SHORT CUT:  A quick coffee by Lake Bled (and tea, too)

 

Please note: this is the 2018 edition. For the book to have relevance, it needs to be written in Bled or soon after a visit. but as I can’t be there in 2019, I’m happy to provide this to anyone interested with the advisory note that parts may well be out of date. You can download the PDF from this page.

The whole point of Firsthand Guides is to give you personal recommendations of places the writer has been. The suggestions are my personal choices. They are places I, my family and my friends like. I have not been to every pub, café and restaurant in Bled. I have been to most. I pay my own way and do not receive any inducements to write about these places.  Here are my recommendations and further on the places on my wish list.

Best places for coffee (and 1 for tea)

My favourites and recommendations:

I cannot settle for one; I have these favourites, more or less in this order. They are each different, unique in their style. They do great coffee and snacks. The staff are helpful and friendly, and their menu extends beyond just coffee if you want to dally a little longer.

Caffe Peglez’n

cesta Svobode 8a, 4260 Bled, Slovenia

This is a very stylish little café, mentioned at the very beginning of the book as one of the first you find when you walk from the bus to the lake. Again, tiny inside but a large terrace where you get views of the lake and castle. The natural shade from overhanging trees protects you from the sun on the hottest days. There is room for children to play in this family friendly place. Caffe Peglez’n is favoured by locals as well as visitors. Good coffee, some snacks. A good place for an early start in the morning. It’s usually open by 7:00 am when you can buy jam filled croissants (rogljički).

Art Café

cesta Svobode 7a, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 576 71 79

Art Cafe
Art Cafe

It is popular with students from the business school and the hospitality college nearby and with younger tourists. People mostly sit outside. It is open from about 8:00 am. Simple snacks are available all day, and the coffee is very good.

The whole atmosphere changes when the evening approaches and Art Café turns into a party place. The bar stays open until the small hours, especially Friday and Saturday nights.

If you are in Bled in the winter, Art Café does great hot chocolate. Highly recommended.

Slaščičarna Zima

Grajska cesta 3, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 574 16 16
www.smon.si

Slaščičarna Zima (until recently known as Slaščičarna Šmon) has been part of the culture of Bled for over 100 years. At the climax of Bled Nights when 15,000 candles float on the lake, they nestle in egg shells saved at there.

This cake shop fits into a category of its own, “best pastry on the planet”, and would be very highly rated in any league of cafés and restaurants. The cakes are superb. The restaurant is famous, and it deserves the reputation. If you go nowhere else in Bled, walk up hill from the bus station and take coffee and cake here.

Apropos

Ljubljanska cesta 4, Bled 4260.
Phone: +386 4 574 40 44

There are six or seven places for coffee, drinks or food in the shopping centre. Music themed Apropos has the style and the tasteful background music as well as excellent coffee. It is a music themed tiny café with a larger seating area outside where the music theme continues.

Café Belvedere

Svobode  18, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 (0)4 575 37 21
www.brdo.si/en/vila-bled/caf%C3%A9-belvedere

Cafe Belvedere
Cafe Belvedere

I think we can safely say that the pavilion has the best view of the island – you can almost reach out and touch the church. Known as “Tito’s Tea Room”, the historic building was designed by Jože Plečnik, the architect responsible for much of classic Ljubljana and parts of Kranj. It sits on stone stilts in the grounds of Vila Bled.

You can get to it via Hotel Bled or by the gate from the shore of the lake. If you are driving from Bled, past the main gates of Vila Bled following the road to the right and then you can drive to the small car park. Or you can walk that way, too.

Café Belvedere is open from 27 April to 8 June: 14.00 – 21.00. 9 June – 10 September: 10.00 – 21.00. 11 – 24 September: 10.00 – 19.00

Jasmin Tea Room

cesta Svobode 10, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 574 38 27

If you are a tea drinker, after a few days in Slovenia you are going to be parched. Tea is a fruit infusion rather the dried leaf from India. Athough Okarina Restaurant does a lovely marsala chai.

Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of a busy shopping area, Jasmin Tea Room is a small, interesting place beside the Tourist Information office. It rarely gets too busy and you can sit in the largish restaurant area or on the small terrace. It is one of the few places in Bled that serves excellent tea as well as fruit infusions. There is an accompanying shop a few metres away around the corner where you can buy tea, infusions, table-ware, cups, mugs, presents to bring home and tea-making paraphernalia.

K-Bar

Ljubljanska cesta 7, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 31 382 055

Even though it is in the Hotel Krim building beside the EuropCar hire office and a hairdresser, K-Bar is a little off the beaten track. It is a cool and shaded place with good, value for money coffee and croissants (rogljički) in the morning.

