Slovenian Gastronomy

Food and cuisine in Slovenia

Unlike many other travel websites, we will not attempt to convince you that everything is perfect about the local cuisine: that's called lying and it does both the country and yourself a disservice. After all, if we told you the world's best aardvark compote came from Lake Bled, you'd be a tad disappointed if you couldn't find any in the vicinity (we've looked, and there definitely isn't any).

Gastronomic tours

Let us take you on a journey that will having you boring the pants off everyone when you get back, regaling them with tales of comestibles that have - so far - slipped under the tyre company's radar (because the tyre company doesn't 'do' Slovenia.

Here are two itinerary ideas to get you salivating...

A fourteen night culinary tour of eastern Slovenia

Oštarija

The most gorgeous valley in the world? Who knows, but Logarska Dolina's vivid beauty tales some getting used to, so a few nights at Raduha will help. As well as dining on her fine cuisine, Martina will give you a cookery lesson and plenty of insights into the region's gastronomy.

Next in your fourteen night tour is the exemplary Sončna Hiša, a modern yet relaxed boutique hotel in the foody heaven of Prekmurje. A couple of tasting menus later and it's south to the rolling hills of Dolenjska, where you'll be staying at the idyllic Šeruga tourist farm (or the fairy tale castle of Otočec, depending on your budget).

Then it's time to invade Croatian Istria - specifically the little town of Brtonigla, overlooking the Adriatic - to stay at one of our favourites: San Rocco. Even if it wasn't for the truffles, the cuisine here has star quality - as have the rooms, wellness facilities and swimming pool: bliss all in one place!

Finally, it's back into Ljubljana and the Cubo Hotel, from where you'll sample the capital's delights, including dinner at its most famous restaurant, Gostilna As. Read more...

A feast for the eyes, as well as for the soul

Zemono

A fourteen night tour taking in the west of the country - Bled(ish), Soča Valley, Goriška Brda, a dip into Italy's Collio, the Vipava valley and finally Ljubljana. You'll being staying in some of our finest hotels and dining on seven tasting menus in some of our finest restaurants.

Where appropriate, we'll arrange transfers so you can indulge yourself without a subsequent introduction to Slovenia's finest.

You'll also get a cooking lesson from one of the top chefs in the country... so you can back up your stories with actual evidence! Read more...


Food in Slovenia

Here we'll give you a general overview on what comestibles you'll find and probably want to nibble on. We will be updating this section as and when we feel like it, so keep comin'.

Seasonality

Farmer's market stalls, Ljubljana

The main reason that so much food in Slovenia tastes bright and fresh and yummy is that it is mostly seasonal. Having lived there for about eighteen months, it was a joy to be reminded of how food used to taste back in my far distant youth. Visiting the central market in Ljubljana unveiled a constantly changing palette of colours, smells and textures, initially making shopping a bit of a challenge due to the huge choice available. That is, real choice, like five or six types of radicchio, various varieties of carrots and other rootsy root crops, astonishing splashes of tomatoes, leaves crinkly, curly, variegated and smooth, smashing pumpkins, apples of my eye and cherries for poppin'... but most, most importantly: ONLY WHEN IN SEASON.

Ljubljana fish market

And of course, while writing this in Brussels (where the standard and choice of fresh fish is shameful), my thoughts turn to the excellent fish market in Ljubljana.

Still, enough of my blabbing on - the point is, during your holiday you'll be offered all manner of veggies, fruit and salads. They'll all be fresh and tasty and appropriate to the time of year: please don't ask for strawberries in February or kumquats anytime.

Menus

Slovenian restaurant menus tend to be fairly straightforward affairs and often they are translated into Italian, German and English (usually badly - but a useful source of pre-dinner entertainment). Here are a few items you may find in a traditional gostilna...

Always on the menu, and inevitably one of them will be beef soup (goveja juha pron. goveya yooha). This is virtually a national dish and is a clear, full-flavoured broth with either noodles or dumplings and a sprinkle of parsley (i.e. very similar to jewish chicken soup (that is, chicken soup as made and eaten by jewish people, not soup made from jewish chickens)).

Depending on the season, mushroom soup (gobova juha) is a must - often made with locally-picked wild mushrooms, especially chanterelles, horse mushrooms, morrels and porcini. During the winter months, barley soup (ricet, pron. ritset) will warm you through nicely.

