and what they don’t grow themselves, they get from an organic supplier in Dol. they also make their own wonderful honey.
Our wine for tonight comes from PZ Svirče, their Mediterano is a lighter red that pairs well with seafood.
We started with the carpaccio from the sea, and smoked tuna served with a fragrant lavender honey.
Next up was a lovely garden salad, and we split a dish of Squid with potatoes and Hvar capers that came in a very tasty sauce!
We hadn’t intended to order a pudding, but who could refuse the house specialty? Prešurate are like small doughnut balls with pine nuts and they came with vanilla creme, honey with orange, and figs stuffed with almonds and soaked in grappa! Yummy!
And after our wonderful dinner, a tour of the hotel itself. The renovations have been very sensitively done, with a care to preserving the original character, combined with thoroughly modern features such as a glass lift in the centre of the stairway. The bedrooms are really lovely, so spacious and thoughtfully decorated. Instead of numbers, each room has been given the name of a muse, as a reminder of those statues on the roof.
And oh look! A cast-iron bath, how wonderful! Right, that’s me moving in! So if you, too, like a bit of luxury and style, this looks to be a great place to stay in Stari Grad. Can’t beat the views or the accommodation.
Boutique hotels like this are not at all common on the island, aside from Hvar town. Accommodation elsewhere is mostly in private rooms or apartments, with a few remnants of the old communist concrete hotels in a couple of places. This addition of a small hotel with character is very good to see! Especially as the restaurant promises to be a good one, with a terrace overlooking the riva!