Triglavska roža coffee shop at Infocenter Bled

Ljubljanska cesta 27, 4260 Bled

The Triglavska roža coffee shop is small, the choice is limited, but it is charming, and the setting is excellent. You can get breakfast in summer months there. The terrace there is very relaxed. Checkout the Infocenter’s exhibitions and shop – but take some coffee and cakes.

Shopping Centre Plaza

You can’t miss it. Right under those multi-coloured canopies slap bang in the middle of the shopping centre. There is a group of separate seating areas distinguishable by the logos and colours. Which café serves you depends on where you sit. I have no particular recommendation, but out there in the open air, some nice views and a glass of Cockta and lots of ice. Cockta? Never heard of it? Read on …

Insider Knowledge – Cockta

Looking for something non-alcoholic on a hot day to help cool you down? Yes, sure there is Pepsi and there is Coke, but why not drink something Slovenian? Cockta might look like one of those American imports, but it does not taste like them. The fizzy drink is made from some 11 herbs – the most prominent being rosehip. It was invented in the early 1950s in Slovenia (then part of Yugoslavia) when Coke and Pepsi were not available.

To quote one of its advertising slogans, “Brez kofeina – brez kisline – brez heca!” (No Caffeine – No Acid – No Joke!)

Best pubs

As in most of continental Europe, there is less of a pub culture than you find in the UK, the USA or Australia and New Zealand. More like France, bars here are usually restaurants and cafés as well. Some places change their character as the day progresses from coffee shop in the morning to loud party pub in the evening.

My favourites and recommendations:

With the usual caveat, these are my favourites and reflect my taste. There are two at the top of the list.

Pri Planincu

Grajska cesta 8, 4260 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 574 16 13

Pri Planincu
Pri Planincu

Small bar, part of a traditional restaurant with a pizzeria upstairs. This is the first bar I ever visited in Bled in 1996 and it is still the place I go to first. While the Belvedere Pavilion is historic for being the tea room of kings and presidents, Planincu is historic for being the pub of ordinary working people in Bled. Because, if you remove tourism from this town, it is essentially a rural farming community. Pri Planincu is part of the community, although, it attracts tourists in droves. The owner must be a motorbike fanatic. The walls and ceiling are decorated with vehicle number plates. I have spotted a motorbike in the rafters of the pizzeria. As mentioned earlier, many bars and restaurants in the region especially welcome bikers. This one positively encourages them.

The Kult Club

Ljubljanska cesta 4, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
www.facebook.com/KultBled/

In the shopping centre building but with a door onto the main road, this bar is for everyone one during the day but in the evening is much more for younger people. It is frequently used as a music venue. It is comfortable and plays a loud (but not too loud) music soundtrack during the day. On a hot day, it is cool and shaded inside.

I like the traditional bar features, the “at the movies” theme. There is an efficient service and a pretty good beer list, too.

Kult
Kult

I’ve not been there (and am unlikely to be there) in the evenings when the beat heats up. Keep an eye on the Facebook page for event announcements.

The George Best Back Bar

Grajska cesta 21a, 4260 Bled, Slovenia

This is an off the beaten track sports bar favoured by backpackers and adventure holiday makers during the summer. In the winter when the tourists are gone it is an after-work pub for locals. It is named after the Manchester United and Northern Ireland footballer George Best and consequently attracts supporters of both of those teams. It is a good basic bar and one of my regular haunts.

[New review] This is a hostel and sports bar, but regardless of when I visit the clientele is almost always Slovene, locals, people taking time away from work. Each year there seem to be fewer examples of George Best memorabilia. Last year the Holywood Northern Ireland Supporters Club framed poster had gone, this year the small George Best mural is painted over. There is a (commercially available) print marking George’s funeral. As I leave I see a clock and pictures of London busses and Big Ben, something I cannot account for in this themed bar.  The eclectic 1970s to 1990s rock sound track has been replaced by Slovenia’s Radio 1. Change comes but losing the sports and in particular George Best and Manchester United theme to this bar would be a loss to Bled.

The beer is as it was, though and a good range – mainly lager. This is a pub with no pretentious. A plain bar for plain people. I love it, regardless. And soon it will be the nearest pub to the new car and coach park.

Bar Planinček

Prešernova cesta 11, 4260 Bled, Slovenia

This is a little bar and café hidden in plain sight between a bakery and the fire station (gasilski dom). It is small but perfectly formed. Although I have been inside, I more often have a beer outside, this is not a hot spot for tourism and that makes it a very welcoming and pleasant place to visit. Simple: beer (least expensive in town, possibly), coffee, snacks.

