Often regarded simply as a stopover point en route to the majestic Lake Bled, the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, is a rewarding holiday destination in itself. Here’s our pick of the most exquisite and delightfully independent restaurants in the city.
Gostilna na Gradu
Gostilna na Gradu restaurant allows the average diner to eat like a king inside Ljubljana’s own castle. Serving traditional Slovenian dishes, the restaurant lets guests enjoy steaming bowls of Kras jota soup, Istra bobiči soup and Prekmurje bograč stew. The restaurant’s chefs pride themselves on using organic ingredients wherever possible and sourcing their fruit, vegetables and meats from the local markets. Stop by for a quick lunch while touring the castle grounds or choose to embark on a culinary journey across Slovenia with a delicious and indulgent three-course meal. Try the hand-chopped reindeer tartare for starter, the Piran sea bass with broccoli cream for main course and the plum ice cream for dessert.
The first cafe to serve authentic Arabic food in Slovenia, Falafel gives hungry tourists the rare opportunity to sample some exotic fare within the capital city. Able to cater for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a quick afternoon snack, Falafel serves a variety of meat and vegetarian dishes that taste delicious and arrive at your table quickly. This is the perfect choice of restaurant for those that like to eat healthily and try new flavors and dishes. Diners can choose a few small dishes to share such as the Arab rolls, the falafels and kubbe, or tuck into a main course for one such as a kebab or salad plate.
Located along the Ljubljanica River overlooking the Plečnik arcades, the Kavarna Cacao is a thriving pastry shop offering an abundance of delicious ice cream flavors, cakes, sandwiches, cocktails and natural juices. Grab a table here to enjoy a lazy lunch or even just an ice cream while watching the world go by. It’s the perfect spot for dining solo as well as in groups and the view from the outdoor seating area is truly special. Choose between an abundance of tasty ice cream flavors or mix and match to create the perfect combination.
Le Petit Café
Open for lunch every day and dinner Monday to Saturday, Le Petit Café is home to both a casual cafe and an elegant restaurant. Find a table in the little cafe and eat breakfast consisting of French croissants, fresh fruit and great coffee, or stop by at lunch for a slice of homemade quiche, a steaming bowl of soup or a plate of delicious pasta. The menu in the restaurant changes each month in keeping with seasonal produce and ingredients, but the dishes on offer are always inspired by traditional French haute cuisine. More than 30 different wines are on the menu too, ensuring that Le Petit Café has the perfect bottle to complement every dish and to match every mood.
Situated along the mini tourist strip, Julija serves delightful three-course set lunches. The cuisine here is primarily Italian but with a few more exotic dishes thrown in every now and again too. Stick with the traditional and sample Julija’s take on goulash or order the chicken breast in a spicy peanut sauce to add a bit of fire to the meal. The restaurant itself is simply beautiful; the rustic white wooden furnishings and old fashioned bar work together in creating an intimate yet luxurious atmosphere in which guests can enjoy a pleasurable lunch or dinner.
A quaint little patisserie and cafe, Lolita is the perfect place to while a way a morning or afternoon and people-watch from the comfort of a sofa-style seat hidden behind the sanctuary of a window. A place to indulge your senses, Lolita serves incredibly tasty cakes, pies, mousse, panna cotta, chocolate and cookies. The design is sophisticated and modern with plush black and white furnishings and soft touches of color in the fabrics and textiles. On a rainy day, bring a journal or a good book to Lolita’s. With a coffee and plate of macaroons in hand, you’ll rapidly forget the dreary weather outside.
Serving delicious dishes using ingredients fresh from the sea, Ribca is the most renowned seafood restaurant in Ljubljana. Nestled down along the banks of the Ljubljanica, Ribca is an architectural joy to visit as well as the place to go for delicious fish dishes. All of the fish and seafood on the menu are sourced from the fresh fish market that can be found right next door to the restaurant and the three-part lunch menu is amazingly good value. Each week the new lunch menu is uploaded onto Ribca’s website and often includes dishes such as creamy crab soup, cuttlefish risotto, swordfish croquettes and gilt head bream. It’s open for lunch only.
Run by a brother-and-sister duo, Spajza offers its guests the opportunity to sample top-quality, home-cooked Tuscan fare in the heart of Slovenia. The menu changes with the seasons to ensure that all of the ingredients used are as fresh and as tasty as any true gourmand would expect. Diners can choose between a meat or fish tasting menu, which tend to include excellent dishes such as goat pate with roasted hazelnuts; gnocchi with nettles and almonds; and sea bass carpaccio with trout caviar. There is also an a la carte menu bursting with tasty dishes such as smoked goose breasts with truffles; zucchini filled with boletus mushrooms; and veal medallions with orange and ginger.
Surrounded by a canopy of chestnut trees, Manna has been around for nearly 200 years. Proud locals will jump to tell you that among the thousands of guests the restaurant has hosted over the decades, Laura Bush and the Queen of England both feature. Specializing in a fusion of Slovenian and Mediterranean cuisine, the restaurant’s menu features meats that have all been cured in house for at least 30 days. All of the fish and seafood have been caught fresh that day. Manna offers its guests four different tasting menus to choose between, each of which change seasonally. For those with a smaller appetite or looking for a slightly less indulgent dinner, there is also a gourmet a la carte menu to order from. The fillet of Slovenian trout with a corn crust and the slow roasted pigs cheeks are both gorgeous choices.
A modern restaurant located within an old, arched tavern, Valvasor is a place of contrasts. Split over three levels, the restaurant carries a welcoming and warm feeling throughout, complemented by the earthy tones of the decor and the dark wood of the furnishings. The cuisine is Mediterranean and guests have the choice to order from the a la carte menu or to treat themselves to one of the fine tasting menus, which are perfect for a special occasion or celebratory dinner. Try the fresh tuna with tangerine foam starter, the green pea soup with fresh Greek yoghurt, the cutlet of spring lamb with potato mosaic and the chocolate soufflé dessert for the recipe to a truly unforgettable and exquisite meal.
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