What is the food like in Slovenia? Good question. I’ve found updated versions of the dishes my Slovenian grandma would recognize, as well as the comfort food from other parts of the former Yugoslavia. (Think burek and cvapčiči.) You’ll also find influences from the neighboring countries of Italy, Austria and Hungary. Here are some restaurants where you can sample cutting-edge recipes based on Slovenian traditions, and prepared by TV chefs. I’ll update this post as I discover new places to dine like a celebrity in Slovenia.
Monstera Bistro: Trust the Chef
The story goes that a world famous athlete stopped by and ordered a Caesar salad. No way, was the response. Monstera Bistro only serves the dishes that are on the menu for the day. Period.
But that’s a good thing because chef Bine Volčič is the guy who teaches the contestants how to cook on the TV show Gostilna Išče Šefa (Looking for a Restaurant Boss). He’s also a family-oriented guy who sets his own hours to spend more time at home. So reservations are required if you want to experience lunch here. Starting at 16 euros for two courses, it’s a good value that deserves its top Trip Advisor rankings. Two choices are offered for each course, always with options for meat or vegetarian. The 40-euro dinner tasting menu is available on weekends. More info on the restaurant’s website. To see videos of Bine in action, register here.
There’s absolutely nothing pretentious about this casual, sunlit dining space, located just steps off Congress Square (Kongresni Trg) on a side street. Food can be accompanied by house-brewed craft beer and fresh juice, bio wines and sparkling or still Ljubljana tap water. All responsibly sourced and prepared according to a zero-waste concept. Another reason to fall in love with sustainable Slovenia!
Dvor Jezeršek: All in the Family
To sample another of Slovenia’s TV chefs, you’ll need to drive or taxi outside of Ljubljana to the small town of Cerkije, near the airport. It’s worth the trip.
The atmosphere at Dvor Jezeršek is comfortable and relaxed, so you may not realize you are dining at one of the country’s Top 20 culinary restaurants, dedicated to the authentic tastes of Slovenia. The restaurant is part of a larger conference and catering complex.
Luka Jezeršek appears on the Slovenian version of Master Chef. But great cooking runs in his family. Yet there is nothing stuffy about this place, including the prices which are a good value for the quality.
I enjoyed the herb soup, which had had a whole literary tradition behind it. The recipe dates back to Valentin Vodnik, a poet and journalist who published the first Slovene cookbook in 1799. My son ordered the bočnik, tender beef which I immediately recognized as the Sunday dish we used to call “stringy meat” when my mom made it. And the desserts are stellar.
Dining here on a summer afternoon, you’ll share the charming patio with Slovenes celebrating special occasions as kids play happily nearby. Service was friendly and top-notch. I was pleased to see a house wine from Vina Koper, which I featured in another post.
Disclosure: (I came here as an invited guest with a discount. The above reflects the typical experience anyone can expect.)
Slovenia’s culinary scene is also lively in the winter, beginning with a food festival in November. Some of the top chefs can be found in the mountains for a January event called the Gourmet Cup, which involves both cooking and skiing.
In Ljubliana, Svetozar “Pope” Raspopović has been putting a gourmet twist on the traditions of the Karst region since the 1990s. I was a guest of the Slovenian Tourist Board and Imperial Luxury Slovenia and for an impressive 5-course seafood menu at Gostilna AS. The restaurant is built around a tree in the old center of Ljubljana, which must be delightful in the warmer months with a more casual menu. The address is on the busy shopping street Čopova Ulica, but is easier to find if you enter from Wolfova Cesta off Prešeren Square.
Each course, elegantly presented and paired with Slovenian white wine, was a surprise. Our group of travel writers got a kick out of a few pictures on the walls of the cozy, stone-walled dining room, depicting curvy women and perhaps explaining the name AS. You’ll also see pictures of Bill Clinton, 007 Actor Roger Moore and other celebrities who have dined here. I could go on about the flaming sea bass and egg stuffed with caviar, but I’ll just let the photos tell the story. Click on each picture in the gallery to read the caption.
So what is Slovene food like? Think of the possibilities in a land where the Mediterranean meets the Alps. And with a master chef in the kitchen.
Terry’s Travel Tips:
“Gostilna” is a Slovenian word for a fancy sit-down restaurant, used interchangeably with “restavracija.”
You can get a free custom travel itinerary from Imperial Luxury Slovenia.
If you’re in Ljubljana on a Friday during the summer, check out my post on the outdoor food fest called Oprtna Kuhna.