Pub Bled (Troha Pub)

cesta Svobode 19a, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 574 26 22

Adjacent to the shopping centre this is a quiet and dark during the day often turning into a party pub in the evening. One of its advantages is that it is darker than most places in Bled, dark wood panels, dark wood tables, dark wood bar. The lights are low and not a lot of sunshine gets in. In other words, for many of us who have visited more than our fair share of bars, this is simply a pub. If you desire the sun, the light and the heat there is a small area outside where you can also smoke.

Devil Bar

cesta Svobode 15, 4260 4260 Bled, Slovenia

A large terrace outside and a large interesting interior. Once again, a place to escape on a hot afternoon. An enthusiastically loud party pub at night at the height of the summer. Inside it is beautiful; dark wood, high vaulted arched ceilings, tasteful décor. There is an extensive drinks menu, and attractively loud and active in the evenings.

Rock Bar

Ljubljanska cesta 5 Bled, Slovenia
Phone +386 41 622 526
Facebook https://en-gb.facebook.com/ROCKROCKROCKbarbled/

The “Bikers Welcome” sign is at the door. Opening at 6:00 am, Rock Bar can be quiet during the day, although when town is busy, it is busy, too. Evening and night time is when this place comes to life. As you would expect the crowd is young(er) but not exclusively young and music is an important attraction. It is at the edge of the parking area and near the Sports Hall Bled (Športna dvorana Bled) complex.

Tiger Bar (Stari Tiger)

Cesta svobode 2, Bled, Slovenia
Phone +386 31 674 901

Facebook www.facebook.com/Tiger-bar-403727413047872/

Almost opposite the bus station this is a cheap, cheerful bar with good fast service, a range of authentic Slovenian and central European food. Most of the seating and service is outside under shady chestnut trees.

It is among the earliest opening bars and restaurants in Bled with morning coffee served from 6:00 am and closes at midnight.

If you are going to eat there (and are a meat eater) focus on the local specialities like ćevapčići – skinless meat sausage. It tastes better than that description.

Dnevni Bar Škrbina

Cesta svobode 1, Bled, 4260 Bled

Flags of world may flutter around the terrace of this classic Bled bar, but it is not a sophisticated tourist pub. But it is friendly and welcoming. It is close to the bus. 0.5l of Union is €2.40 a bela kava €1.80 about what you would expect to pay. It’s a bar for locals. It is a perfectly decent place. If you are fed up with fellow tourists and want a quiet break from them, this is worth considering.

Krčma Bar

Cesta svobode 8a, Bled 4260, Slovenia
Phone +386 70 732 799

Krčma Bar is in the square with Hotel Jelovica on one side, the cycle hire and the phone shops on the other, looking out at the hotel coach park and beyond that the bus station and Pri Planincu. The terrace is comfortable and roomy. Inside more intimate. The welcome warm and genuine. But it is comparatively expensive.  A half-litre bottle of Lašco at €2.80 (€2.20 in George Best) one wonders why? If you prefer coffee, €2.30 for a Bela Kava (flat white) which is €1.80 around the corner. Perhaps it’s better value for money in the evening when a younger party loving crowd can be found there. (Prices May 2018)

Best pizza

Pizza is very popular in Slovenia, and not just among tourists. The pizzerias (sometimes spelt the Slovenian way, picerija) I have been to in Bled and Ljubljana are of a very high standard, I’ve never had a disappointing pizza, so this list might be a little redundant. However, there is more to a pizza than a base and topping. The place where you eat and the service that you get can make all the difference. These 5 suggestions are not the only places to get pizza in Bled, but they are places “hand on heart” that I can recommend. Each have extensive menus with dozens of toppings to choose from. You will always be able to buy excellent pizza in Bled for between €8 and €10.

Pri Planincu Pizza

Grajska cesta 8, 4260 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 574 16 13
www.pri-planincu.com

You might have already noted I have nominated Pri Planincu as my favourite bar. It’s also on the list for favourite restaurants for Slovenian food. It happens to be one of my favourite places overall. Even travel writers have favourite places. The restaurant is upstairs, traditionally Alpine with wood panelling and wooden decorations. There are dozens of toppings, beer at a reasonable price and great service. There is a small terrace open in the good weather. This is a family friendly place where English, German and Italian are spoken or understood.

Pizzeria Gallus

Ljubljanska cesta 4, Bled 4260, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 574 32 99
www.pizzeriagallus.si/

This is as good a pizzeria as anywhere. From the terrace on the second floor of the shopping centre you can look out at the activity below. Inside it is cool and comfortable. The prices compare well with all the other pizzerias in Bled, the variety of toppings excellent and the base size, generous.

