Luxury Dining in Ljubljana – 3 Superior Spots To Eat in Slovenia
Written by Jaillan Yehia
Food can make or break a destination. I remember my first trip to Portugal, when I was distinctly underwhelmed by the food – and as a result didn’t venture back for years (though when I did I found its foodie side.)
When planning my trip to Ljubljana I wasn’t sure what to expect from Slovenia’s restaurant scene, but I certainly didn’t expect this…
Eastern European cuisine. I had images of goulash, dumplings, heavy stews and hearty meals before I arrived in Ljubljana. I couldn’t have been more wrong. And it isn’t often I’ll utter that phrase.
On my first evening in the city, within a couple of hours of touching down on Slovenian soil for the first time (and one of the best things about Ljubljana is how accessible everything is) I was dining on Karst region prosciutto at the plush Union Hotel’s patio restaurant, and I was wowed; that’s when it dawned on me that there was an entire national cuisine here that was going to be a joy to discover.
These are the 3 restaurants that helped me get acquainted with both Slovenian cuisine and Ljubljana’s luxury dining scene…
The Union Garden Restaurant
The four star Union Hotel’s signature summer restaurant is set in a leafy courtyard right in the heart of ‘the city’ – though describing Ljubljana as a city always feels like a misnomer; the entire centre of town is pedestrianised making it far more tranquil than your average metropolis.
But if you’re looking for a pleasant alfresco setting in which to enjoy some expertly cooked Slovenian food within a genteel atmosphere, the appealing menu of local dishes here, paired with impressive native wines, make for a tasty choice.
Fittingly for summer there’s an extensive salad menu, featuring local hams and cheeses and a heartier warm dish selection including native Krškopolje pork as well as steaks from further afield, finished off with a superior selection of desserts including moreish macaroons.
Tel: +386 (0)1 308 1295
Another classically lovely European patio setting, this time in a slightly more quiet part of town right by the river. Manna, or to give the restaurant its full name Hiša kulinarike Manna (Culinary House of Manna), is all about elevating traditional Slovenian as well as European dishes to a new level.
When checking in on location-based app Foursquare I’m surprised to see Manna categorised as molecular gastronomy – this isn’t quite the right description but if multiple courses of elaborately creative dishes, presented beautifully is your thing, you’ll still be more than satisfied by an evening at Manna which has plenty of accolades from previous happy customers, including the Queen.
The team here take a very hands-on approach, service is as attentive as it could be, and the home-grown nature of the food and hand-picked wine list to match shapes your experience.
Manna is a 10 minute stroll from the epicentre of Ljubljana at Eipprova street 1a , and is open all day, seven days a week.
Tel: +386(0) 7 05 79 691 / +386(0) 5 99 22 308
Gostilna Na Gradu
The husband and wife team running Gostilna Na Gradu, Dominic and Tanja, work with one or two local farmers to obtain the freshest and best produce for their restaurant, which has a killer courtyard inside the castle grounds.
The ice cream and cheese that form the final two courses are made in Tanja and Damian’s own home while Tanja’s mum is a sommelier and her father is wine producer so that’s the wine selection taken care of – and Damian’s dad breeds the lamb that sits on my plate as I chat to him, while his mum bakes native fennel bread which we’ve enjoyed as an accompaniment to the many courses of Slovenian-fusion food, served in a contemporary but accessible manner.
If this doesn’t prove their commitment to keeping their food sustainable, traceable and more importantly for us, tasty, I don’t know what does.
Gostilna Na Gradu is one of 3 restaurants nestled inside the castle walls and is accessed by walking, taking a taxi or using the funicular to reach the ramparts.
Open 7 days a week, though the kitchen does close early on Sundays (at 4pm)
Tel: +386 8 205 19 30
So, luxury dining in Ljubljana, what’s the verdict?
There are three key things I notice about the dining scene here in Ljubljana:
Firstly that home-made, local, seasonal and forest, farm or ocean fresh are concepts that are inseparable from the luxury restaurants in the city and crop up time and time again in my talks with restaurant owners and chefs – you can really taste and feel the difference.
Secondly, the Slovenian wine that’s served almost exclusively at these establishments is a hundred times better than it has any right to be, considering the fact that Slovenian wine’s reputation is practically non-existent in most of the world. Until you’ve tried it you won’t believe how good it is.
And thirdly – the cost to value ratio of the gourmet food on offer in Ljubljana is startling – if you ordered food of this quality in most of Europe (or North America) you’d be spending the same chunk of change as it costs for an entire weekend of edible enjoyment in Ljubljana. That’s a win.
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