With such an epic setting it would be tempting for Bled’s restaurants to just churn out lowest common denominator fodder to the tourist masses. Of course some places do just that. Others, though, have been serving up superb Slovenian cuisine for years and continue to do so. They have been joined by a sprinkling of newer ventures bringing in a welcome dash of creativity and a refocusing on fresh, local produce, which Slovenia’s Gorenjska region offers up in such impressive abundance.
Vila Bled Restaurant
Anyone fascinated by the old Yugoslav dictator Tito, or who just wants to dine as opulently as him, should ease around the lake away from the crowds to the stately Vila Bled, where he is rumoured to have brought his lovers. Tito’s palatial Bled retreat reclines grandly back from the water in its own elegant gardens. Best to dine on the terrace with the epic views – look out for fresh Lake Bohinj trout and truffles from Istria in the south. Their cellar boasts some elegant wines from Slovenia’s Vipava Valley too. Ask nicely and they might even let you see Tito’s old desk upstairs and the epic socialist-era murals.
Contact: 00 386 04 575 3710; brdo.si
Gostilna Pri Planincu
This schizophrenic gostilna (gostilna is roughly translated as ‘inn’) is ideal for your first night. If you want to fling yourself into the rich world of Slovenian cuisine tuck into game dishes in rich sauces and struklji, a creamy, doughy local staple. The other side of this inn emerges with their pizzeria, which serves decent pies with a choice of over 20 toppings as a less cultural alternative. They know what they’re doing and they should do – this characterful bolthole has been serving hungry locals and visitors alike since 1903. It echoes the Slovenian gostilna of old, with an interior awash with bric-a-brac, including, bizarrely, motorbikes hanging from the ceiling.
Contact: 00 386 04 574 1613; pri-planincu.com
Named after Slovenia’s Robert Burns you may end up coming over all poetic at this romantic hideaway. Dine on the terrace by the lake and you can just about touch that glacial water. Enjoy Slovenian classics and decent steaks, along with wine from Slovenia’s emerging Goriska Brda district (think Tuscan wines and similar scenery), before finishing off your sonnet with Bled’s wickedly creamy dessert creation – kremsnita. The building itself is fittingly dreamy, dating back to the 19th-century. If you have a really good night you can stay here too. The only downside is service can be patchy, but the views usually make up for it.
Contact: 00 386 04 575 2510
Reservations: Essential for the best lakeside tables.
You have to try Bled’s most famous sweet creation, the kremsnita. This ridiculously calorific affair is basically a huge slab of vanilla custard and cream flanked by flaky pastry and topped with icing sugar. This café claims to have been the Bled pioneer and they’ve been serving it here since 1953. Savour a slice with a local latte (bela kava) and enjoy sweeping views of the lake. The slick staff serve light lunches too – you couldn’t manage anything heavier if you’re finishing off with kremsnita!
Contact: 00 386 04 579 1600; sava-hotels-resorts.com
Reservations: Recommended as big tour groups can swallow tables quickly.
Bled Castle Restaurant
Were this restaurant just churning out an international buffet menu it would still be worth dining at for the views over Lake Bled. As a bonus it’s actually one of Bled’s best restaurants under the creative stewardship of chefs Luka Jezersek and Ana Sustersic. Think Istrian truffles with Istrian pasta, or chicken stuffed with shrimps accompanied by buckwheat and asparagus. Note from 6pm they only offer their multi-course tasting menus. You can treat yourself with matching wines. Entry to the castle is included if you’re having a full meal.
Contact: 00 386 04 620 3444; jezersek.si
Reservations: Essential, well in advance for the coveted terrace tables.
The most elegant of the Grand Hotel Toplice’s restaurants, the exclusive Julijana, only seats 20 diners inside with a further 20 covers tempting on their lake-view terrace. At the helm is mercurial head chef Simon Bertoncelj, who plays with you by infusing traditional Slovenian dishes with a shot of creativity. A standout dish are seared Adriatic langoustine tails, laced with a shiitake cream and sudachi sauce, with glazed broad beans and mixed lentils, pulled together by a langoustine foam imbued with lemongrass. Bertoncelj works wonders with the freshwater fish zander, poaching it in butter with a chardonnay sauce, new potatoes with spider crab and fresh horseradish. Almost as divine as those views.
Contact: 00 386 04 579 1600; sava-hotels-resorts.com
Reservations: Recommended, especially for the lakeside tables.
This bright, green oasis is a perfect reflection of a trend across Slovenia for places that take the environment seriously as they serve up well-sourced local produce. The Kelih family are the talents behind the Garden and talented they are, conjuring up visually striking, healthy starters like roasted parsnip, with chestnut cream, pickled shallots, orange and rosemary sauce, carrot crumbs and chive-infused oil. A stand out main is their pork neck, which comes with sautéed-apple cream, buckwheat panisse, pickled red onions, sauerkraut and crackling. Menus and tasting menus feature plenty of homemade and homegrown ingredients too. They’ve trawled a trio of Slovenian wine regions to bring you the fruits of some superb vineyards to the table.
Contact: 00 386 08 389 9220; gardenvillagebled.com
Fancy fine dining somewhere in sophisticated surrounds with a piano tinkling away in the background? You just found it. From a perfectly executed traditional Slovenian beef soup, through to a hearty back of wild boar, buckwheat dumplings and cranberry sauce they get things spot on there. Their steaks are legendary too – the best come topped with freshly shaved black truffle. Brec also serve tasting menus – the best way to appreciate their full talents at work. A terrace spills outside in summer; their expertly chosen wines by the glass flow all year.
This characterful old timer lies tucked around a quieter section of Lake Bled overlooking a modest swimming beach. It’s homely and welcoming, housed in a traditional building just back from the water. Slovenian dishes are done immaculately, such as venison spiced up with cranberry sauce, wild boar paired with a dried plum sauce and a hearty game goulash. Locally caught and smoked trout tempts too, as do some crisp local white wines. A proper fireplace keeps things cosy in the cooler months. They have rooms too.
Contact: 00 386 04 574 1404; mlino.si
If you want a real slice of Slovenia’s pastoral hinterland this oasis reclines amongst Alpine meadows and rich orchards just 2km from Lake Bled. Don’t expect white tablecloths and silver service. Do expect ultra fresh proper homemade dishes using ultra local ingredients, the sort that Slovenians savour away from tourists on a Sunday afternoon. Pungent cheese, air-dried ham and cured meats star, all washed down with the local firewater brandy. Much of what you eat is produced right here on their farm. Most diners stay over, but you don’t have to.