Picerija Briksen

Ljubljanska cesta 5, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 40 652 995
www.pizzerijabriksen.com

You will find Briksen at the Sports Hall. I have only ever been inside to order and to pay; almost everyone eats outside under the shade of the big umbrellas. It is a sunny spot almost all day. You will find a good selection of toppings. Look out for a special celebration pizza for the Slovenia hockey team’s performance at Sochi winter Olympics. In addition to pizza there are burgers, sandwiches.

Pizzeria Rustika

Riklijeva cesta 13, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 576 89 00
www.pizzeria-rustika.si

Rustika has a very good reputation and is often said to make the best pizza in Bled. I don’t agree, I’m not sure there is a “best”. Here the cooking is very good, the pizzas first class. You will not be disappointed. The restaurant is a little away from the town centre, up the hill towards St. Martin’s church. It is particularly cosy in the colder days of autumn and winter. It has a delivery service.

Recommended restaurants

You will find most if not all the restaurants in Bled offer local dishes. Sometimes there will be modern twists on traditional cooking. A few specialise in traditional – some might say “hearty” – dishes which satisfy the most voracious appetite. The area is rich in fresh easily sourced ingredients. It’s a safe guess that noting you eat will have travelled very far.

At the end of this chapter there are examples of some of local specialities.

Let’s start with my top 10 restaurants

Public & Vegan Kitchen Bled

Ljubljanska cesta 4, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 70 270 712

In a shaded, slightly secluded corner of the main shopping centre, you will find Bled’s only vegan restaurant. In 2014 a very small vegan place called Zaziv opened offering vegan burgers. Public Kitchen opened before Zaziv moved to Ljubljana full time.

While you will find food suitable for vegetarians in almost every restaurant in Bled, Open Kitchen is the only place dedicated specifically to vegans. The main offering is vegan burgers. Choose one of four patties, then one of four breads, then the sauce.

Forget what you know about fast food burger joints. The chef will not begin to build your burger until you order. I use the word “build” advisedly. In the basket delivered to your table, a burger as high as it is wide. A diameter of about six inches and a height of at least four inches. The salad is crunchy fresh, the patty warm when it arrives. Ask for knife and fork …  and extra napkins. You are about to do battle.

I am a meat eater, but meat or no meat this is a first-class burger. You do not need to be a vegan to appreciate it.

Beside me an elderly American couple are finishing their salad and arranging to collect a picnic tomorrow morning, and perhaps bring more of their favourite salads with them to eat on the flight home at the weekend.

Good food, well priced. Closed Mondays Opens 12:00 noon to 9:00 pm

Pri Planincu

Grajska cesta 8, 4260 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 574 16 13
www.pri-planincu.com

Yes, this is the same Pri Planincu featured in Best Bar and Best Pizza, and no they are not paying for favourable reviews nor feeding me for free. It just happens this is my favourite place. The restaurant is old and a bit faded – that’s why I like it. The food is traditional Slovenian homemade fare and is consistently good (I’ve been eating there for over 20 years.) If your grandmother was from Carniola, this is what her home would be like … possibly. It is excellent for budget travellers, but you find plenty of people arriving in expensive cars eating there too. It is also a favourite of locals.

Finefood – Penzion Berc

Želeška cesta 15, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 574 18 38
www.penzion-berc.si/si

The Berc family run the Hotel Garni Berc (Luka’s property) and Pension Berc (Miha’s place). Both, rightly, score outstanding reviews for their accommodation and hospitality. Pension Berc has one of the best restaurants in Bled. It is a special place, a restaurant to treat yourself.

It is relaxed and semi-formal, that is to say the waiting staff professional and formal, and guests are more relaxed informal. We are sitting in a group of four tables and before long, the young couple from the Netherlands, the Canadian couple and the retirees from California are swapping stories with us about what they have done today, where they have come from, what their plans are.

The food is outstanding. You have a choice between the €46, 4 course tasting menu and the a la carte. Specialities include fish (on our visit sea bass, bream and trout), Istrian pastas, Angus beef, game medallions, light soups. All beautifully cooked and presented.

The Slovene wine list includes white, red, orange and fizz. The waiter will give you advice if you need it.

One final thought: pumpkin oil. If you have not tried it, do.

Outstanding. Dober tek

Oštarija Babji zob
cesta Svobode 8, 4260 Bled, Slovenia 
Phone: +386 8381-0584
www.ostarija-babjizob.si/en

Two years elapsed between my first and second visit to this restaurant. It was good the first time and even better the second.

