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Ljubljana’s excellent food options are never going to make decisions easy. However, one place that means that you don’t need to make a decision until the last minute is Gostlina AS.
The name might provoke giggles for British visitors (yes, it is pronounced ‘arse’ and might mean ‘ace’ or ‘ash’ in reference to the tree that is the establishment’s symbol, depending who gives the explanation) but seldom does one locale offer such different yet equally strong options. Situated in a large garden-cum-courtyard secreted in the city centre, it’s easily missed if you don’t stumble upon it while exploring. But make sure you ask someone for directions if you don’t chance upon it. You won’t be disappointed.
The original Gostina AS Restaurant is an old favourite with the city’s power-brokers. With its tranquil garden and beautiful vaulted cellar dining rooms, it’s all rustic patinas and beautifully aged fixtures. Chef-owner Svetozar Raspopović’s restaurant looks to the neighbouring region of Trieste for some of its inspiration. But, like many of the good Slovenian restaurants that are strong on the Italian influence, here you aren’t likely to stumble upon the same old stuff. One of his specialities, for example, is his pesce tartuffalo – angler or monkfish fillet served with an exquisite tartufi sauce. However, being real Slovenian cuisine, one also senses that Austrian influence in dishes like smoked goose breast with horseradish and there’s the perfect rendition of prekmurska gibanica, a layered cake with a delicious filling of poppy seeds, walnuts, apples, raisins and ricotta; the most traditional Slovenian dessert.
The latest addition to the establishment is the AS Apertivo Bar. Don’t let the name fool you. Filling a massive and beautifully designed modernist pavilion that opens up on three sides during the warmer weather (but remains wonderfully cosy in the winter with its internal courtyard garden that boasts a brilliant contemporary outdoor fireplace), this is hardly a simple bar. Yes, you would be more than welcome to have a few aperitifs here before moving into the more traditional surrounds of its older sibling. But the full contemporary bistro menu at AS Aperitivo can more than hold its own, as can the excellent selection of wines on offer.
Here the menu places an emphasis on the old staple, Italian cuisine, as well as upmarket versions of steakhouse fare with the occasional nod to world cuisine in keeping with its cosmopolitan vibe and clientele. The tagliatelle with wild boar ragu is simply perfection, as are most of the other simple dishes done with flair. So you won’t really need to decide whether you’re up for the full high-end dining experience or the tasty metropolitan, good food right up until the last minute. Order a couple of cocktails and ask the very friendly waiting staff to bring you the menu for both while you make up your mind.
Once you’re sated, chances are that even if you did opt for the original, you’ll slink back into the AS Aperitvo for a drink. The lively atmosphere, good music and interesting mix of people, especially at weekends, often means that there is simply no need to move on anywhere else, even though Europe’s smallest capital city offers a surprisingly robust range of options if you do.
The original Gostina AS Restaurant