The Slovenia Times

Proteus Restaurant - Old and New



Located less than a mile away from Postojna cave is a beautiful, traditional old house typical of the region. It was there when Postojna was a focal point for cart drivers called furmani. It was there between the First and Second World Wars, a time of great feasts and cave parties. Today it is home to Proteus restaurant.
Proteus is an offspring of the luxurious Jamski dvorec restaurant, a place frequented by guests with the highest demands and sophisticated tastes. Both share chef Slavica Smrdel who brings her best to each establishment, treating both menus with equal care and attention.
On a cold, rainy autumn afternoon we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to taste some of her creations. It was an unforgettable experience, not only because of the food. Also striking was the interior of the restaurant - a combination of modern and ancient. We entered the building through a preserved stone portal and found ourselves surrounded by unique dining booths made out of white strings that together form a gentle curtain, resembling those from the cave and creating a pleasant feeling of privacy. The room retained the old stone arches which, together with a priceless collection of Leo Vilhar's dripstone paintings, help create a unique atmosphere.

A Symphony of Tastes

The gourmet ride began with chopped fennel, goat's cheese and prosciutto on a slice of freshly baked bread. A vegetarian edition which excludes the meat is also available. We were amazed by the taste of the rarely-used fennel: a truly unique start to the meal. We realised we were in for a lunch of truly original dishes and the second starter of fried prunes with bacon proved it. So too did the third one: a scoop of smoked Cerknica trout mousse coupled with thin crispy slices of bread, made with cuttlefish ink that added enchanting wavy dark stripes to the dish. In common with all of Smrdel's dishes it was a real pleasure to the eye - she firmly believes that food tastes even better if it is presented well.
Then the soups arrived. We were taken aback by how delicious a simple dish like pumpkin and mushroom soup with an eye-catching dough cover can taste if made by a top-notch chef. The sweetish pumpkin warmed us from the inside and our appetites were now fully awakened. We were curiously anticipating how Smrdel was going to surprise us in the main course.
As a true professional, she carefully prepared vegetarian and non-vegetarian main dishes to cater for everyone's needs. Vegetarians were first treated to a trio of Carst edition potato rolls, eggplants au gratin and yellow pumpkin risotto served in a thin crispy bread cup. Then it was time for carrot rolled dumpling with semolina, mushroom sauce, toasted wild red Carst chicory, eggplant au gratin and braised spinach with coriander. Absolutely perfect. At the same time meat-eaters delighted in a stuffed Pivka rabbit with pistachios in pork net on a cushion of a special type of kale. Up next was an equally lovely creation made of angler in shrimp sauce with potato puree wrapped in spinach.
By the time we came to the desserts we were convinced our stomachs were full, but when Smrdel brought us mouth-watering sweets we miraculously discovered that there was some room left after all. The refreshing persimmon slice was a revelation. Meanwhile I was absolutely thrilled by the caramelised sugar decoration that evoked associations of the old times of kings and queens that decorated a wonderful chestnut mousse, coupled with caramel cream and pumpkin seeds. While digging in we sipped sweet muscat. What an end to a royal feast!

Passion for Old Recipes

Slavica Smrdel's concept is to put a modern twist on traditional Slovenian dishes, focusing on the rich heritage of the Carst and Inner Carniola regions. She places special emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients and soon only organic ones are going to be used in her kitchens. Smrdel's great source of inspiration is a 160-year-old cookbook: "I am completely in love with old recipes and I adore preparing dishes that were popular in the Middle Ages and in the Augsburg monarchy," she says. "Also the times of cart drivers whose hub was in Postojna stir my imagination and I revive their food."
Smrdel is a restless culinary spirit whose craving for knowledge is such that she is constantly attending various cookery courses to further broaden her horizons. At the same time she teaches others secrets and collects and invents recipes; some of them she published in a book Navdih (Inspiration). "I dislike making the same dish over and over again. I constantly need challenges," she explains. Proteus is aiming to become the central exclusive restaurant in Postojna and the establishment and the chef are clearly a perfect match. With the building's ambience and her culinary creativity and skills the goal will undoubtedly be achieved.

Restavracija Proteus
Titov trg 1, Postojna
T: +386 (0)81 610 300

Monday to Sunday: 8am - 10pm

Price range
Vegetarian business menu: EUR 28
Fish business menu: EUR 30
Meat business menu: EUR 32

Food type
A modern twist on Slovenian classics, Mediterranean, Inner Carniolan - Carstic



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