The restaurant is named after the great rock by the Jelovice plateau “Babji zob” or “Old hag’s tooth”. It has narrowed its menu of simple food, with lots of Balkan grill and very large portions, to something more sophisticated, better quality, better service, better atmosphere. Ostarija-Restaurant Babji Zob has shifted up a gear while keeping excellent value for money.

In the summer time the terrace is busy and in the winter the bar-restaurant is warm, cosy and welcoming. The reduced menu focuses more on the quality of cooking and presentation. There are several small “rooms” inside where people site close together and the result is a marvellous atmosphere.

On a cold winter’s evening it is a welcoming and warm place to visit for a beer or a bowl on mushroom soup.

Restaurant Sova Bled

cesta Svobode  37, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Reservations: +386 59 132 100 
www.restavracija-sova.com

The Sova restaurant is about to enter its third year in its present location in Mlino on the southern shore of Lake Bled, a 25-minute walk from the town centre. Sova is in an old bar and before becoming a very good restaurant was a pizzeria with a good Slovenian home-made style of cooking.

The standard of cuisine has been elevated and while the restaurant still looks like pretty standard bar, the food is outstanding. Modern Slovenian cooking takes place behind the bar in a small kitchen. The staff are very helpful especially choosing the right wines and guiding you through the occasionally slightly obscure menu.

It is a mid-range price but very good cooking and an interesting menu. I often choose the Sova Krožnik. It is similar to a Balkan grill, but more sophisticated.

Pension Mlino

cesta Svobode 45, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone:  +386 4 574 14 04 
www.mlino.si

Pension Mlino is a beautiful building and busy restaurant, bar and B&B. Here you find traditional Slovenian hospitality, excellent traditional Slovenian food and the day’s soundtrack is traditional Gorenjska music playing in the background.

There is more than one restaurant in the building, but the bar is the place to drop in for a drink or food. You will find it directly opposite the pletna pier in Mlino. This is where the pletnar, who row passengers to the island, gather after their shift.

This is another personal favourite for lunch, dinner or just a bowl of mushroom soup on a cold day. In summer, it can become very busy as the tour bus passengers disembark at that point.

If you are a couple and like fish, the fish feast is one of the best items on the menu.

Gostilna Murka

Riklijeva cesta 9, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 574 33
www.gostilna-murka.com

If you like traditional, there are fewer more traditional places than this. It was established in 1906 in the old part of town. The restaurant is light, with plenty of room. The service is pitch perfect. It has a good reputation for traditional cooking and entertainment. A simple Slovenian dinner will be inexpensive. The restaurant is “in the round” and is bright and airy on a warm evening.

Oštarija Peglez’n

cesta Svobode  19, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 574 42 18

Oštarija Peglez’n, close to the shopping centre and opposite the Restavracija Panorama, will always be on the short list of best places to eat in Bled, unless something drastic happens. And in the years that I have been going, it has only got better. One evening, walking past I noticed a queue to get in. A rare event in Bled.

In the summer on the small terrace the sunlight streams in as it begins its descent behind the Julian Alps. Large blinds are lowered and even though you are just a few steps from a main road, you feel removed from the busy street. Inside the main restaurant the décor is traditional Slovenian home kitchen.

Before we visited, people had recommended Oštarija Peglez’n for the fish. Yes, sure, but the menu is all good and reliable. The service is great. If you are new to Slovenia and want to try some Slovenian wine with dinner, this the place to ask advice.

Always a favourite.

Restavracija Okarina

Ljubljanska cesta 8, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 574 14 58 
www.okarina.com/en/
Opening hours: Seasonal – 12 noon –11 pm not open year-round.

Another favourite with visitors and locals. There has been an Okarina restaurant in Bled for more than 30 years, starting in a different building to the one now established on the busy road in the centre of town. The restaurant shares its name with and is responsible for the world/ethno music festival held annually in Bled.

Brightly decorated with superb paintings, good service and a style unique in Bled.

You should expect, in addition to the usual, good vegetarian food and spicy Indian food. Leo the owner is a vegetarian who visits India every year. Paul McCartney ate there, he liked it.

Peking Chinese Restaurant

Ulica narodnih herojev 3, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 574 17 16

I have walked past this restaurant so many times and each time thought about dropping in. It’s large terrace almost always has customers at tables all through the day and always in the evening. My focus in Slovenia has been to find Slovenian food. I love Chinese food but going there seemed to be a slight distraction. I resisted one evening recently and I am mighty glad I did.

