Restavracija Valentin, Ljubljana 10-2012

The Vodnikov trg market square of Ljubljana has recently acquired a collection of food vans, with the two or three most fragrant specialising in fried seafood. As tempting as these were, Valentin caught my attention first for a few reasons - their outdoor seating overlooking the market square on a sunny blue-skied day, the wafting smells from other people's plates and the fresh seafood displayed from their fishmonger front.

I wanted variety. The 400g of Deep-Fried Mixed Seafood €10 (squid, sardines, hake, whitebait, whiting, octopus) seemed the right choice, even if they did suggest it would be for two.

The seafood is good quality, fresh and cooked to perfection with great flavour. The best by far was the whiting, the largest fish on the plate with juicy flesh and crispy salty fried coating. Whole octopus tentacles had been lightly pan-fried to a tasty red skin and a great smooth chew. Tiny deep-fried squid presented chewy mouthfuls each. Calamari rings and smaller fish were also to a good standard but paled in comparison to the rest.

Next time I would order the same Deep-Fried Mixed Seafood plate. Even though the whiting and octopus were best on the plate, the variety is welcome and much better value. Follow it up with some nice fruit from the market to wash down the salt. On a colder day, the inside restaurant provides more formal dish options in a protected environment.

Gostilna Sokol, Ljubljana 10-2012

I actually wanted to eat at Pomf (especially the deer & wild boar goulash) but for some reason they didn't have any stews that day (for lunch or dinner). I found that quite odd given it wasn't all that warm - perhaps the game were all in hibernation and couldn't be found. Nonetheless I swallowed my incredulity and continued to enjoy the amazing sunset sky while looking for somewhere else.

Located along a major walkway in Ljubljana and listed in multiple guidebooks means I wouldn't normally eat at a place like Sokol, but the reputation for quality goulash and a traditional house setting meant a last minute meal before a late train.

Divjacinski Gol €9.9 (Venison Goulash with Bread Dumplings, Pear & Cranberry) was thick, meaty, flavoursome. Bread dumpling was an odd dense slab of carbohydrate, but useful to soak up the goulash. Sweet cranberries and pear made this version particularly different and memorable to the previous ones I've tried. My stomach was happily warm.

Mesana solata (seasonal salad) €3.5 was a surprisingly nice collection of lettuce, cabbage and beans with a slightly tart vinegar dressing. It was a good break from the heavy stew flavour.

Next time I would order the Venison Goulash again for something reliable and warming. Other house specialties such as Deer Mediallions or Stag Steak sounds like fantastic alternatives.

Panorama, Bled 10-2012


On my final evening in Bled, I wandered around the entire town looking for dinner. Given Restaurant Vila had closed down (TA #1) and the other restaurant with a great name (Ostaria Peglez'n) seemed to have an all pasta menu, I ended up reading menus to find something that interested me.

There were two options - the first was Mlino (menu looks decent, but later reading reviews aren't that favourable) and I would go back to try, and would have on this night if I wouldn't have had to backtrack away from town to go there.

Panoroma refers to the ideal location overlooking Lake Bled. During lunch or a warm evening this would be perfect. On this evening it was quite chilly and so sitting outside wasn't a reasonable option. It is a shame that none of the indoor seating really allows you to enjoy the location, especially so in the dark of the night.

Given the touristy location and name, I was pleasantly surprised the food (or at least the main) exceeded that expectation.

Mushroom Soup in a Bread Bowl €4.5 seems to be a dish the majority of Slovenian restaurants have on the menu. I'm unsure what the historical link of this is. The soup had decent mushroom flavour in a thin broth. The bread bowl was more bowl than bread - solidly baked and crunchy until inedible. I wonder if the waitress was surprised I tried.

I requested a fish main from that caught locally in Lake Bled. I ended up with Trout Fillet with Corn Crust, Potatoes & Roast Almonds €11.5. This dish surprised me with its quality. The trout was perfectly cooked, none of the dry fish flesh that makes me so fearful to order a fish fillet main in any restaurant. The corn crust was fried in butter, a rich delicious flavour. Simple boiled potatoes and crunchy almond flakes added nice balance and texture variety. Fantastic.

The quality of the trout tempted me into dessert. I tried another specialty layered cake Gibanica €3.9, this time with pastry, apple, chocolate and a very mild cheese. I've never been one for cheese in desserts and this didn't change that preference.

Next time I would order the Trout Fillet with Corn Crust. One of the best cooked and simply flavoured fish dishes I've ever received. I'd try the Goulash Soup just in the hope it was good. There are other seafood mains (not from Lake Bled) that also sound promising. Otherwise try Ostaria Peglez'n - it has all the markings of a place that would be good (if you are in the mood for pasta).

