5 best places in Serbia for roast lamb

Free Range Organic Lamb

Lamb

Fresh roasted lamb, cooked super slow over charcoal and served up straight from the spit is got to be one of the best eats any time.

All over the Balkan, from Slovenia to Turkey, whether you’ll find yourself in Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria or North Macedonia you’ll be able to feast on deliciously cooked lamb.

Lamb can be cooked in many ways; grill it, sauté it, cook it sous-vide on low temperature and for a long time, oven-roast, spit-roast and if that isn’t enough there is always a method which the Serbs call Ispod sača. The ‘sač’ (pronounced satch) is simply a type of unglazed clay pot, a type of earthenware Dutch Oven or what the French may call a ‘Terrine’. The method of cooking lamb, or any other type of meat, ala sač is to place the sač directly onto hot coals and then cover the (tightly fitted) lid with hot coals also. An other method is to use a wood fired oven, as depicted in the image on the left.

Lamb prepared for cooking in a wood-fired oven

Which ever way lamb is cooked the result should be a mouth watering roast where the meat literally falls off the bone, is super juicy and the skin has caramelized to a crisp. Lamb is best when the quality of the meat is excellent and has not been frozen. It should preferably be from a free-range animal that has fed on organic grasses and herbs . In that case no added flavours by means of spices other than maybe some rosemary or thyme (maybe garlic) are necessary. Lamb should never be cooked with pepper, it’s a mistake because it will mask the delicate flavours the lamb has to offer. The recipe should be: Meat, Salt, Hot Coals and Patience. That’s it. If you like the taste of pepper (like some do) then add freshly ground pepper just before eating.

Personally for me, the methods that get the best results are either ispod sač or spit-roast (or sous vide, but that’s a method mainly practiced by fancy restaurants which I will cover in a separate blog post). With this in mind I will introduce you to, what I believe, are 5 of my favourite places in Serbia that will serve up some of the freshest and juiciest Lamb you’ll ever come across.  3 Of these places will do an excellent spit roast and the other 2 places are renowned for cooking the lamb ispod sač. All five places, I have been told, use only the best free-range and organic meat available in Serbia. Because they serve lamb all year round the only time to guarantee fresh lamb would be from May till September. Other times of the year you may find fresh lamb on menus but the animals are either still too young (under 4 months old) like around Easter time, or they maybe too old (10 -12 months) to be called lambs.

Serbia, as I mentioned previously, is NOT  the only country of the Balkan to produce an excellent lamb roast and I still have a lot of traveling to do to find the best in each of these countries. Hopefully, one day, I will be able to post an article on the best 10 places to eat lamb in the Balkan. This in itself would be an interesting and delicious challenge, criss-crossing the Balkans on a quest for the best lamb so maybe one day when I have more time (than sense) I might actually do that, but for now let’s focus on Serbia.

To find the best Lamb in Serbia is as much of a challenge as finding the best lamb in the entire Balkans because anyone in Serbia who cooks lamb claims they do so the best.

To define ‘Best Lamb’ we should first define the criteria for such a claim. For me lamb (as all farm animals) should:

  • be free range, grass & herb fed and the animal must have had a nice organic life. Luckily, such lamb in Serbia, given that Serbia is a mountainous and pasture rich country, is easy to come by.
  • should preferably be fresh and not have been frozen. Although there is nothing wrong with frozen lamb, fresh is best for flavours, aromas and texture.
  • be of such quality that the fat/meat ratio are perfectly balanced. The taste and texture of lamb meat, like all meats, depends on ‘terroir’. Terroir takes into account such factors such as the soil, topography and climate and is something that is usually associated to describe the nature of fine wines but, in my opinion, can just as well be applied to meats and even fruits and vegetables.

While I have traveled the 4 ‘corners’ of Serbia in search for the best lamb I can honestly say it is impossible to find a single place that stands out as the one that does the best tasting lamb in this country.