One to keep clear of is the bloody awful prežganka: a direct link to Slovenia's peasant past, it consists of just browned flour and hot water... possibly 'flavoured' with carraway seeds. The rich peasant's version includes some egg. Poor egg.

Inevitably, you will be offered pršut (cured ham), salamis and local cheeses, often with an accompanying glass of teran (full-bodied red wine from the karst country). Accept.

Warning: especially in gostilnas (local inns), you will be tempted by the many starters on the menu - soups, warm and cold dishes, risottos, as well as the plates of local cheeses and cured meats. Unless you could eat a horse (which will also be on the menu), decline politely. Anyway, you'll need to make room for dessert.

It's a funny old world: I come from an island with a coastline of over 17,000 kilometres and nobody is more than 113 km from the sea. Since the Good Guys robbed Slovenia of its coastline up to Trst (Trieste), it has had to make do with about 47 km: less than 360th of Britain's. Then why oh why is there bugger all fish in the UK, while Slovenia is full of it.

Again, it's pretty seasonal, but you can be sure that you'll be offered the best that's available. Varieties like sea bass (brancin pron. bransin) and gilt-head bream (orada) often come from farms, but the line-caught versions are usually around at the same time (about twice the price but about three times the flavour). Sole (morski list), turbot (romb), gurnard, grey (cipli, pron. tsipli) and red mullet, mackerel, squid (lignji, pron. lignyee) of all sizes, octopus (hobotnica pron. hobotnitsa) and cuttlefish (cipa, pron. tseepa), mussels, clams and razorshells are fresh from the Adriatic most days, while carp (krap), pike-perch and various trout (postrv) are hauled in from Slovenia's many rivers.

Most restaurants serve at least some trout and squid, but there are many that specialise in fish and sea-food. In fact, one of the very best is up in the mountains in the Soča Valley: Topli Val at the Hvala hotel (best seafood meal of my life).

But another word of warning: most of the restaurants on the sea front in Piran serve over-cooked, greasy and badly seasoned fish, usually accompanied by over-boiled potatoes and limp blitva (chard) - a sure sign that they're actually Croatian-owned.

Lamb (jagnje, pron. yagnye) is quite rare (that is, there's not much of it) in Slovenia, mostly due to it's association with the peoples of the south (as a travel website, we won't comment further). There are a few chefs in the better restaurants who do some excellent lamby things, including the very wonderful Franci Pivk at Kendov Dvorec.

Beef (goveja, pron. goveya) isn't as good as you'll find at home, and is at its best when cooked long and slow (but is truly excellent in beef soup, natch). Strangely, the snootiness about lamb means that most of the places that claim to make čevapčiči (pron. chevapchichi - or sheftali kebabs) actually don't, as they use beef instead of the more authentic lamb or mutton.

Pork (svinjina, pron. svinyina) is often the best bet, and features a lot on traditional menus.

Horse and foal is widely available, whether as a burger, or as a juicy steak seared to perfection at a fine restaurant.

Game is highly prized on many Slovenian menus. Wild(ish) boar, various deer, kid and goat turn up all over the place - and they're always worth a go.

Much of the chicken (piščanec, pron. pishchanets) in Slovenia comes from the poultry-stalags in the north east of the country, almost all of which are owned by Perutnina. However, most reputable restaurants forego their 'products' and opt instead for locally-reared chickens that have actually seen the sky on a daily basis.

More popular is turkey (puran), which is invariably served in sliced form - whether fried, deep-fried, grilled, sautéed, poached, roasted or blow-torched.
NOTE to UK cooking shows: it is never, ever, EVER pan-fried. It's 'fried'.

Occasionally, you will find other birds on the menu. But not often.

Slovenia is an excellent source of your five-a-day intake of non-sentient food. As stated above, most fruit, salad and vegetables are only available seasonally: although this means there isn't the breadth available in a British supermaket, the depth of flavour more than makes up for it.

So-called because they will have the scales sliding upwards. Beware of portion size! Even of salads!!

And finally, watch out for štrukli: Slovenian dumplings that go with just about everything. Eat some, but then do a few laps in the pool.

Now then, even if you've managed to get through that lot without adding another hole to your belt... it's probably time to buy a new one anyway. How most Slovenes keep themselves so svelt is a mystery.

Cakes - just a light amble around Ljubljana will tell you all you need to know about Slovenian cakes. What it won't tell you is how you're going munch your way through them in your all-too-short stay. Probably the most popular is the ever-expanding Zvezda (on a corner of Kongresni trg, or the ground floor of Hotel Slon). The three most important (and yes, important is the right word here) in the Slovenian cake hall of fame are...