I went for the terribly predictable sweet and sour chicken. At least I had something to compare it with. The taste was different to what I am used to. St home the “sour” tends towards citric, here it was different, a deeper taste. The fried rice had macedoine of peas and carrots mixed in (and was priced separately) the chicken dumplings were generous in size and quantity. It was on the expensive side. Had I ordered the steamed rice the difference in cost would have been noticeable.

Excellent.

Next, 6 of the best of the rest

Vila Prešeren

Veslaška promenada 14, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 575 25 10 
www.villa-preseren.com/

On a sunny day the open-air terrace is busy with tourists and locals sitting beside one of the best spots on the lake shore. No more than a patch of grass and a pathway separates Vila Prešeren from the lake. In the summer evenings, musicians play. Drop by for coffee after shopping or a beer after a walk around the lake which can turn into a full-scale lunch or even dinner. Coffee, cakes and drinks are good. Lunch – often specialities from Bled and Slovenia – is one of the best in the town. Although I’ve never been to dinner, the menu would suggest this is not a place for people on a tight budget. During the summer Taste Bled festival, Vila Prešeren is probably one of the best places to go to try traditional Bled and Slovenian cooking.

Restavracija Vila Ajda Dax

cesta Svobode 27, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 576 83 20
www.vila-ajda.si/

Vila Ajda is one of the grand houses built in the 18th and early 19th century that are dotted around Lake Bled. It is now one of the best restaurants in Bled used by visitors and locals alike. For the last seven years, it has been run by Vlado Dakskobler, “Everybody calls me Dax.”

The food is strongly Slovenian and Carniolan. The menu ranges from the humble struklji (one of the most characteristic everyday Slovenian dishes, usually made from cottage cheese rolled-up in dough) and Balkan meats like čevapčići (grilled minced beef), and ražnjići (skewered meats) through to chateaubriand. But Dax points out jelenov medaljon (deer medallions) as one of the highlights for him.

And the menu – which changes four times a year to reflect the season – uses ingredients and dishes from the wider geographical area with Italian and Austrian taking their place. Some dishes are from very specific areas such as Mojstrana and Dvoje, villages in the Alps between Bled and Kranjska Gora.

If it is on the menu, try a house special; pečene ripsi reba brez maščobe (literally ribs and veal shank baked without fat).  It is served with roast vegetables – with a slight bite – in a pan which is at lunchtime probably enough for two people. Slovenian portions are often extremely generous.

The house wine here is Erzetic, a family owned winery in Goriška Brda.

Vrtnarija – Garden Village

cesta Gorenjskega odreda 16, 4260 Bled.
Phone: +386 (0) 838 99 221
www.gardenvillagebled.com/

The ‘Greenhouse’ restaurant at Garden Village boasts “Slovenian Cuisine Vrtnarija – fresh from our garden to your plate.”

Vrtnarija is among the most interesting and innovative restaurants in Bled. Situated in Mlino about 200m from the lake, it creates its own style bringing the outside, inside. The Garden Village “glamping” site opened in 2014 and the restaurant is part of this new development.

Yes, that is real grass growing (and carefully tended) on the tables – bringing a whole new meaning to “Surf and Turf” (as if they served anything so ordinary). And that is little stream running through the restaurant and a tiny foot bridge to cross it. The first time we ate there was just a simple lunch – sandwich and a glass of wine by the pool. It was terrific.

The second time we visited was with a couple of local VIPs and we had the Chef’s Tasting Menu. It was delicious. The food is unmistakably Slovenian – but modern and looks as good as it tastes, and the bill matches the high standard.

Restavracija Grill

Best Western Premier Hotel Lovec
Ljubljanska 6 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 (0) 4 620 41 26
www.grill-bled.com/

The Grill serves some very good food. It is unlikely that you will be disappointed. We have only been there twice. The service was efficient.

Hint: better in than out. With the town’s shopping centre and car park to one side and the busy main road to another, this is not the quietest or most romantic spot in Bled. Inside is a lot more comfortable.

The BBQ burgers, while not prominent on the menu, have some lovely regional twists. The burgers are usually one of the features of the Taste of Bled exhibition held during the summer. The meat for the patties, the chef told me, is sourced from a nearby farm.

There is a strong traditional Slovenian theme to their menu. Each Thursday, from 15 June to 21 September at 7:00 pm they hold a Slovenian speciality event. Their example menu prices are mid-range.

Vila Bled

cesta Svobode 26, 4260 Bled, Slovenia 
Phone +386 (0) 4 575 37 10 
www.brdo.si/en/vila-bled/vila-bled

Vila Bled has had an interesting history. Before the building that sits on the land now, there was a grand castle. It was pulled down – reports from the time said the men working on the site had tears in their eyes as they destroyed the building. Vila Bled was built after WWII and was summer home of President Tito. After Slovenia’s independence, it became a hotel – part of a French chain – and is now owned by the Slovenian government.

