The Slovenia Times

Beautiful Partnerships



Grad Otočec, a stunning castle nestled on an island in the River Krka, dates back to the thirteenth century and has hosted many of Slovenia's noble families. Today it is home to the unique Castle Hotel, currently running a series of very special culinary dinners.

Held once a month, these dinners are fast becoming hard to book, being a delicious and educational culinary experience at an attractive price. Those attending not only enjoy a four-course meal but also wines carefully selected to perfectly accompany the food. I consider myself extremely lucky to have been invited on the day that Miha Batič was hosting. Founded in 1592, the Batič winery uses production methods that are entirely organic and biodynamic. At the event Batič was able to give me a real insight into the wines he had chosen for the evening.

Beautiful inside and out

The evening began in the open air of the castle courtyard. In this atmospheric, historical setting, we sipped a lovely 2008 rosé, met the others guests, and nibbled on some delicious canapés of young local Slovenian cheese. It was then time to move inside for dinner, held in the castle's elegant dining room. The hotel was refurbished in 2008 to a very high standard and while the decor is contemporary it cleverly blends in the castle's period features and many antiques.

Seated at our own private table the meal started with an introduction from Miha and Robert Gregorčič, called Robi, Castle Otočec's resident chef. The two explained the inspiration for each course and the wines chosen. It was refreshing to meet Robi, a chef who equals Miha in his enthusiasm for nature and what it gives us. Well attuned to seasonal changes in the woodlands belonging to the castle, Robi harvests the freshest produce for his menus. His energy and creativity are a genuine inspiration.

Great food

In short order our first course arrived: a duo of seared foie gras and a foie mousseline, accompanied by a quince and red peppercorn compote. This was coupled with a 2009 Sivi Pinot. It was such a lovely blend of flavours and textures that I think I actually frowned when I saw my plate empty. A good seared foie should resemble a crème brûlée: crisp on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth gorgeous on the inside. This foie gras was exactly that, fresh and aromatic. The mousseline was light and airy with a mellow savour of foie and cream. The quince compote did its job, cutting through the foie flavours with the perfect blend of sweet and bitter, finished off with the spice from the red peppercorn.

The second course was confit of pulled-off the bone fish, served with a wild garlic coulis and purée of beetroot cornel. This dish was attractive, fresh and delicate. The local carp was caught that day in the river and the wild garlic foraged from the castle woodlands. It was a magnificent explosion of colour and taste served with a 2007 dry Zaria - a glorious match. Both the wine and the dish spoke of mulched woodlands and fresh fruit.

Wonderful harmony

And so to the main event: mature beef back medallion with a lemon foam and pepper sauce served with bean dumpling (štrukelj) and a bouquet of shaved seasonal asparagus and fresh radish. I enjoyed every tender morsel of the beef filet. The sauce was rich and tantalising and thankfully Robi came around to all the tables and offered more of this luscious treat if desired. The bean dumplings had an earthy flavour to them. They were moist, plump and melted in the mouth.

The Rosso 2006 which accompanied this course was dry with a wonderful harmony of three grape varieties: the Merlot gives the wine its structure; the Cabernet Sauvignon lends its aroma; and the Cabernet Franc, like a good mother, brings it all together.


The meal wrapped up with vanilla charlotte with peanuts and chocolate soup. The charlotte was as light as a cloud and had a very pure essence of vanilla. The warm milk chocolate soup that the charlotte lay upon balanced out the flavours of the dish, whilst the dusting of nuts added that extra crunchy texture and bitter aroma.

The desert was served with a Valentino 2007, sweet. Now to be completely honest I am not a fan of sweet wines but this Valentino was right up my street.

In reflected on the evening, I realised it was one of partnerships. Not only was the food and wine well paired, I found the chef and wine maker to be equally well matched. And I cannot think of a more perfect setting for this special dinner then Grad Otočec, imbued with so much history and comfort. I think the only thing that could have improved the evening for me would have been permission to crawl upstairs and bed down in one of the hotel's luxury suites.

There is no doubt that I will put myself on the monthly mailing list to find out when the next dinner and wine paring event will take place. I recommend you do the same.

The next culinary event at Otočec Castle

Thursday, 12th May, 7 p.m.

Price (wine including): EUR 49 per person

Reservations: Tel: +386 (0)7 384 89 00, E-mail:

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