So, stuck with this conundrum I will suggest the 5 best places for you to visit and where you can enjoy the best tasting lamb in Serbia.

Number 1.Kafana kod Branke

Drinks menu at ‘kod branke’ which goes to show that one can operate a diner with 19th century prices today!

..which is located in the village of Pričević , close to the municipality of Valjevo and about 90 Km from Belgrade. Kafana kod Branke (Branke’s Tavern) does a fantastic job of roasting lamb, and as far as I know that’s all they do. FYI; Kafana is a term used in all countries of former Yugoslavia and basically means ‘local tavern’.

Kafana kod Branke, founded in 1950, is housed in a charming building that dates back to 1911. The place may not be fancy but it is clean. It hasn’t seen a decorator in maybe 40 years so the interior is somewhat 70’s, with blue (??) table cloths which in itself is kinda charming.

The kafana sources its lamb locally and I believe that the tavern owner actually owns his own flock which he rears in open fields around the village.

Kafana kod Branke Roasting Method:

Deliciously prepared Spring lamb at ‘kod Branke’

The lamb which has been prepared with nothing except salt is cooked on a spit over white hot charcoals. Once the lamb juices start running clear and the meat looks like its about to fall off the bone it’s time to remove the cooked animal from the fire and leave it to rest for at least half an hour before eventually removing it from the spit. The lamb is most delicious when the skin is super crispy with the meat tender and juicy. When finally the time comes for serving up the meat the juices should stay within the flesh so that when you take a bite you can actually taste the herbs and grasses on which the animal has fed.

At Kafana kod Branke this is exactly what you experience. For this reason and because it is relatively close to Belgrade where I live it is my personal favourite place to eat lamb.

Kafana kod Branke is popular with locals as well as with diners who come from as far afield as Belgrade.

How to get there:

Address: Pričević, 12km from Valjevo

For satellite navigation click on these coordinates: 44º17’31.4N 19º45’49.3E 

Telephone: +381(0)14- 270103

It is recommended to book in advance.

 

Number 2: Kafana Bajo in Mačkat

BAJO MACKAT

If you ever find yourself traveling to the beautiful town of Zlatibor or en route to Montenegro then may I suggest that you have a hearty breakfast before you set off and wait to have lunch till you pass the tiny village of Mačkat.

Mačkat maybe the only place on earth to have more eateries than dwellings and counts at least 5-6 restaurants that specialize in pečenje (meaning; Roast), both pork and lamb but is the lamb what most people go there for.

There are actually 2 Kafanas going by the same name of Bajo and both are owned by the same family. Bajo number 1 is located in the heart of the village, which is actually no more than just a street, and stuck in the middle of several other restaurants that all serve roast lamb and pork.

BAJO Number 2

Bajo number 2 is a huge wood and brick structure and is the most visited out of all of the restaurants in town. All restaurants are very good but Bajo #2 gets the most customers and while others will serve you a roast that may have sat for a couple of hours (but nonetheless very tasty) it is at Bajo#2 where you’re always guaranteed continuous servings of fresh hot roasted lamb straight from the spit.

Bajo, like most Kafanas, has many other choices of roast meat on the menu. Most often you’ll find that they will have some succulent veal roasting ispod sač (Clay Pot) and then there is always Rostilj which fundamentally means char grilled meat with a choice of either; chicken (wings), beef, pork, sausages or home made house specialties.

Unfortunately there isn’t much choice for Vegetarians or for Vegans other than cheeses, salads, roast peppers and potatoes but that should change since more and more people are converting to this much healthier lifestyle.

How to get there:

Address: Mačkat village on route 23. About 13Km from Zlatibor.

Click on Coordinates for Bajo Number 1: 43°47’30.2N 19°45’55.2″E

Click on Coordinates for Bajo Number 2: 43º47’18.3” N 19º46’06.5”E

Telephone: +381 (0)31- 3834160

It is recommended to book in advance.

