Ed Thomas at his bar, the Amedea

The half-Croatian bar an hour from London

We were recently contacted by a very friendly chap called Ed who, we are very happy to hear, runs a half-Croatian bar called Amedea in Whitstable, Kent – only about an hour from London. Intrigued, we had to learn more about the bar (named after his grandmother!), how Ed came to set it up, and about his family and travel experiences in Croatia.

1) What is your background, and whereabouts in Croatia are your family from?

Hello! My name’s Ed, I’m half Croatian and Amedea is a bar named after my grandma/Nona. Amedea and my mum’s side of the family (the Croatian side) mainly live around Kanfanar which is close to Rovinj in Istria.

Ed Thomas at his bar, the Amedea
Ed at Amedea
Ed Thomas & Grandma Amedea
Ed, his Nona Amedea, and his partner Abbie

2) How have you come to run a Croatian bar, and such a bar in Whitstable? Do you have any previous experience in hospitality?

I do not know is the short answer! Amedea has been a dream that I’ve been far too optimistically chipping away at for about 6 years that has somehow happened. Whether it was forcing myself to put in a very amateur planning application, Googling ‘how to do a flood risk assessment’ while having a barbecue, or editing my proposed floorplans on Microsoft Paint before work, this whole journey has very much been ‘I really, really don’t know how to do this, but I’m going to have to, and just hope that no one complains… Or even better, it might work!’ I’ve grown up in Whitstable and it’s a lovely place. The residents are all interesting people who always seem up for giving a unique new business a try. 

I had no real bar experience before this and it’s also my first business (so yes my mama was worried!), I just know the Croatian way to host people from my experiences with family over there, and eating/drinking out. I’ve lost count of the amount of times Amedea herself, my aunties or my cousins have shouted ‘EDVUD! JESTI!!!’ at me – even if I’ve just eaten an enormous 3-course meal! I must admit, I used to find this quite scary when I was younger. 

To say Croatian people always put their guests first doesn’t do them justice, their hospitality is incredible. Hopefully, when customers visit Amedea Bar, we can help share that experience, and transport them to Istria too! My mamina Suzi and my sister Saskia work here too, which is important with any independent Croatian business – family. My dad… Well, let’s just say he’s one of our best customers. I really want to say thank you to the other staff that work here too. Although not Croatian (British, French and German actually) they carry the place flawlessly and always make me look good. Front of house smiles go a long way!

The Amedea Bar, Half-Croatian Bar in Whitstable
The exterior of Amedea
Croatian flag at The Amedea
The Croatian flag flies proudly at Amedea

3) Have you spent time in Croatia? What’s your favourite spot in the country? (If you can narrow it down to just one!)

I’d always visit Amedea and other family in Istria at least once a year…until Coronavirus. In 2016 I spent a month travelling down the coast visiting different places, which I would love to do again! My favourite (other than Istria of course) would have to be Makarska. Seeing those cliffs really took my head a while to compute, I’ve never seen anything like those before… And then directly below them, a cute little church on a town square. That place is so unreal and beautiful, and I haven’t even mentioned the sea yet! 

4) What kind of Croatian products/specialities does Amedea offer?

Well, I think most importantly, we of course sell Smoki peanut puffs! Other than that, we’ve got Graševina, Plavac, Postup, Babić and always Malvazija on the wine list. We’ve got loads of spirits including Medica and Šlivovica, but beers have been a bit harder. So far I’ve managed to get Ožujsko and San Servolo in cans and bottles, but I’m still battling to get a Croatian beer on draught… It’s harder than it sounds! And last but not least, we sell Paški sir (sheep’s cheese) and pršut (cured meat) on our food boards – which go down really well with visitors whether they’re familiar with them or not. 

Croatian spirits at the Amedea
A great selection of Croatian spirits!

5) (I know you’ve unfortunately been subjected to lockdowns in the past year…) but do you have many Croats in England as guests? How do non-Croats enjoy the Croatian products?

Surprisingly, yes. My mum has lived in the UK for 30 years and has never seen so many Croats here until I opened the bar, they’ve really come out of the woodwork! I’m pleased to say that when Croats do visit Amedea, they tell me their experience was genuine, which really means a lot.

It seems our non-Croat customers have been really enjoying the experience too, and some of our reviews have brought a tear to my eye! The people that come to Amedea pretty much all seem to be genuine, interesting, and most of all, nice, which is something money just could not buy. It really helps that Croatia has become such a well known holiday spot over the last few years too because it means more customers can relate. Only this month, I sold a Whitstable resident some Croatian goodies so she could recreate her holiday in Hvar for her husband on Valentine’s day! 

The wine list at the Amedea
The wine list at Amedea, next to the Kanfanar coat of arms
Živili with a painting by Amedea
More drinks at Amedea – and a painting by Nona Amedea

6) How have you/your bar found lockdown?

Well, it’s obviously been very tough, but a combination of a good landlord and the government grants has meant we’ve kept our heads above water. It also helps that Amedea is still a fairly new business, as it means I’m very used to living on a shoestring budget anyway!

The good news is, summer’s now in sight along with the end of lockdown. Being at Amedea this summer is going to be great and I’m really excited, especially now that the hard part’s out the way and we can fly the Croatian flag proudly again. Although something I’m certainly not looking forward to… Croatia vs. England in the Euros. ‘It must be win/win for you Ed!’ – No, it’s actually a horrible game to watch and for some reason, they always seem to play each other! My family and I just don’t like either side to lose TOO much.

But for the record…

I always support Croatia! 

Thank you so much to Ed for answering our questions. We certainly can’t wait to visit Amedea!

Be sure to check out Amedea online for now at www.facebook.com/AmedeaBar and in-person once lockdown restrictions in England are over! We are sure Ed will give all of his guests a wonderful welcome!

Amedea, The Half-Croatian Bar
3 Oxford Street