Lucky visitors to the eastern Adriatic region have a chance to experience Croatia's and Slovenia's delightful enogastronomic scenes - among countless other natural and cultural wonders - in one go. The two country's capitals, Zagreb and Ljubljana, are just under two hours apart by car, while Croatia's rich culinary region of Istria is less than three hours away. So, along with experiencing Croatia's finest and most flavourful of restaurants, why not continue your food-induced felicity in Slovenia?
Slovenia's capital city garnered a - very-well-deserved - spot on TIME magazine's "World's greatest places 2021" list for one main reason: the country's culinary excellence. Michelin's official description for Ljubljana reads:
"The Slovenian capital’s already acclaimed gastronomic scene got a huge boost with the 2020 unveiling of its first-ever Michelin Guide - six of its restaurants have been awarded a total of seven Michelin stars. Among them: chef Jorg Zupan’s much-lauded Atelje, which reopened in May - after pivoting to takeout during the pandemic - returning to its ever-changing tasting menu showcasing Slovenian ingredients, like dry-aged Krskoolje pork. Odprta kuhna (Open Kitchen), the Friday-night food market featuring the area’s top food purveyors, whose return has been highly anticipated, is also one of the city’s most beloved culinary traditions. Other notable additions include the Fuzzy Log, an eco-friendly hostel whose guests can sleep in rooftop tents and log cabins (among other options), and soon, Cukrarna, a repurposed 19th-century sugar refinery, which will debut next year as a new mixed-use cultural venue."
With hard-to-match nature - Triglav National Park and the beautiful Bled Lake make perfect sojourns for when you're between bites - freshly sourced meat and produce abound. This, along with the most creative, hard-working, and passionate of teams, makes Slovenia an obligatory destination for anyone with an appreciation of food as an art form. To help our gourmet readers plan out their gastronomic globe-trot, we're bringing you a guide to Slovenia's Michelin-acclaimed eateries.
Two Michelin stars
Nestled among the stunning blues and greens of Slovenia's Soča River Valley is Hiša Franko. Michelin reveals the price average of this outstanding restaurant as 225 EUR, and describes its offer - headed by renowned chef Ana Roš - as creative regional cuisine.
Michelin says: All the staff in this restaurant show real talent, from the female chef Ana Roš to the sous-chef, maître d’ and everyone else on the team. Professionalism, attention to detail and passion are evident in the cuisine here, as demonstrated on the tasting menu of several small dishes, all of which are different in taste and concept. Acidity is the dominant note in the cuisine here, alongside flavours with a hint of bitterness. Prepare yourself for an exciting culinary adventure and an extraordinary dining experience!
One Michelin star
Hiša Denk sits within the greenery and rolling hills surrounding Slovenia's second-largest city of Maribor. For guests to gauge the prices, Michelin has listed a range of 45-85 EUR while describing the restaurant, which thrives under the expert eye of chef Gregor Vračko, as creative, modern cuisine.
Michelin says: Situated in a small village between the wine-producing regions of Austrian Styria and Mariborsko Pohorje, this restaurant is now run by chef Gregor Vračko who, following many years working in leading restaurants around the world, has come home to take over the reigns at his mother’s old inn, where he has created a temple to fine cuisine. The perfect ambassador for excellent Slovenian fare, Vračko plays with the concept of a surprise menu (the longest menu includes around eight courses). This chef combines a modern and creative approach with pride in the culinary traditions of his region.
Guests will find Restavracija Atelje situated in Slovenia's enchanting, hard-to-beat capital city. Serving up creative cuisine, owner-chef Jorg Zupan has something fantastic for everyone, within a price range of 24-120 EUR.
Michelin says: A sort of gastronomic “workshop” where everyone does their utmost to ensure that guests enjoy an unforgettable experience – and there’s no doubt that they succeed! The owner-chef, Jorg Zupan, has an extraordinarily rich CV, having worked in Australia, the UK and Norway before returning to his homeland to open his own restaurant. Don’t be fooled by appearances – although the cuisine served here may look simple, it is actually sophisticated and skillfully thought out. Fermented products add a touch of acidity to the dishes, while ingredients such as kombucha and miso bear witness to the chef’s travels around the world.
Vila Podvin is set against the dreamy, sprawling estate of the same name, which dates back to the 14th century and was inhabited by local members of the aristocracy over the years. For 24-95 EUR, visitors can relish modern cuisine by head chef Uroš Štefelin.
Michelin says: This old stable is now home to an elegant restaurant with rooms, where a shady garden offers the perfect setting for a romantic dinner or a drink in summer. The dining room has a modern feel which is slightly offset by the traditional brick-vaulted ceiling. With its roots in the local region, chef Uroš Štefelin’s cuisine evokes memories and emotions, and is teeming with flavours which stimulate the senses. Always cooked perfectly, to exactly the right temperature, and astutely seasoned, many of the dishes here are made from zero-mile ingredients.
Located on a hill overlooking the breathtaking Vipava Valley, Gostilna Pri Lojzetu is another restaurant with a highly warranted Michelin accolade. Modern, contemporary cuisine for around 55-95 EUR takes the spotlight here, served up by chef Tomaž Kavčič.
Michelin says: Experience pure creativity in this restaurant, both in the way the food is prepared and in the cuisine itself. Authentic ingredients take pride of place here, most of which are local and which have been carefully chosen to offer cleverly combined dishes closely linked to the region but also with influences from nearby Italy – all with an added contemporary twist. When choosing your wine pairing, we strongly recommend asking for expert advice and recommendations from the sommelier, who is extremely well-informed on all the restaurant’s wines.
The awe-inspiring Adriatic Sea is just 20 kilometres away from Dam, which accordingly provides a range of succulent seafood masterpieces. Marvellous, modern, and Mediterranean cuisine (for fares of 75-116 EUR) is crafted up here by chef Uroš Fakuč.
Michelin says: The chef is ever-present at this restaurant, demonstrating a highly commendable ability to perform both in the kitchen and front of house. Situated slightly off the beaten track a couple of kilometres out of town, the restaurant looks out on to the street through its large, modern windows, while its interior decor boasts an urban-chic ambience. Contemporary dishes, with an international flavour, are skilfully prepared and beautifully presented, with a slight emphasis on fish rather than meat.
And Slovenia's gastronomic pleasures don't stop at the stars. The country has nine restaurants with a Bib Gourmand distinction and 37 Michelin Plate places that'll keep you full, body and soul, and ever eagerly coming back for more.
Truly, after dining on one of chef Roš's mouthwatering chestnut dumplings, or after biting into a piece of juicy Remšnik lamb at Hiša Denk - you might just find yourself prolonging your Slovenian stay for another few days...
Or weeks, if you have a go at Dam's decadent chocolate dessert.