 

Number 3: Pečenjera Kudin Most

Kudin Most by Ivana Nobilo

Pečenjera Kudin Most is located just outside of the town of Zemun, about half an hour’s drive from the centre of Belgrade. From the outside the place looks more like a truck stop than a restaurant but believe me the ambiance is perfect. I have eaten there numerous times and have yet to be disappointed. They serve an excellent roast Lamb as well as Roast pork but it is the Lamb that people come for.

Kudin Most (meaning; Kudin’s Bridge) is a very large restaurant, not Kafana, and takes it name from a place in Croatia that goes by the name of Golubic. Many Serbians used to live in that area but after the separation of the Yugoslavian states in the 90’s most Serbs left in order to resettle in Serbia. Literally translated, Kudin Most means ‘Bridge of Kuda’ or ‘Kuda’s Bridge’. According to folklore, the bridge was built by a man so that he could reach a girl he was very much in love with. His name was ‘Kuda’. It reminds us that there are no boundaries for true love.

Fresh Lamb from Spit

Talking about true love. The fact that people have fallen in love with the excellent roast is the main reason why people flock to this restaurant. The restaurant can be very busy throughout the year, especially on Sundays. Should you choose to visit on that day then I suggest book your table at least a day before and make sure, that while you’re on the phone, to also place an order for your favourite cut of meat (and quantity). Having booked a table does not guarantee your choice of meal 🙂

How to get there:

Address: Batajnički drum 16. deo (section) 8, 11080 Belgrade (Zemun)

Click on Coordinates: 44º53’01.1” N 20º18’48.9”E

Telephone: +381 (0)11- 7870117

It is recommended to book in advance.

 

Number 4: Restaurant “Mačkat” in the village of Mačkat

Again, we find ourselves in the village of Mačkat but this time this restaurant is well known for both spit roasted lamb as well as for lamb and veal Ispod sača.

Lamb ispod saca with roast potatoes

Restaurant “Mačkat” goes by the same name as the village where it finds itself in and is considered classier than some of the previous places I mentioned in this post.

Lamb ispod saca

The specialties of Restaurant “Mačkat” are focused on traditional cuisine from the region of Zlatibor. The menu offers a range of cold appetizers, speciality cheeses from Zlatibor, kajmak (clotted cream for which Zlatibor and the region is famous), Domestic beef and pork prosciutto, different types of homemade bread and of course the house specials; veal and lamb stew. They also offer grilled specialties such as fish, all kinds of salads and a great selection of after dinner sweets.

 

So, when passing through the village of Mačkat and stopping to take in some lunch this restaurant may be a welcome alternative in case you would like something more than just spit roasted lamb.

How to get there:

Address: Mačkat 31312

Click on Coordinates: 43°47’28.6″N 19°46’49.9″E

Telephone: +381 (0) 31 3834195

It is recommended to book in advance.

 

Number 5: Restaurant Naš Sač

Although this restaurant is at the bottom of the list it is by no means last. Restaurant Naš Sač (our clay pot) has been around since the beginning of time (ok, maybe not that long), is very traditional in decor and in manner and has earned a reputation for excellent quality food at very affordable prices. One of its advantages, as supposed to the other places mentioned in this post, is that Restaurant Naš Sač is located in the centre of Belgrade and thus is easily reached by means other than automobile.

The restaurant is most famous for cooking many, actually most, of its dishes following the Ispod sača method. Veal, lamb, simple vegetables, stews and sweets such as plumb pie are all prepared this way.

At Restaurant Naš Sač you’re always guaranteed a fresh, hot, juicy and definitely hearty meal.  Try for yourselves. I guarantee you’ll love it!

How to get there:

Address: Starina Novaka 7 , Palilula, Tasmajdan, 11000 Belgrade

Click on Coordinates: 44°48’34.2″N 20°28’29.9″E

Telephone: +381 (0) 11 3239388

It is recommended to book in advance.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and please feel free to leave any comments

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