Over the last ten years Belgrade has experienced a slow but steady gastronomic revolution. It has been happening so gradually that even seasoned local food buffs aren’t quite ready to admit there’s been a change (they will more likely say, “Bah humbug! There’s been no revolution”). But there has.
It’s not like there weren’t any restaurants in Belgrade ten years ago. Indeed, there were some very good ones. There were even a few restaurants serving international cuisine (mostly Chinese food, of course, and, just as predictably, Italian).
Local culinary delights were widespread and Belgrade was still a place where you could get a good meal and for a good price. But your choice was a little, well, limited.
Over the intervening years there has been an explosion of the exotic. It began with an abundance of Chinese (or Asian fusion) take-away places but then expanded to include cuisine from India, Indonesia, Japan, Italy, Turkey, Lebanon… One literally could go on and on.
With that influx of exotic world food came a new phenomenon.
Chefs and restaurateurs became braver and began to experiment. New fusions, new flavours and new concepts sprang up all over the city. The dining public were ready to try new things.
A happy side-effect is that local cuisine also got a lot better. More emphasis is placed on quality (and quality produce) as restaurants compete to keep locals coming back and to attract the ever increasing number of tourists.
Making the local attractive to visitors has taken off in a big way and many cuisiniers are innovating, modernising and repackaging local delicacies (or, to be more precise, delicacies from across Serbia) in new and imaginative ways.
It isn’t all samosas and sushi, however. One area that still lags behind is the number of good vegetarian options. Things are improving but if you’re vegetarian or vegan, Belgrade still gives you a hard time if you’re looking for a great dining experience.
It’s also worth remembering that this is a process that is only half-way complete, a work in progress, so it doesn’t mean that all restaurants serving international (or re-hashed Serbian) cuisine are somehow magically going to be fantastic. There is still a long way to go before Belgrade truly becomes a gastro-metropolis. But the journey has most definitely begun and Belgrade has come a long way.
In short, if food were a landscape, the Belgrade of today would be unrecognisable to someone who teleported in from ten years ago. Let’s see what the next ten years will bring.