Gostilna s prenocisci Malovec, Divaca 10-2012

I'm still unsure as to the actual name of this restaurant. The hotel it is attached to is called Penzion Riznik. The higher grade hotel it is related to down the road is Hotel Malovec. Tripadvisor lists this place as Gostilna s prenocisci Malovec. So be it.

Divaca is a tiny town in Slovenia for which the only reason to visit is enroute to the Skocjan caves. Scenic walking requires sustenance so it was pleasing to note that in this town containing only one gostilna, it was a very good one.

A specialty of Slovenia I was yet to try was horse steak. I have eaten small pieces of horse meat before in Japan and Australia but this was an opportunity to try an entire slab. All Slovenian restaurants seem to also offer Beef Soup with Noodles. I'm not sure what makes this such a local dish but thought my final meal in the country should cover all these missed bases.

The Beef Soup with Noodles €2.5 was quite simply as described, a relatively weak beef flavoured clear broth with essentially instant noodles. I wouldn't get it again.

Horse Beefsteak €15 was a medium-rare cut of eye fillet. An great quality piece of meat with the soft tenderness of the leanest beef equivalent. A little marbling may have made it even better but neither fillets nor horses are known for fat. If you haven't tried it before, horse has quite possibly the strongest game flavour of any meat I've tried. Be prepared to dampen it with mustard.

Finally to finish off I succumbed to an Apple Strudel €2.5. I am a fan of any apple dessert and have tried them all over the world; this was clearly the best I've ever had in the world. Crisp flaky pastry topped with icing sugar housed the greatest apple filling of slightly crunchy fruit strips with a moist core. Beautiful texture and flavour. I was so happy.

Next time I would order the Apple Strudel. I could have eaten a buffet for hours and would still have space for this. If "game" enough, Horse Steak will be memorable. If you ethically object, Squid dishes ordered by other people looked and smelt delicious and large enough to make you happy.

Slascicarna Smon, Bled 10-2012


The central lake of Bled means that areas away from this are more frequented by locals. Smon is just up the road from the main city bus stop making it great for food or takeaway snacks while walking to or from the gorge or waiting for a bus. It is a combination of a bakery and sweet shop specialising in the local Slovenian cake (most specialised in Bled) called Kremna Rezina. I was lucky enough to sample many delicacies from here, eating them in the shop, on the bus and out enjoying the scenery.

Pizza Cetrtinka €2 (ham, cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms, oregano) had a thick tasty crust, topped with rich ingredients. Burek Sirov €2.5 (dough, salty cottage cheese) was an enormous roll of soft pasty wrapping a dry crumbly cheese. Too much for one, but another good option on the move.

Kremna Rezina is a layered sweet of vanilla cream, fresh cream and puff pastry. Under the flaky top lies an unexpected textures of light whipped cream, an airy layer of sugary vanilla custard mousse with a taste of meringue base. Not particularly my taste but definitely something for dessert fans.

To complete my cravings, I had a takeaway Cherry Slice that was decliously sour and enjoyed watching the waterfall at the Vintgar Gorge.

Next time I would order burek or pizza for lunch on the run and any number of sweets for a late goodnight.

Gostilna Pri Planincu, Bled 10-2012

 Finding "Slovenian" food in Bled is quite difficult. Due to geographical proximity, much of the reputed restaurants are actually heavily Italian pizza and pasta based. A Gostilna is a traditional home, akin to a Western pub. Local food is what people come here for, hearty and simple generous servings to fill empty stomachs.

Planincu has two eating areas, an informal bar decorated with a colourful array of license plates and a more defined restaurant area. Naturally I chose the bar which happened to be while a live Barcelona vs. Real Madrid match was showing. The atmosphere was more relaxed, the bargirl was gorgeous, and the only other patrons were locals having a drink and enjoying the football.

But food is always my focus.

Goulash Soup (juha golazeva) €3.9 was a little disappointing as it was slightly watery. Some salt enhanced the meaty flavour better making it an adequate entree. Perhaps I'm used to thicker versions.

Pork Scallop Ljubljana-Style (svinjski po Ljubljansko) €9.9 actually turned out to be a pork schnitzel with one side of the pork layered with ham and cheese. The schnitzel was great, crispy coating, juicy pork and a good lemon squeeze or the light cheese and ham added a different taste when one gets too repetitive.

Next time I would order the Pork Scallop aka Wienerschnitzel quite happily. But there are many other simple-sounding options including some that make use of the fish from Lake Bled.