Food in Ljubljana is thriving. Chefs are recreating and reinventing cuisines from all over the world with great success. Now, residents and visitors can eat pretty much whatever they like, whenever they like.
Thankfully, the popularity growth in food from other nations is not at the expense of traditional Slovenian dishes. It’s still just as easy to find cream cakes, bureks and cured meats as it is to find Japanese fusion and froyo.
As we discovered on our visit, food in Ljubljana is varied, almost always of excellent quality and normally great value.
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Discovering Food in Ljubljana
Listed below are 7 of the dishes we tried on our visit to Ljubljana. As you will discover, some are traditional, while others are very much on the modern side.
Meat & Cheese Sharing Board
Our first taste of Ljubljana came in the form of a sharing platter of meat, cheese and olives. Slovenian cuisine is highly influenced by their Italian neighbours and we felt this offering was definitely inspired by Italy.
Slices of soft, melty parma ham laid alongside slices of salami-like dried sausage. The meat was complimented by black olives, crusty bread and wedges of a hard cheese similar to Pecorino. We grazed and we sipped cool glasses of craft beer from the Human Fish Brewery as we enjoyed the peaceful ambiance of the mostly-pedestrianised city centre. It was a blissful start to our time in the Slovenian capital and a great start on our journey of discovery into food in Ljubljana.
Traditional Slovenian Cream Cake
We do like a bit of cake every now and then, particularly with a cup of tea. What was an occasional treat at the beginning of our Slovenian adventure though, rapidly turned into an obsession, as we found ourselves unable to resist trying every single cream cake we laid our eyes on. Needless to say, this was purely in the interest of delivering a high quality journalistic review of said cakes.
Now that we’re very much the voice of experience when it comes to cream cakes, here is that review – they were all great!
The lakeside holiday town of Bled is the home of the cream cake (or kremna rezina) in Slovenian, but you can get them pretty much everywhere and in all Slovenia’s neighbouring countries too. It’s a simple affair, but oddly irresistible. A thin and crispy puff pastry base is the foundation for a thick, uncontained wedge of custard cream and an even thicker wedge of whipped cream. On top, another thin piece of puff pastry and a dusting of icing sugar (in case anyone gets worried it’s not sweet enough).
It’s clear that the inventors of these cream-filled slabs of joy focused their attention purely on the taste of their creation (for they taste incredible) and not on how one might eat one (for eating one is always a messy affair). But that’s why we love them. They’re a fantastic leveller. No one can take one on and maintain their dignity, yet everyone ends up with a big cake-induced grin on their face.
Seafood Pasta and Risotto
Avoiding Italian food in Ljubljana is pretty tricky. Italian restaurants are everywhere and even restaurants predominantly serving other cuisines have Italian dishes on their menus. Even an Indian restaurant we visited had an Italian section in their menu.
The seafood pasta dish and risotto we shared was at a modern fish restaurant called Valentin, named after Slovene priest, poet and journalist, Valentin Vodnik. As well as an à la carte menu, the restaurant has a fish bar, offering diners a wide range of seafood to choose from. We decided to stick to the menu and were pleased we did. Everything was cooked and flavoured to perfection.
Burek with Sour Cherries and Yogurt
Mliner (Fast Food Outlet) | Multiple locations
Flakey pastry concealing something hot and delicious, Burek’s are a baked staple of several countries in the region. Our Burek was filled with sour cherries, but it’s not uncommon to find apple, cream cheese and even meat fillings. Unusually, the outlet we visited was offering a meal deal in which they bundled a Burek with a pot of natural yoghurt. I can’t say they complemented each other all that well, but I still enjoyed them both individually. The pastry was flakey and buttery and the juicy cherry filling was warm, sweet and sour. Yum!
Our visit to Ljubljana coincided with a rather warm spell of weather. After cycling into the city from our Airbnb apartment, we were in need of cooling down. Thankfully, a small frozen yoghurt place was nearby to the bike docking station and drew our attention.
Grefino offers something a little different to a normal froyo outlet. It’s entirely self-serve and you pay by weight. So, a simple froyo will cost much less than a more extravagant one with lots of toppings.
The froyo itself comes out of machines set into the wall that are operated with levers. There are four flavours to choose from at any one time and a wide selection of nuts, biscuits, cereals, sweets, fruit and sauces to top it off. Everything is written in English and the process of serving yourself is easy to understand.
Yes, I’m afraid we ate horse. If your stomach just churned, I have even worse news for you. It’s really, really delicious.
Writing this is going to be tricky. Since coming back from our visit to Slovenia, we’ve both become vegetarians. We’ll leave the reason for our switch for another post, but I will say that visiting Hot Horse wasn’t the reason why we now don’t eat meat. On the contrary, we enjoyed our visit immensely and, despite the concept of eating horse now being very much against our values, I still look back at our visit with a weird fondness.
No one goes to Hot Horse for the ambiance and decor. Think of a tarted-up portacabin that’s open to the elements on two sides, add some plastic furniture and a splash of orange here and there and you’ve got a good impression of what it’s like. What it lacks in atmosphere on the inside, it makes up for on the outside though. The restaurant stands solo in amongst the trees and attractions of the gargantuan Tivoli Park.
Be warned, the servings here are enormous, so make sure you show up having not eaten for a while beforehand if you want to finish everything. The burgers are simple. Just a meat patty, some salad and a selection of toppings and sauces (of which, you can ask for all of them if you’re a bit nuts). As I said, the burgers were really good. Horse, it turns out, is deliciously lean and tastes great.
As vegetarians, we don’t necessarily endorse Hot Horse. As travellers though who live to experience anything new, unique and/or culturally significant, we find it difficult to entirely disapprove. While we may now disagree with the consumption of horse meat, it is a traditional regional cuisine and is therefore woven into the fabric of the area. Eventually, the taste for horse may dissipate. Until then, Hot Horse is open to those willing to give it a try.
Related: Find the top 10 things to see in Ljubljana on the Lazy Travel Blog
Gyoza, Ramen & Donburi plus Macarons
We never imagined we would be eating Japanese food in Ljubljana, let alone really good Japanese food, but that’s what we found ourselves doing on our last night in the Slovenian capital. As dusk fell, we took a candle-lit table for two, on the cobbled bank of the Ljubljanica. Staff were keen to explain the contents of the menu to us which, as seasoned pros of Japanese cuisine, we found rather cute. Of course, we politely smiled and nodded in all the right places as they described each dish in detail. We decided to start with gyoza and shared large bowls of ramen and donburi for mains. To finish, we enjoyed some Japanese-inspired macarons. Everything was carefully prepared and presented and had wonderful, familiar flavours. It was a lovely meal, enjoyed in a truly beautiful location and a fantastic way to end our voyage of discovery into food in Ljubljana.
Did we leave anything out? What is your favourite food in Ljubljana? Let us know in the comments below.