The hotel gets all the reviews – and generally very high scores. The restaurant tends to be overlooked by reviewers. Yes, it is expensive, one of a clutch of restaurants in Bled that might put a dent in your credit card. Overall, Slovenia is not an expensive place to dine and, in that context, Vila Bled is expensive. Yet compared with a similar standard restaurant in most European capitals, it is very good value.

If you are on a budget but want the experience, try lunch on the terrace on a sunny afternoon. The views are stunning – island, church, castle, pletna, St Martin’s, and the edge of town. We love it. Even if you are not planning to use the restaurant, Vila Bled should be on your list of places to see. The extensive grounds are open to the public and are very pleasant for an amble. Parts, beyond the Belvedere Café are now abandoned and overgrown, including what I am told was once a private zoo.

Inside the hotel there is a small display of photos of world leaders who stayed there during Tito’s time along with Tito’s desk. Today some world leaders still stay at the hotel; Bled is often the venue for major regional political events including Bled Strategic Forum.

Park Restaurant and Café

cesta Svobode 15, 4260 Bled, Slovenia 
Phone: +386 4 579 18 18
bit.ly/2BpUjXP [Sava Hotels website]

This is the home of the legendary Bled Cream Cake which is celebrated here when the town’s summer season officially begins. Yes, a cream cake party. Often in the evening during the summer, there is live music.

The terrace views are great; the castle, the lake and the island. The seating is comfortable and the atmosphere outside is very pleasant. You are seated and served quickly. The staff are usually friendly, and efficient. However, in recent years, they have become stretched and while your order arrives quickly it can take time attracting attention to get your bill before you leave. If you are not staying long, ask for your bill with your order.

When it is busy I prefer to sit inside the restaurant. The coffee is good, the lunchtime sandwiches are good and reasonably priced. You still have the views from behind the glass. On a hot day, it is a good place to escape to.

During the winter season, the terrace becomes an ice rink where families gather to skate and take hot chocolate (vroča čokolada) and mulled wine (kuhano vino).

Finally, still on my Wish List

This is not “the best of the rest”, because I know that many below are outstanding and could top any list. But, I have not been to any of them and can’t give a firsthand account.

Penzion Mayer

Želeška cesta 7, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 576 57 40
www.mayer-sp.si/

Close to Hotel Garni Berc (which is consistently voted best place to stay in Bled – I’ve stayed; it is). Like its neighbour Pension Berc, it has an outstanding reputation and is in a beautiful setting away from all the crowds and the lake and near the Rikli Balance (formerly Golf) Hotel. Without having tried, I can still recommend that you do, simply based on their reputation.

Restaurant 1906

Hotel Triglav, Kolodvorska 33, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 (0)4 575 26 10
www.hoteltriglavbled.si/en/restavracija-1906-bled

High above Bled overlooking almost the whole lake from Triglav Hotel. Modern Slovenian cooking and Slovenian wines. It has an outstanding reputation. I did one have a very good lunch there and, on that basis, would recommend it. The hotel and restaurant are both used by Bled and Slovenian rowing teams for VIP visitors, so that must be a recommendation itself.

Topolino Restaurant

Ljubljanska cesta 26, Bled 4260, Slovenia

Phone: +386 4 574 17 81

It is really not far out of town; mere few minutes’ walk. Yet it remains on my wish list. You always have to have something to look forward to.

Bled Castle Restaurant

Grajska cesta 61, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 620 34 4
bit.ly/2CR02lG [restaurant website]

The Caste Restaurant has the reputation of being one of the top restaurants in all of Slovenia. There is no question that it has the best view.

Astoria Hotel Restaurant
Address: Prešernova cesta 44, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 579 44 00

There are plenty of hotel restaurants, but this one is special as it is recommended by sports people and it is the training restaurant for the Bled hotel and catering college.

Restavracija Arbor

Ljubljanska cesta 4, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 574 30 33
www.arborbled.si/about-arbor

In the shopping centre this looks like a very attractive simple restaurant with a big choice of Slovenian and Mediterranean food on a well-priced menu. I notice they do pizza. It is on my list of places to test.

Restavracija Julijana

Toplice Hotel cesta Svobode 12, 4260 Bled, Slovenia
Phone: +386 4 579 10 00
bit.ly/2BRlhHf [restaurant website]

I have not had dinner or lunch here, but if you are feeling flush, they do a splendid breakfast before 9.30 am

The Toplice is at the high-end of the high-end. It is luxuriously decorated, how I imagine a Viennese drawing room might be decorated. You can go into look around the public rooms or take coffee. If you do, check out the display cabinet with photos of many political and entertainment celebrities, royalty, and other notables.

