A fairytale dinner between the lush vines of Ljubljana Castle Vineyard, with seven courses by Strelec Restaurant master chef Igor Jagodic.
It’s a dinner to remember. Sitting among the vines of the Ljubljana Castle vineyard, soaking up the flavours that Strelec Restaurant chef Igor Jagodic has created. A romantic culinary adventure. A summer fairytale getaway. A foodie’s dream.
Welcome to my tale of a divine dining experience… Take your seat at one of the tables nestled between lush vines as they grace the green slopes of the Ljubljana Castle. Anticipate a delicious culinary revelation. Admire the calm setting. Watch the last rays of sun as they caress the castle hill. Notice the fairytale lights and red ambient lighting, slowly working their magic as they subtly replace twilight. Listen to the whispers of food lovers as they marvel at the tasty dishes.
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From Castle Tower to Castle Vineyard
In troubled times, when no more than 50 people can convene together in a group so as to hinder a virus from spreading, restaurants are thinking of creative ways to keep pleasing their guests with their beloved food creations.
Head chef Igor Jagodic and his team are, on certain days during this summer, transferring their kitchen from the Ljubljana Castle tower down to the vineyard located in the vast castle grounds.
On this occasion, he’s preparing seven culinary masterpieces. Indulge we will.
Kitchen Greetings: Veal Tongue Wrap & Brut Wine
Dada Jerovšek, director of Kaval Group, greets us with a warm welcome at the vineyard entrance. Igor Jagodic also takes some time off from his cooking to speak to his guests.
We take a glass of Brut by Puklavec Family Wines from Slovenia’s Štajerska region, absorb the beautiful culinary setting, and take our seat at a romantic table for two right beside a row of vines. Who do I spot in the next row of tables? One of Slovenia’s most well-respected ethnology professors, Dr Janez Bogataj. He has been extremely instrumental in the development and promotion of Slovene cuisine.
Now the food. A veal tongue wrap sits delicately beside a dollop of foamy cream sauce that conceals a sliver of smoked trout. Orange balls of trout caviar dot the cream-coloured dish. Veal and trout couple tenderly in a foamy bliss.
Creamy Indulgence: Smoked Butter & Goose Liver Pâté
Have I ever eaten butter so indulgent? I wonder. A mild smoky flavour and a high-quality cream are what we have here. Igor Jagodic has churned these two together to produce a creamy, buttery, yummy goodness.
This dome-shaped ball of goodness with a pointy top is a meringue cookie lookalike, and it sits nicely on a generous dash of goose liver pate. We clear the slate slab on which this creamy combo is presented quite soon after we begin eating.
Marinated Sea Bass with Watermelon & Pickled Grape
Give me a shout if you’ve ever eaten pickled grapes! This one’s a first for me. What a surprise! You bite the grape and out pops a juicy mix of salty and sweet.
Hints of Japanese cuisine pop up here and there throughout the meal this evening, and the influence is especially evident in this cold starter. Watermelon dashi is a tasty highlight in this marinated sea bass dish.
Dashi is a Japanese stock that forms the base for miso soup and other simmering liquids to emphasise the unami (savoury flavour) character. I love unami flavours, especially with fish or combined with sweet elements, which in this dish are the watermelon and the purple edible flowers.
Wine pairing: Montemoro Malvasia 2017 (Istria)
The Deer & the Artichoke
Slices of Jerusalem artichoke (topinambur) roll around the flavoursome venison (deer) tartare. Artichoke crisps adorn the roll and provide pure satisfaction for anyone like me who loves a crunchy crunch with their food. The shallot in mature vinegar provides a good punch, and the hazelnut mayonnaise a soft nut-nuttiness. Hazelnut shavings decorate the plate like a light snowfall.
Wine pairing: Piro Pinot Gris 2017 (Goriška Brda)
White Fish Fillet in Butter Sauce
The dish of wonders: close to my heart and my stomach. White fish fillet swims in a beurre blanc sauce (a classic French butter sauce), surrounded by fig leaves and lime, and celery root puree. The Adriatic prawn dumpling is mouthwateringly divine.
Wine pairing: Bagueri Chardonnay 2015 (Klet Brda, Goriška Brda)
Dry-Aged Beef in Bone Marrow Sauce
An ultimate meat lover’s dream, this dry-aged tenderloin is brilliant enough to be eaten on its own. But of course Igor wouldn’t allow it. So he cooks up a bone marrow sauce to complement it. Condiments are polenta with mushrooms, anchovy mayonnaise, and pickled mustard seeds.
Wine pairing: Vina Koper Capo D’Istria Merlot 2015 (Istria)
Dessert: Baked Peaches with Vanilla Custard & Rosemary Ice Cream
Baked peaches aren’t really my thing. But the addition of a smooth vanilla custard and rosemary ice cream elevates this dessert to the heavens. I love the combination of smooth and crunchy textures, so the honey crisp and amaretto biscuit are an added treat.
Wine pairing: Sveti Martin Klarnica 2018 (Passito wine from Vipava Valley)
Strelec Restaurant: Fond Memories & Michelin Plate
This restaurant is hands down one of my favourites in Ljubljana. Perched high up in the archer’s tower at Ljubljana Castle, it offers ultra-satisfying food with a good dose of tasty surprises plus stunning views. Apart from tonight’s dishes, one of Strelec’s food creations I treasure fondly in my memory is their juicy venison wellington accompanied by chervil root purée, chervil scallops, and black walnut sauce.
Strelec Restaurant is a recipient of the Michelin Plate at this year’s Slovenia Michelin Star Awards. Showcasing carefully prepared meals made from fresh ingredients in a homely atmosphere, its menu is the result of a conjunctive effort between ethnologist Dr Janez Bogataj, Kaval’s culinary master Jožica Drobnič, and of course master chef Igor Jagodic.
The restaurant falls under the Kaval Group brand, which has a number of popular eating establishments in and around Ljubljana under its wing.
The Ljubljana Castle Vineyard
Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, although not recognised as a wine-growing area, is home to a picturesque vineyard. It was established in 2016 and houses the white grape variety Belpin and the red variety Rdečegrajc.
Walking to the vineyard is an experience in itself as you get to walk along pretty trails within the castle’s forest. It’s a specially spectacular sight in the autumn when the leaves don shades of yellow, gold, russet and red.
3 Junior Chefs
3 Junior Chefs is the name of the next event that Strelec Restaurant is hosting on August 27, this time in the restaurant itself. You can find more information about it here.
Tips for eating in Ljubljana: If you’re in or around Slovenia’s capital wondering where to eat, check out: Ljubljana Restaurants to Eat at in 2020