Otočec Castle: The Past Embraced by Moderninity
Otočec Castle offers a comprehensive experience of the past with the comfort of the present. Superb food, prepared only with Slovenian ingredients, provides an unforgettable culinary experience in the Castle restaurant.
Less than an hour’s drive from Ljubljana, past the Dolenjska’s hills and modern and well-groomed villages, we arrive at a unique island on the Krka river, Otočec. A whole new world opens up, quiet, peaceful and glorious... Upon entering the castle’s courtyard, we were accompanied by birdsong and the barely perceptible murmur of the surrounding trees and the river we had just crossed.
The interior of the castle was renovated four years ago. The clean, minimalist lines, intertwined with traditional style and all the necessary features, from the fireplace to the furniture, create a striking impression and the windows provide a view of the castle clearing and the river. The boutique hotel offers 16 double rooms, also suitable for smaller private companies or business groups.
In the meanwhile, a table for three had been prepared on the castle terrace. Optimistically, despite the changing weather, we sat outdoors.
As a welcome we were served venison pate with pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil mousse and home-baked white onion bread, buckwheat bread with walnuts and bread made from bran and bacon. Straight away we learned that the chef, Dejan Pavlič, continues the tradition of preparing food using local, seasonal ingredients, according to the recipes of our mothers and grandmothers, although with a modern touch.
The “welcome” awakened our taste buds and our joyful anticipation, but rain drops soon meant we had to move inside, which was quiet and peaceful, with two full tables of German-speaking guests, in addition to our own. Hostess, Vida Trenz, told us that most of the guests are Italians with Croatians and Serbians, in addition to Slovenes, stopping by for a culinary treat. Companies, particularly foreign ones with offices in Slovenia, often hold business meetings, get-togethers and conferences at Otočec Castle, which usually include a lunch or dinner either during or after the meeting.
Our extremely enjoyable culinary experience continued with clover soup spiced with meadow herbs. Have you ever had meadow flower in your soup? No? You simply must try it! Without embarrassment, we dipped them into our creamy soup with its somewhat sharp taste and then popped them in our mouths. Because that’s why they’re there, right? Our appetites were thoroughly whetted and we could hardly wait for the next entree...
And then came the main course: roast wild boar (we learned incidentally that the animal was from the Kočevje forests) in a black walnut sauce, with two-colour potato dumplings and asparagus with hazelnuts. The sweet flavour of the sauce merged with the salty flavour; fortunately the dishes were served in small, dainty quantities otherwise I would have certainly had my fill at that point. Luckily I did not as the final surprise was exquisite! Elder cake with lemon mousse and strawberries – very light, appropriate and certainly an excellent replacement for a calorie-rich slice of cake. “Dejan, where did you pick the elderflowers?” Ms Trenz started a conversation with the chef, who came to our table for a moment. “There’s a lot of them in the area and we picked them together with our colleagues”, he replied and to show how much importance he attached to seasonal food, he added that “the asparagus is on its last legs”.
Our visit to Otočec Castle, during which we also heard a number of interesting “wedding stories”, had come to an end. “Otočec Castle is famous for organising weddings for couples from both near and far who want something really special for what is one of the most important events in their lives”, said the hostess. “It is possible to lease the entire castle for larger weddings, in which case the guests have a little more freedom”, said the hostess, adding that they also organise a wide variety of celebrations, including personal and corporate anniversaries and birthday parties.
So, why go from Ljubljana to Otočec Castle, just under an hour’s drive away? If you did not know it before, you do now: the experience of the Castle and its cuisine is complete, but if you also like to enjoy a few hours of golf then you will no doubt become a regular guest.
Open: Every day until midnight
Food type: Slovenian
seven-course tasting menu – EUR 55
daily menu: three-course – EUR 26
four-course – EUR 33
five-course – EUR 39
Reservations: highly recommended
- goose breasts with quark cheese and pears on a zucchini and elder purée
- young nettle soup with roasted almonds
- Idrija žlinkrofi dumplings with smoked trout on a carrot puree with wild garlic
- ice pudding with strawberries and rose petal jelly
- wild boar fillet ¬ with a sauce of black walnuts and two-colour potatoes
- dumplings and asparagus with hazelnuts
- fresh cheese, matured in oil
- charlotte with violets and dandelion ice cream
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11 Jul 2011 / By The Slovenia Times Restaurant Guide