Dining Out 3 minutes 24 February 2022

MICHELIN Guide Slovenia : Boutique hotels with top-notch restaurants

Situated between the Mediterranean, the Alps and the Balkans, Slovenia captivates visitors not only with the variety of its landscapes but also the charm of its villages set in well-preserved natural surroundings. Some of them are home to exceptional hotels that are keen to offer their guests top-notch restaurants. Traditional or more contemporary, here are two experiences that are not to be missed.

Michelin Guide restaurant Slovenia

Kendov Dvorec, the art of tradition

In Idrija, an hour's drive from Ljubljana, Spodnja Idrija is an authentic village which was mentioned by the Pope as early as 1156. In the upper is Kendov Dvorec, an attractive 5-star hotel done out in traditional style and with a romantic atmosphere.

Built circa 1377, the establishment is located in the former stronghold of the Kendov family. Upon arrival, you can’t help but notice the picturesque barn and charming painted house next to the main building. From the surrounding garden planted with fruit trees, there is an exceptional view of Idrija set against the backdrop of the Alps and the limestone rocks of the Karst Plateau.

Kendov Dvorec's interior decoration embraces its nostalgic and slightly old-fashioned side. The lobby and public areas are decorated with an old suit of armour, sepia photographs, and pretty lace doilies on tables and furniture with a natural patina bestowed by the years. The former main living room of the hiša - traditional Slovenian house – still has its low ceiling, an imposing, green-tiled stove, old wooden benches and waxed floorboards.

The same classical mood and warm atmosphere prevail as you head upstairs, where the decoration in the ten or so guestrooms remains true to the spirit of the house while laying on all modern comforts. Each room seems to tell a fragment of the story of this place, with its solid wood furniture, oriental rugs or Murano glass chandeliers. It all conspires to create a particularly intimate feel, an impression reinforced by attentive and entirely bespoke service.

Yet it is the restaurant that is the beating heart of the establishment. It is housed in a newer part of the building, the dining room windows opening onto a large terrace and letting plenty of light stream in. Chefs Franci Pivk and Klavdij Pirih, who have been a fixture here for many years, treat local culinary traditions respectfully but do not shy away from reinterpreting them in their own way.

Restaurant Kendov Dvorec
Restaurant Kendov Dvorec

For the past twenty years, the pair have been working hard on incorporating local ingredients into the menu. The vegetables come from the hotel's own garden. The fruit is picked in the orchard. The cheese is made in the nearby Poljanska Valley, the trout is taken from the Trebuščica River. The meat is almost exclusively from animals reared in the valley, the lamb in particular. "We were among the pioneers of slow food in Slovenia," says chef Klavdij Pirih, who is also a beekeeper.

The restaurant's signature dishes include žlikrofi (pasta filled with potato and bacon), bakalca (lamb shoulder cooked with diced vegetables and white wine) and ajmoht (a broth with white meat, eaten during the winter). And let's not forget the famous štruklji, pieces of roulade with a sweet or savoury filling, depending on the chefs' mood.

The menu changes daily for the benefit of hotel guests. The wine list showcases Slovenian wines, especially from the coastal Primorska region, the Vipava Valley or Goriška Brda. And then there are the local craft beers, which point to a remarkable know-how. This surprisingly rich variety never fails to delight guests when they come to dine at Kendov Dvorec.

Kendov Dvorec
Kendov Dvorec

Vila Planinka, in touch with nature

Opened in 2019, Vila Planinka promises a more contemporary but equally enticing experience. This 5-star boutique hotel is housed in a large chalet in the village of Zgornje Jezersko. To reach it you follow a winding road that climbs gently up the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, which form a natural border with Austria.

The hotel's primary attraction is the location: it is set in a spectacular mountain landscape on the edge of a forest planted with majestic conifers. Enter the lobby, where your gaze takes in a huge space comprising a cosy lounge and a dining area, both with large windows onto the surrounding nature. Natural materials such as wood and stone dominate, lending the place a rustic yet chic look.

To decorate the establishment, the owners had the idea of enlisting the services of local companies, such as the one that designed much of the solid wood furniture. Antique furniture has also been added to the guestrooms and public areas, including some beautiful painted chests. Finally, villagers contributed agricultural tools and other traditional objects, so as to anchor the chalet in its environment.

Vila Planinka
Vila Planinka

Wood also features heavily in the spacious, inviting guestrooms, which have been fitted out in keeping with the same philosophy. Commanding breath-taking mountain views, they are extremely comfortable and well appointed. To spend a night here is to relish a new kind of luxury, a time-out from technology in favour of reconnecting with nature.

At Vila Planinka, it is important to take your time. In addition to chilling and resting, you can take advantage of the spa, which has saunas and looks out onto the forest. If you want to get out and about, there are hikes near the hotel, in particular on the banks of the nearby glacial lake. Electric mountain bikes are also available for exploring the surrounding highland trails.

Located on the ground floor in the main area, the hotel restaurant cooks up a memorable experience, courtesy of young chef Blaž Derlink, who has worked with Ana Roš (Hiša Franko) and Igor Jagodic (Strelec). In creating his dishes, he draws inspiration from the local land and the region's culinary heritage, putting his own spin on these traditions.

Marko Koren / Vila Planinka
Marko Koren / Vila Planinka

He has elected exclusively to use local produce from nearby ecological farms: seasonal vegetables and fruit, cheese from high mountain pastures, farm butter, mountain meat, freshwater fish, fresh eggs gathered every morning, and herbs and berries picked in the surrounding forests. "It's a real pleasure every day to be able to work in these conditions, in partnership with the farmers and smallholders around us," he enthuses. Furthermore, 100% of the organic waste is composted.

"To define my style, I would say that my cooking is inspired by French bistronomie but with a personal touch, resulting from my own experiments," says Blaž. His trout is served with buttermilk, his beef tartar with capers and beetroot, his Tolmin cheese in a soup, his beef brisket on buckwheat blini and his chocolate dessert with a drizzle of Istrian olive oil. The four, five or seven-course set menus change daily, so that the hotel's guests never eat the same thing twice.

At Vila Planinka, they serve mineral-rich local spring water. When it comes to the wines, you can rely on Marko Koren. It is a real pleasure to be advised by this affable, multilingual sommelier, who takes the time to explain all the subtleties of his wine list, which features more than 200 Slovenian wines from the country's three wine regions. All colours and styles are represented, with a majority of natural or biodynamic wines… Another way they stay in touch with nature.

Hero Image : Vila Planinka

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