Esplanade Zagreb Hotel - History, Elegance and Luxury
Updated: Oct 13
My visit to Croatia finished with an overnight stay at a luxury hotel, Zagreb’s famous Esplanade. Opened in 1925, it originally provided accommodation for travellers on the luxurious Orient Express train, offering visitors superb accommodation and fine dining with unparalleled service. Since then, it has had many international celebrities and royalty as guests, including Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Prince Albert of Monaco. Then there’s me. Okay, not famous but I do know how to enjoy life! The Esplanade was built featuring Art Deco architectural elements, making it extra special if you enjoy design as much as I do. As we checked in, I noticed a discreet cart nearby with a bucket of sparkling wine...mmmm, I said to myself; I already like this place! The feeling of being surrounded by understated luxury had begun.
If you are looking for a cocktail before dinner, the Esplanade 1925 Lounge and Cocktail Bar is just the spot. There’s an extensive list of signature "Orient Express Cocktails" on offer which are named after the various stops along the Orient Express route; Paris, Vienna, Venice, etc. The "Paris", for example, has rum, Triple Sec, strawberry and lime. The "Istanbul" has brandy, orange, lime, maraschino and grenadine. It's hard to choose, but each one is delicious so you can't go wrong! Croatia is known for its excellent gin, used in these signature cocktails. SAX is a very popular brand, refreshingly perfumed and herbal.
Dinner at their restaurant Zinfandels was a complete delight. Their dinner menu
offers 4, 5 or 6 course meals. The wine list is extensive, so we asked for guidance. To see just how extensive, check the link below with the restaurant's wine list. Ivan, our sommelier, recommended a Kiridžija Dingač Plavac Mali 2017, which paired beautifully with the meal. Ivan has the distinction of being Croatia's first professional sommelier. To learn more about the wonderful wines from the Dingač region, check out the link below.
My selections of Scallops in Passion Fruit Puree, followed by succulent Roast Duck were superb. I enjoyed every bite. Hats off to their chef! Luckily for us, we were visiting during low season. So the restaurant was not busy that evening and the waiter had time to completely spoil us. For example, we were too full for dessert, but a plate of macarons and pastries arrived nevertheless. At the Esplanade, gracious service always goes beyond expectations.
The next morning, breakfast rivalled dinner for a luxurious abundance of choices. There was a bucket of Tomac sparkling wine… just in case! Tomac Millenium Brut is a sparkling white wine from Tomac winery in Pleševica, near Zagreb. I loaded my plate with many homemade specialities such as smoked trout, and made sure to include a helping of Croatia’s famous baked cheese, Sturkli. An entire table was devoted to fresh croissants and donuts, baked on-site, so I had to sample a few of those, too. After all, this was our last day and it was all about savouring every minute and every bite! I made more than one visit to the buffet area...
If you are travelling in Croatia and visiting Zagreb, a stop at the Esplanade is a must. Whether you stay overnight or not, you can enjoy a meal or a cocktail, or simply coffee on the terrace, overlooking the gardens and fountain. Why not have a taste of luxury and make happy memories for a lifetime? Sometimes a little luxury is worth it, because you only live once!
Jane Staples - Wine, Food & Travel Writer, Accredited Sommelier
Photos, J. Staples