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An Englishman in Belgrade – Madera

People have told me, you don't go to Madera for the food, you go for the atmosphere. And what atmosphere might that be, fear? Microphones in the flower pots?

In 1855 a two legged, cloven hoofed creature left footprints in fresh snow that stretched over 100 miles in a small village in Devon, South England. People awoke to mass religious hysteria and claimed that the devil had risen from hell to roam their gardens, leaving prints on either side of solid concrete walls and locked doors. The ‘Mystery of the Devils Footprints’ was never solved, and remains a fascinating riddle with no answer to this day. 


Confused villagers in Devon, England upon awaking to find the footprints of Beelzebub adorning their township

Why in the name of all that is still holy Madera Restaurant is as popular as it is, however, is a far greater mystery. Week after week, day after day, the place is packed with people celebrating, hobnobbing, scheming, drinking and unfortunately for them, eating.

I will not enter into the full litany of catastrophic failures on the part of this establishment (and it is an establishment, a Belgrade institution in fact, as much a part of the culture of the city as corner kiosk Pljeka stands) because I have limited space and no-one on earth has that much time, even Serbs. The highlights of my misery though, began with making the mistake of allowing the waiter to persuade me to order the ‘special’ (kitchen trickery for offloading what’s about to go bad) which was Monkfish wrapped in bacon with polenta. Oh, what a time I had dissecting this dish! Actual, full-blown LOL’s erupted from me when this grey, shapeless, foul-smelling plate of ‘food’ was laid before me.


The decor is most certainly convivial. It’s like the South of France… wonderful if it weren’t for the French

Over cooked fish takes on a rubbery texture; luckily for the many dignitaries with bulletproof cars outside they could freely have borrowed my kevlar monkfish to repair any punctures caused by stray bullets. The bacon was of the heavily smoked variety so favoured by cooks here and fatty, watery and undercooked; which is ironic considering the amount of time the fish had obviously spent in the oven. Apart from the near toxic levels of sodium present seasoning consisted of black pepper, of the variety that is pre-ground, laced with preservatives and distributed in supermarket-friendly sealed packets. One lonely, solitary, sad little mushroom stood by, desperately trying to lift the dish. It was like a well-dressed lady at a funeral; it gave me something to look at amidst all the suffering.

To the restaurant’s credit, the service is excellent, and not by the usual Belgrade standards. The staff are quick and attentive and the waiter appeared and asked if I was enjoying my Monkfish. After explaining why I’d rather watch Hilary and Donald fist each other with Crisco than consume this debacle he whisked it away and presented me with Leskovacki Cevapcici. Ah, frozen chips, still raw inside, the nostalgia to my school days in England that you evoke! I do like my meat rare, but cevapcici which are solid pink in the middle and not exactly hot all the way through and still microwave soggy is not acceptable. They didn’t charge me for either dish, and apologised, more points in their favour.


Speed belly – Service faster than a speeding stomach

Literally across the street, on the other side of a confusing junction, stands the bastion of consistency, the old standby, McDonalds. I heartily recommend the far more enjoyable trip for a Big Tasty burger and fries. I’ve often contended that the Serbian McDonalds is the best in the world. In London and New York only homeless people work there and you’re given true garbage. Here, you get exactly what you’re promised on the pictures and billboard commercials, and you get it with pretty Serbian smiling lips, with no crack-pipe burns.

People have told me, you don’t go to Madera for the food, you go for the atmosphere. And what atmosphere might that be, fear? Microphones in the flower pots? The faint aroma of the 90’s still wafting through the place? The ghost of communism past?


The rumour of microphones in the flowerpots remains unconfirmed

In Madera the waiter presented me with a wine list, leather bound and weighing one and a half kilos, with pages and pages of wines from all over the world, then turned to the last page with the title ‘Serbia and Montenegro’ declaring, “These are all we have in stock at the moment.” When I go to a kafana, I get a litre of table wine, a big penis shaped karadjordjeva snicla, and a sopska salata. Im not expecting a wine list, or imported olive oil. And they don’t pretend to have one.

As an Englishman living in Serbia, I can see that the strength of this country lies in its authenticity. When it’s being real, it’s at its best. When they fake it, it sucks. Sava Mala or Sava Nova, anyone? Every ‘fancy’ spot in town is guilty of this fronting. Unfortunately for this place, down to the very last consumable item on the menu, including the burnt, watery, bitter coffee, stale biscuits, congealed, refrigerated desserts and actually even the glass of water I was given, there is not a scale of judgement on earth that I can employ that has a sliding level low enough in order to award it some kind of score. Perhaps the global collective of theoretical physicists might one day dream up an alternative dimension or two that includes a number far below absolute zero, in which case I might feel comfortable awarding it. I assure you however, I will not be dining, or even entering into this establishment in any of them.




  1. heart.will.travel says:

    So (among other things), something’s wrong with homeless people, one can assume from this text? They are smelly or what? A smell of elitism and class discrimination

  2. Mairosu says:

    I’m totally against all this Sava Nova crap but did you just call Savamala “authentic”? That whole “scene” sprang to life maybe 10 years ago, talk about fake bohemia.

  3. Tijana says:

    Ha-ha, stupid text, who is the guy and why his opinion matters? Madera and Klub Knjizevnike are THE best restaurants in Belgrade, often chosen by the foreign guests and there is a guest book inside both restaurants that proves all what this guy said is super wrong, also cevapcici shouldn’t be brown inside… someone should explain to this guy, who ever he is.

  4. Veljko says:

    Klasičan serator koji boluje od kompleksa više vrednosti

  5. ana says:

    recenicom da je savamala autenticna boemija, prestao je da bude relevantan svakome ko je iz beograda…tekst je nemoguce shvatiti ozbiljno.

  6. Vesna says:

    Odlican tekst, a vama koji se osecate pogodjenima sto vam je povredjen nacionalni ponos ‘udarom’ na ‘instituciju’ zvanu Madera, skoknite onda do Madere i uzivajte u bajatoj i dosadnoj hrani po visokim cenama..podrzite ih a ostale pustite da sami sude o hrani koju jedu. U kom delu teksta je Savamala nazvana autenticnom boemijom, to tek treba da nadjem..
    Klub Knjizevnika je takodje i na mojoj listi izandjalih, skupuh i dosadnih restorana sa losom i osrednjom hranom..sta je bio ranije, to je bio ranije i od toga se treba oprostiti zauvek.

  7. Stefania says:

    I am Italian, I lived in the UK (not known for their cuisine) and I currently live in France. Justeforgot, I am married to a Belgrader. We have been to Madera many times and we never experienced any real shambles as described by the author of the article. When we go to Belgrade we experience the people, the food, the atmosphere and we feel free. So what if a famous restaurant makes a mistake once, if anything the restaurant management did not charge our writer. I personally hate these ‘foreigners’ who cannot blend in the local atmosphere. They come over and judge. No country is perfect, and you just have to take things as they are. By the way I personally really like the ’90s atmosphere and I can recommend the grilled trout. Whoever goes to Belgrade to make a living criticizing the town should not be allowed to live there in the first place. A bit of respect!

  8. Natasa says:

    Sajajno! Samo nam je jos falilo da Britanci pocnu da kritikuju nasu kuhinju! A nepca im navikla na fish and chips, kidney pie, yorkshire pudding… i pivo, i pivo… Uzas, sa kojim pravom ovaj nama popuje!!!

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