Fortunately we thought to check that Villa Rava would be frying tonight. It would not.
Thus towards the end of the afternoon we pick up and head back south to Sali, a larger settlement where we are sure to find somewhere to eat ashore. It is on the southeast coast of Dugi Otok. The harbour is encircled by cafes, konobas but mostly houses some of which date from the 17th century. There is one particularly pretty house, painted in pistachio green with chocolate brown shutters and an elegant staircase with a glistening stainless steel handrail, spiralling up its façade.
We are assisted with our mooring, bows to quay, and it costs us 294 kunas overnight. We can see at least two restaurants around the harbour which might be open. It is only when we go ashore that we find many more places with inconspicuous frontages or tucked up narrow alleys. One such is the Konoba Marin. At the top of an old flight of stone steps there is a small courtyard where locals are drinking and a small room given over to rustic tables, a small bar and scullery. It is dominated by an old open fireplace. The tables are decorated with glass bowls of pebbles and floating flower heads. One of my favoured centrepieces.
The young waitress welcomes us, brings us a bottle of ‘open wine’ (house wine), some sparkling water and we study the menu. I am rather taken with the idea of a risotto of soft-shell crab with salted anchovies to start. Carolyn loves mushrooms so the beef and mushroom in cream sauce main course is for her. Nick is in a spaghetti mood, Mike chooses lamb.
It is evident that our meal will be cooked off site, across the courtyard as it turns out by the grandmother and sister. My salted anchovies are two fillets from a jar, garnished with capers. My soft-shell crab risotto contains tiger prawns only! No matter – it all tastes good and Carolyn says her beef was exceptional. At the end of the evening we are offered complimentary grappa – I choose mint, Nick chooses cranberry and Mike juniper.
Next morning we are going to sail to another previous haunt, we call it The Cut, it is a narrow channel between the islands of Dugi Otok and Katina. We motor at a very gentle pace down the channels that run between Dugi Otok and the string of smaller islands to the east.
Low-lying, the dipping limestone strata of these islands are vegetated by patches of low-growing scrub whose colonisation of the rock is favoured by the faulting and crevicing of the strata. Plants such as sage, sedge, thistle, asphodel, wild thistle, Helichrysum are the most notable ground cover. On some of the larger islands there are isolated trees of wild olive, juniper, fig, Phyllyrea, Vitex. Less desirable trees such as the Aleppo pine have been introduced as a result of intensive agricultural practices.
The Restoran Aquarius is remembered by us all as the place we ate a delicious pasta with the large clams that the French call ‘Praires’ and which pedantic old me knows as Venus verrucosa! Carolyn took her shells from that first meal back to England and keeps them in a glass jar with a chunky candle at home.
Alas it is not yet open for the season, no welcoming figure comes to the ‘house’ pontoon to help us tie up, but we do see someone come down onto the terrace and purposefully pick up a ladder and carry it, with a large pot of what we believe must be paint, to the rear of the building. Message understood!
There is another konoba in a cove on the south side of the island but this is very firmly closed too. Fortunately we strike lucky at Levrnaka.