The Slovenia Times

Meson Don Felipe



It's in a leafy residential area, below the castle and near the church with the fabulously shaped but ridiculously tall steeple. It's in the kind of location where you could go bust within months, but it's been around for years now. And for most of that time it's evolved, dissolved, stumbled then staggered before striding on, one night a shimmering oasis of Spanish flair, the next a slightly tacky experience with a touch of franchise about it. It's a right ruddy enigma is Meson Don Felipe. The original concept was a tapas restaurant, but maybe they couldn't turn enough tables to make it pay. And if I remember correctly the food wasn't up to much either. Then a friend of a friend revamped the menu, and suddenly it was the place to gather a number of like-minded folk to lunch or dine with total pleasure. But it seems Ljubljana wasn't ready for total pleasure either, and so another change saw more formal dishes added to the menu. Trying to disguise the different emphasis by calling them raciones didn't work, and so a complete refit was the next option. Somewhat less-than-authentic terra cotta rusticity was replaced with a smarter, modern look, still with simple wooden chairs and tables, but with a fancy border on the walls and the motif of a bull being elegantly tortured to death behind the bar. Actually, I rather like it. One Ljubljana concept this model of inconsistency has remained faithful to is the set lunch, and it was the prospect of three courses for 1,490 tolars that attracted us in on a Monday afternoon. Sven and I had done lunch on the previous Friday, and had been impressed. Oh yeah, they have specials each month, June's theme being Catalonian cuisine, so the two of us had ordered an extra asparagus dish on top of our three courses. It was utterly superb. So what would the lovely Severina make of a choice of three starters, three mains and three desserts, with perhaps a bit on the side? The way these set lunches work is that the starters and desserts are usually good and sometimes excellent, but the mains vary from bland to decent. I still feel that's a pretty sound bet for your 1,490 tolars, and that was how it worked out. Of the three starters tried over two days, the marinated olives were a pleasure, my leek soup likewise, and the lovely Severina's pasta salad was a refreshing concoction of seeds and vegetables. Sven ended up with mussels both times, and it was his mussel stew with potatoes that was the highlight of the mains, piles of tubers and shellfish producing a supping, slurping, slopping fury down his end of the table. For the sake of diligence, I ordered chicken dishes despite my aversion to taking this particular bird. Suffice to say, I still avert. The lovely Severina requested the meat-free option of grilled aubergines with cheese and root vegetables, then admitted she'd never eaten the purple prince of plants before. How half-Swedish is that? The crema catalana was good, the melon mousse and the chocolate cake were ok, the rice pudding was a strange beast to English and Scandinavian eyes, but the pick of the desserts was thick, luscious yoghurt with walnuts, honey and cinnamon, a fine dish that turns up with regularity. Two other regular features throughout this lifetime of change have been excellent service and rotten music. The staff may be new faces, but the service remains of a standard that few restaurants in Ljubljana, or indeed Central Europe, achieve. Sadly, the standard of the music is utterly Central European in its Iberian naffness, and it may be that the old familiars among the staff were driven nuts by hearing Bamboleo for the eight billionth time. We were thinking of demanding a free glass of the nifty house ros' for every mention of the word coraz¢n, but that would have bankrupted them, although I suspect the shrift given to a request for the brilliant Spanish Bombs by The Clash would be short and merciless. Fortunately, a little residual tinnitus from the Pixies gig the night before spared me from immediate insanity, or from giving a display of the Madrid airport tomato game that awaits the Spanish team when they inevitably cock up in a major tournament. Actually, the ambience isn't that bad when the restaurant's full, and that might be the secret to eating here. The set lunches represent good value, but for pure enjoyment it's best to bring a group, order plentifully, making sure to include the dogfish with cream and almonds among your choices, sup the delicious house white or house red, and devote the evening to congenial, vivacious pleasure. Meson Don Felipe may be an enigma, but it's wrapped in a bloody good restaurant. Food: 5/7 Booze: 5/7 Service: 7/7


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