Back to Balkan – Divido, Mount Hawthorn
A Croatian, a Macedonian and a Greek walk into a bar…
Just kidding! The Croatian, the Macedonian and the Greek work in the kitchen of Divido, a Mount Hawthorn restaurant that has gained a loyal following thanks to its regional Italian peasant-style cooking, with co-owner and executive chef Jason Jujnovich’s Croatian family recipes thrown in for good measure. The menu features local and seasonal produce, including the harvest from Jason’s organic heirloom vegetable garden.
After months of planning, Divido put on a special event in April – a Balkan-style dinner reflecting the family pride, generosity and hospitality so close to the hearts of Jason and his team. The originally one-night-only event on 16 April sold out within days, and in the grand tradition of epic Balkan feasting, was extended to a 6-night extravaganza with the addition of 17, 18, 23, 24 and 26 April. Jac and I were invited to attend and were chuffed to be part of the happy full house on the 24th.
We started with chunks of rustic crusty bread, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The bread was wonderful but with the promise of a feast to follow, we were careful not to fill up on it.
The meal consisted of share plates, and with each course, we were plied with abundance as three waiters swooped in at once to deliver dishes to our table.
- Salate od hobotnice – slow-cooked octopus, shallot, olive, EVOO
- Skordalia – shallow fried salt cod and garlicky potato puree
- Sarma – braised veal and pork, stuffed pickled cabbage, smoked bacon
- Guba so ciren – cheese and leek burek
- Kiseli piperki – pickled peppers, with cauliflower and whole garlic
My favourites from the entrees were the fried salt cod and garlicky potato, the stuffed pickled cabbage, and the cheese and leek burek, made with flaky, buttery filo pastry.
The chefs kindly let me sneak into the kitchen during service to take photographs of the action and food. I stood at the end of the pass, in the one spot where I wouldn’t get in anyone’s way, trying to make myself as compact and be as unobtrusive as possible. For just a little while, standing in the midst of all the activity, I missed my hospitality days.
When the carving of the wood-roasted meats began, the kitchen was filled with the most magnificent aroma and warmth… I was powerless to leave.
Before serving, jus was poured over the two roasts on each platter – pork jus from the right-hand teapot, lamb from the left.
So many “PHWOAR!” moments. I’m definitely my mother’s daughter – I know she can be mesmerised by a juicy piece of roast pork too. But I didn’t stay gawking and drooling for too long; as glorious as it was, I knew I had to put down the zoom lens and get back to my table to eat my share.
- Pacena swinjetina – wood-roasted suckling pig, paprika and garlic
- Pecane janje – wood-roasted lamb, lemon and oregano
- Fagiolakia – braised beans, tomato and cumin
- Kupas salate – Croatian coleslaw
- Salata od krumpira – crushed potato, olive oil, parsley and aged vinegar
I reckon Nonnas and Nonnos would approve of this hearty, home-style, delicious meal. I couldn’t stop eating the beans and the potatoes.
And the meat! Was the pork crackling good? Oh yeah.
- Melomakarona – spiced pecan cookies in syrup
- Kolac – Croatian torta
- Napolitanki – chocolate and hazelnut wafers
- Jess’ Tukish delight ice cream
We were on teetering on the edge of food coma by the time coffee orders were taken and dessert was served. The Turkish delight ice cream was the hands-down favourite at our table – pale pink and delicately rose-flavoured. I finished my scoop of ice cream but only managed mousy nibbles of the rest of dessert.
At Divido, the tables are quite close together and when it’s a full house, it’s a very noisy, crowded house. Generally, I don’t like feeling like I’ve had to shout at my dining companions all night – so that was my gripe of the evening, but having been to the restaurant before, it was what I had expected for a sell-out event such as this. It’s something to keep in mind if you find a noisy dining room intolerable.
The floor staff were attentive but never obtrusive, and from my observations in the unofficial photographer’s bunker in the kitchen, the chefs organised and focused. Jason Jujnovich was a charming host, working front of house and behind the bar that night, chatting with the feasters, recommending wines and pouring the Sljivovica plum brandy at the end of the meal.
We had a fabulous evening and looking around us, we were definitely not the only ones waddling to our car at the end of the night.
I hope the success of Back to Balkan encourages Divido to consider holding the event again, so that more diners will get the opportunity to experience the joy, pleasure and generosity of the Balkan family feast.
Good news! Back to Balkan 2 – Winter Feast is on, June 12 to 15 – with an all-new menu.
And even more good news! Jess’ Turkish delight ice cream (featured in Back to Balkan 1) is now featured on Divido’s dessert menu, served with the Apple & Pecan Crostata.
170 Scarborough Beach Road
Telephone: (08) 9443 7373
Back to Balkan was AU$65 per person, not including drinks
Divido opens for dinner Monday to Saturday 6pm to late.
Fully licensed – no BYO.
TFP and Jac attended the Back to Balkan event with compliments of Divido.