Growing gastronomic destination

Grilled seafood (above) by the coast in Piran; and Restaurant Atelje's suckling pig (left) sourced from eastern Slovenia.
Grilled seafood by the coast in Piran; and Restaurant Atelje's suckling pig (above) sourced from eastern Slovenia.
May to September is a good period for outdoor adventures, including white-water rafting (above) on the sparkling emerald waters of Soca River in Triglav National Park.
May to September is a good period for outdoor adventures, including white-water rafting (above) on the sparkling emerald waters of Soca River in Triglav National Park.

"We always use local fresh produce in Slovenian cuisine," the server says as he sets my dish down.

I am at Restaurant Atelje (Nazorjeva 2, Ljubljana) in Ljubljana. Gracing my mint-green plate is an appetising serving of suckling pig and cuttlefish set atop string beans, onions and lardo.

"The pork is fresh from the regions of Posavje and Dolenjska in eastern Slovenia," he adds. "The milk we use is direct from Farm Frcej in Zgornje Gorje."

Fresh, seasonable farm-to-fork dishes mark our meals in Slovenia. Grains are harvested from local fields, wild foods from lush forests, honey produced by world-renowned Slovenia honeybees.

Undoubtedly, the country is a gastronomic destination on the rise, further aided by Slovenian chef Ana Ros, recently crowned 2017 World's Best Female Chef by the influential World's 50 Best Restaurants, an annual list published by William Reed Media Group.

Ros, featured on Netflix's popular Chef's Table, uses a "0km" approach, serving produce from the immediate landscape of her restaurant, Hisa Franko (www.hisa franko.com/en), in the Soca Valley.

Like many restaurants we dine at, trendy items such as wagyu beef are missing from the menu. Instead, lamb from the local village of Dreznica and Krskopolje pork are savoured.


Grilled seafood (above) by the coast in Piran; and Restaurant Atelje’s suckling pig sourced from eastern Slovenia.

Slovenian food is down-to-earth, such as the beef broth and meats - often browned then steamed with potatoes - which we enjoy at casual eateries.

We discover that Slovenian cuisine is influenced by its neighbours - fresh pastas evoke a taste of Italy, meat goulashes served with dumplings reveal traditions from Hungary, while renditions of flaky Austrian strudels are popular in local confectioneries.


  • GETTING THERE
     

    We fly on Finnair from Singapore to Ljubljana, via Helskinki. We travelled around the country in our Slovenian friend's car.

    For all private vehicles, a road tax "vignette" - or sticker that allows vehicles to use the highways - must be purchased (€15 or S$23 a week) from petrol stations.

    Headlights must be switched on when driving, even in the day. Major roads are fairly well maintained and signposted.

    TIPS
     

    •Dry conditions from May to September are good for outdoor adventures in Slovenia. Tourist spots are more crowded with European visitors in summer (June to August). Shoulder seasons can be pleasant and cool, such as in late September during our visit.

    •The alpine north-west receives abundant snow from December to March, marking ski season.

    •English is widely spoken in Slovenia, particularly among the younger generation. We found it fairly easy to communicate with locals.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 24, 2017, with the headline 'Growing gastronomic destination'. Print Edition | Subscribe