  • Potica: a yeast-dough based round, filled with walnuts and raisins or tarragon. Not easy to make (but I can, so nya nya), but easy to consume.
  • Gibanica: from the plains of Pomurje, this is a layer cake that includes poppy seeds, apple, curd cheese, nuts... it is indeed the Cake of Champions. Easy to make (yup, I can make this one too), but not so easy to consume after a meal: definitely a meal in itself.
  • Kremna Rezina: usually called 'kremšnita' (pron. kremshneeta), this for all of you who don't mind the possibility of a mild heart attack. Basically, two wafer-thin slices of pastry, held apart by a thick layer of creamy stuff... and another layer of creamy stuff.

Hotels with fine restaurants

Budget
Boutique
Family
Food
Romantic
Rustic
Wine

No high-falutin' fine dining here - just local Slovene/Italian recipes, made from locally-sourced products and cooked with care and love.

The place is full of Italians throughout the summer months - that's all you need to know.

Read more...

Boutique
City
Culture
Family
Food
Luxury
Romantic

Cubo started out as a very good Italian-influenced restaurant across town - which is still there of course! - and the owner thought it was about time he applied his approach to cooking to a hotel: the very best ingredients prepared simply and with finesse.

Read more...

Activities
Boutique
Family
Food
Luxury
Mountains
Romantic
Weddings

The most beautiful hotel, with the most beautiful views of the most beautiful valley in Europe: imagine returning after clambering/rafting/flying/biking over the valley and sitting on the terrace under the summer stars, tucking into the best cuisine in town. What a fantastic end to the day!

Read more...

Activities
Boutique
Family
Food
Luxury
Mountains
Romantic
Weddings
Wine

How Ana Roš, the owner and chef of Hiša Franko hasn't got a couple of Michelin stars is entirely beyond us.

We're exhausted trying to get the tyre people to go there - now it's your turn: go and eat then tell the world.

Read more...

Activities
Budget
Family
Food
Mountains

Why is it that the best fish restaurant in Slovenia is nowhere near the sea?

I guess when you have a chef with such dedication to his art, having fresh deliveries brought up the valley from the Adriatic every day is just what you do.

Probably the best seafood I have ever eaten.

Oh, and although this is a 'budget' hotel, they also have a couple of suites that are as good as any five star in the country. No: much better!

Read more...

Boutique
Culture
Family
Food
Luxury
Romantic
Weddings
Wine

 

Chef Franci Pivk has made it his job to bring local Idrijan cuisine kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century, refining and tweaking local dishes until they don't just fill you up - they raise you up.

The best žlikrofi in the country.

Read more...

Boutique
Coast
Family
Food
Luxury
Romantic
Spa
Weddings
Wine

Our first Croatian hotel was supposed to be just a visit for my birthday arranged by a friend who wanted to buy me dinner.

Seven courses of some of the finest cooking I have ever had the pleasure to get outside later, and we decided to stay... and later next morning talk to the family owners about whether we could please please please add San Rocco to our portfolio.

Read more...

Boutique
Family
Food
Luxury
Romantic
Wine

 

Our first Italian hotel - and our first Michelin star restaurant.

'Nuff said... apart from saying that the family owners are warm-hearted, kind and funny (Joško saying that he's happy to get the star, as long as it makes those nice Michelin people happy. He gets his happiness fro serving the best food around - and making some very fine vinegar).

Read more...

Boutique
City
Culture
Family
Food
Luxury
Romantic
Weddings
Wine

Where can you get the best French/Slovenian cuisine in Europe (it's a loaded question)?

Some very fine dining to be had during the evening, along with a very fine wine cellar to match.

But lunchtimes are given over to providing very reasonably priced dishes, as an introduction to what is possible later in the day.

Very clever - and we think a very nice thing to do, too.

Read more...

Activities
Boutique
Family
Food
Luxury
Mountains
Romantic
Weddings
Wine

Our latest (2014) restaurant hotel is run by what used to be one of the Three Chefs of Lake Bled, Uroš Štefelin.

Now he is the One Chef of Radovlica and Lake Bled has lost some of its sparkle.

As well as serving fine cuisine at the restaurant, Uroš also runs cookery classes - especially for children, which makes him a Great Bloke as far as we are concerned.

Read more...