When I told a foodie friend I was going to Slovenia, she insisted I detour through the Vipava Valley to dine at Gostilna Pri Lojzetu. Located in western Slovenia, about an hour’s drive from both Trieste and Ljubljana, the valley is surrounded by vineyards and windy roads. A visit to the restaurant would take me off course, but I figured the best meals always require a bit of extra effort. The restaurant was sadly closed for dinner due to a wedding but the owner wrote me to say I could come for lunch. Little did I know, that meant he was opening just for me to have lunch.
A steep road leads past vineyards to Zemono Manor House, an old hunting lodge which now houses Pri Lojzetu restaurant. Chef-owner Tomaž Kavčič greeted me and then showed me to the most perfect table for one under a tree with sweeping views of the valley. He'd also arranged a small table and seats for my aperitivo plus a beanbag chair in case I wanted to take a post-meal snooze.
For four hours I was dazzled with spectacular service, courtesy of my waiter, Angel, and the talented chef Tomaž. The most unexpected dish was my final savory course, which was bear cheeks (yes, bear) sous vide 13 hours and topped with the thinnest strips of lardo and served with locally foraged mushrooms. The real showmanship came at dessert, when chef brought out his version of a gin and tonic—gin ice cream which he infused with the smoke of juniper berries tableside.