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28 Apr 10

Mala Fabrika Ukusa

Trencherman visited this new restaurant, much praised in the local media to see what  all the fuss was about.

By Trencherman

“It’s way trendy and full of celebrities,” said my young Serbian colleague, who you may guess has spent some time in the USA. Nevertheless, a little jaded with the current restaurant scene, this was all the encouragement I needed.

In a relatively unpromising location at the bottom of Nebojsina in Vracar, the restaurant can’t be missed, a huge sign on the street leads to a terrace seating around forty, in front of a single storey stand-alone building. Inside is seating for perhaps another forty. If it’s not an oxymoron to say so, the decor is very country-cottage trendy. Wooden tables, wine bottles and jars of ingredients line the shelves around the room, each with their own ‘Mala Fabrika Ukusa’ label.

By the time I had parked the car and joined my lunch guests (take a taxi or get on a bus, parking is a nightmare) they had been seated for sometime, with the menus in front of them. They were keen to point out both the Cyrillic menu and the waiting staff snickering at their attempts to make sense of it - the joke, it seemed, had worn off by the time we reached dessert, when English language menus were produced.

The menu is Serbian with style. So whilst you’ll find a Karadjordjova Snicla and cevapi, in most cases little touches with the ingredients or presentation differentiate them from the pack. We chose some Njeguska Prsuta, mushrooms baked with Kajmak, grilled goat’s cheese and steak tartare to start and some cevapi and a fillet steak with prunes to follow.

To drink just a little white house wine which was a little too warm and more than a little oxidised. To be fair, with one or two honourable exceptions, house wine is never a great choice around town so this was no worse than many, and at 138 dinars for a quarter litre, at least it wasn’t an expensive affront to the taste buds.

After at least half an hour, with the three other starters, the waiter brought the news that there was no goat’s cheese. We decided not to order an alternative. The mushrooms were a treat. Mainly ceps, they were oven-baked, earthy and intensely savoury with a little kajmak baked crusty on the top. The tartare was an odd grey colour, and had been over-processed into a sticky concoction that tasted of little other than sweet peppers which seemed to have been blended in to the mix. The prsut, was very dry, smoked and without any fat and was served entirely on its own. There are times perhaps when an exceptional single flavour should be allowed to stand alone - freshly shucked oysters, perfectly ripe strawberries, a warm, freshly baked bread roll or bluefin tuna sashimi. I’m afraid this was not one of them. It was dry and, frankly, boring.

As always, the cevapi arrived in a portion-size entirely suited to two lesser mortals. Ten sausages well grilled served with potatoes that had been oven-baked in stock. They were presented on the same wooden board that held the fillet steak, three prunes and another portion of potatoes. The sweet sauce that came with the steak actually went well with the cevapis and as there was no way to prevent this mixing, as the sauce ran out across the board, that was indeed fortunate. Other combinations from the menu may not have worked so well. The steak was large, tender and cooked medium/well, much more thoroughly than I would have requested, had I been offered a choice.

Desserts of cherry pita and apple pita which both had good fillings but both of which occupied the uncomfortable territory between room temperature and warm, and a rather good tulumbe followed. Tulumbe an Ottoman import consists of a deep fried finger shaped dough, chilled and steeped in a vanilla flavoured syrup. It was excellent.

Service was slow. Our three lunchtime courses took well over two hours and were indifferently served.  

All a bit of a shame really, because it is indeed a “way trendy” place and although I’m not one for star spotting, our fellow patrons were certainly dressed expensively enough to be celebrities, All that glitters...

Mala Fabrika Ukusa

Nejbosina 49a
Tel: 011 2435727

Price Guide: 1,750 - 2,250 for three courses per person with a bottle of modest wine.

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