The European nation that’s becoming a dining hotspot
Michelin has never troubled to explore Slovenia whose cuisine reflects many cultures
Michelin has never troubled to explore the restaurants of Slovenia whose cuisine reflects European and Asian influences
Think of dining destinations in Europe and Slovenia might not be high on your list.
You’d probably have trouble finding it on a map – and then be reduced to Googling to discover places to eat. Michelin has never troubled to explore the restaurants of a nation whose cuisine reflects Italian, German, Hungarian, Asian and Austrian influences. But it turns out Slovenia is enjoying a tourism boom as people explore the home nation of First Lady Melania Trump.
And yet, you can dine very well in Slovenia, a beautiful country of mountains and valleys, whose capital of Ljubljana (pronounced LUBE-liana) is an undiscovered gem.
So where to eat in Slovenia? Some suggestions.
This gastronomic restaurant is housed in a tower in Ljubljana Castle, with tables on a terrace overlooking the city. It's a gorgeous place to dine. Rather than just play safe for the tourists, chef Igor Jagodic produces flavourful dishes that are as beautiful to look at as they are to eat. There are tasting menus (four courses for € 44/US$52) as well as a la carte, featuring colourful options such as scallop with watermelon, melon, cucumber, pistachio and bread.
This unusual restaurant in a village 20 minutes north of Ljubljana is worth the trip - for the decor as well as the food. The in- terior is cluttered like a junk shop, while tinny music - marches and waltzes and swing - emerges from a vintage gramophone. You can sit outside if you don't mind being buzzed by countless wasps.
The food is rustic without being dull or predictable.
There is no menu: The meal might include dishes such as beef tongue with garlic, topped with goat's and sheep's cheese. The pace is unhurried, so allow three hours for a meal.
Chef Janez Bratovz’s sophisticated restaurant celebrates Slovenian cuisine, focusing on seasonal ingredients rather than technical innovation. It's hushed and a bit formal, but its familyrun and children are particularly welcome.
Bratovz is a veteran chef who helped gain international attention for his country's food, winning awards and collaborating with Alain Ducasse and other leading culinary masters. Dishes may include homemade ravioli filed with cottage cheese and pistachio, meat and cream sauce, goose liver, licorice. Bratovz’s food is full of flavour and he’s more likely to be in the kitchen than on TV, though he is a celebrity in Slovenia. This is one of the smartest restaurants in the country, and the tasting menus start at € 45.
This modern, stripped-down restaurant serves creative dishes in informal surroundings. It's affordable gastronomy. But it is the evening when things get most interesting, with tasting menus that may feature dishes such as baby cuttlefish with pea cream. This place is rated No 1 of 479 restaurants in Ljubljana on TripAdvisor, but don't let that put you off: It really is good.
The two-course lunch costs € 16 and tasting menus start at € 40.
This Indian restaurant is worth a visit mainly for the location, though the food isn't bad either. On a warm summer's evening, you can sit outside and enjoy the
views across the Ljubljanica river to the castle. Most of the dishes are Mughal cuisine from north India, and there are also some Mumbai street-food snacks.
This restaurant near the border with Italy is a destination for diners from as far away as Australia. Chef Ana Roš was this year named the world’s best female chef. She grows vegetables and herbs on the hill behind her restaurant, while most of the other produce comes from the surrounding area. Just don’t go making the two-hour drive from Ljubjlana without a reservation. Hiša Franko is often booked
out two months in advance for dishes such as sardine, candy lemon fennel; and tripe, duck jus, cave cheese, fried nettles, chanterelles. The tasting menus cost € 85 euros and € 120.
If you can’t get into Hiša Franko, all is not lost. This traditional inn in the nearby village of Kobarid is the new project of Ana, and one of her deputies is in the kitchen.
The prices are low and the service is informal and friendly. You can dine very well for a few euros on dishes such as zabeljena (frozen) polenta, with cottage cheese and bacon; and venison goulash with bread souffle. The customers are a good mix of tourists and locals. If you are there late in the evening, this is a hangout for staffers from Hiša Franko.
For a village with a population not far north of 1,000, Kobarid is blessed with good places to eat.
Topli Val, less than five minutes’ walk from Hiša Polonka, is a surprisingly good restaurant. Topli Val’s specialty is seafood, with dishes such as giant scallops with sweet tomato; and grilled sea bass. If you don't fancy fish, options include filet of venison Kobarid-style.
There is also a strong wine list, with bottles from around Slovenia. The best place is the terrace, where you can enjoy views of the surrounding mountains. The restaurant is part of the Hotel Hvala, a family business.
Strelec restaurant is in the Ljubljana Castle, with a terrace overlooking the city
The prices are low and the service is friendly at Hiša Polonka
Aged beef with baked carrots; and duck-liver raviolo at Strelec Restaurant
Monstera food: Trout; beef cheeks; beetroot tartare; chocolate mousse