Insider Knowledge

Donald and Melania Trump at Toplice Hotel Restaurant

Sitting in Penzion Mlino after a particularly good dinner, we were chatting with our young waiter. We had got to know many of the staff well during our stay on the south shore of Lake Bled. “You know,” said the waiter pointing at one of his colleagues. “He was once President Trump’s butler.” The older man, who served dishes with the grace of an orchestral conductor, sensed he was the subject of the conversation. He joined the conversation.

As most people know by now, the US First Lady, Melania Trump is from Slovenia. What might be less well known is that she is no stranger to Bled. It is understood that this is where she began her modelling career. The local story has it that there was once a garment factory just outside the town – around where the new Mercator has been built. The owners occasionally hired her to model their products. Two years before she married Donald Trump, the couple made a quick trip to Slovenia to meet Melania’s parents.

The then Mr. Trump and Melania landed at the airport and were swiftly transported to the Toplice Grand Hotel in the centre of Bled, overlooking the lake. It is a place where royalty – including Prince Charles – has stayed and where politicians and leading business people stay during the Bled Strategic Forum.

“Yes.” A friend whose family goes back for generations in Bled told me, “I saw them on the terrace.”

The waiter in the Penzion Mlino who had joined us was working in the Toplice at the time. He had been appointed the visiting party’s personal butler for the visit. He pulls out his phone to proudly show me a photograph of the Trump party and himself.

Within three hours of landing, he tells me, they were back at Brnik airport and departing Slovenia.

Beyond Bled

Gostilna Zatrnik Pr’ Jagru

Zatrnik-Hrnica 82, 4247 Zg. Gorje
Phone: +386 599 60272
www.gostilna-zatrnik.si/

This is really something different. If you are a hiker, you might just come across this fascinating place on your walks. You could drive by on your way to or from Pokljuka. On the road, almost in the middle of nowhere (it is in fact near quite a lot of places, but somehow seems remote) this restaurant is famous for its hog roast. Suckling pig on a spit, very large helpings. Not a place to bring a vegetarian. Superb, rustic, authentic.  Check the website for directions and menus [www.gostilna-zatrnik.si/].

 “Too much info. Decide for me, Davy!”

It is obvious, but there is too much to choose from. If we met on the bus to Bled from Ljubljana and wanted my immediate suggestions, I would ask a few questions first, such as where you are staying. In Mlino I have no hesitation recommending Sova and Pension Mlino, for example. If you really want to treat yourself, Vila Bled.

But let’s suppose you are going to be around Bled centre and only have a couple of days to visit. Here are my personal suggestions for 2018.

Quick coffee: Both Caffe Peglez’n and Art Café.

Restaurants: Either Oštarija Babji zob or Oštarija Peglez’n.

Pizza: Pri Planincu or Gallus

Pub: This is more difficult. What’s really missing in Bled is a specialist beer and craft beer pub. Kult and Pri Planincu are my suggestions. Kult especially in the evening.

Top end restaurant: If you want to spoil yourself or someone else, I suggest Bled Castle restaurant or Pension Berc.

Specialist: Public Kitchen and Okarina for vegetarians and vegans.

The Best in Slovenia

In December 2017, French Publication La Liste published the best restaurants in Slovenia. Around 1000 of the top restaurants from around the world are listed each year. The 2017/2018 list includes 5 restaurants from Slovenia.

The best Slovenian restaurant in their estimation is the Gostinstvo Mak in Maribor under the direction of chef David Vračko.
Osojnikova ulica 20, 2000 Maribor, Slovenia. Phone: +386 2 620 00 53 www.restavracija-mak.si/

The list included

Cubo in Ljubljana
Šmartinska cesta 55, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia. Phone: +386 1 521 15 15, www.cubo-ljubljana.com/en

Dam in Nova Gorica,
Ulica Vinka Vodopivca 24, 5000 Nova Gorica, Slovenia. Phone: +386 5 333 11 47, www.restavracija-dam.si

JB Restaurant (chef Janez Bratovž) Ljubljana
Miklošičeva 19 SI-1000 Ljubljana, Phone: +386 1 430 70 70 info@jb-slo.com, jb-slo.com/en/

Hiša Franko led by one of Slovenia’s greatest chefs Ana Roš,
Staro selo 1, 5222 Kobarid, Slovenia, Phone: +386 5 389 4120, info@hisafranko.com, www.hisafranko.com/en

More here www.laliste.com/en/laliste/world

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