Hiša Denk, signs of a new Slovenian cuisine

After Ana Roš and Tomaž Kavcic, Italy’s neighbouring country is acquiring visibility thanks to the inn of promising Gregor Vraćko


The dining room at Hisa Denk, restaurant and hotel at Zgornja Kungota, in Slovenia, between Styria and Maribor, tel. +386.(0)2.65 63551 (photo hisadenk.si)

To get to Maribor from Italy you need to cross Slovenia and reach the border with Austria, yet the journey to get to the reign of Gregor Vraćko is more than repaid by the emotions delighting eyes and palate.

Restaurant Hiša Denk is already very pleasing on the outside, reflecting the philosophy of the talented chef. A few years ago Gregor drew from his pockets and commissioned the renovations of the restaurant, transforming it through modern architecture, as with the facade made with larch, but he also wanted to enhance the distance between old and new, by keeping the relationship with nature untouched: large spaces overlooking the surrounding nature and lake, connected with wood bridges.

Forget the menu (because there is none and it follows the daily changes in the season) and follow the recommendations of the host who will welcome you in person, like old friends. The location is strategic, on the wine route of Styria and Maribor (it’s some 50 km from Graz). And nearby Styria influences most of the dishes with simple raw materials but also with very strong notes. Vraćko represents the bravest disconnection from Slovenian traditional cuisine, which he revolutionised completely after travelling around the world and meeting great chefs. He doesn’t follow current trends but is perfectly at ease (thanks to the techniques he’s acquired) with fundamental flavours. It is no coincidence that he was awarded as best chef in Slovenia in 2005.

What can we say about the Beef carpaccio served on a delicate mayonnaise ice cream, or the Oxtail served with caviar, pumpkin and carrots, in which the refined cooking technique is remarkable. The series of desserts includes a Chestnut mousse, or a superb Pear pie, not to mention the various flavours of gelato served with a mousse of black currants. Every dish is served with seeming simplicity but then it’s a symphony of flavours that blend in the palate determining a great success for the emerging chef who, without taking away anything from other young Slovenian chefs, can be placed immediately behind ‘giants’ like Ana Roš and Tomaž Kavcic, who welcomed him in the Slovenian team of the Jeunes Restaurateurs d'Europe.

In the dining room, Bostjan Vogrincic takes care of welcoming the guests and of their pleasant stay, while Kari Wiggen is in charge of the cellar and recommends wine pairings. The cellar’s offer is extraordinary both in terms of selection and price-quality ratio. You can find precious bottles from Bourgogne, or Tuscany or Piedmont, as well as a selection of macerated wines, both from Slovenia and Italy.

Gregor Vracko (to the left) with sous chef Matevz Bozic

Gregor Vracko (to the left) with sous chef Matevz Bozic

Since it’s basically impossible to have such an experience in a day trip, even if you live close to the border we recommend staying in the beautiful rooms annexed to the restaurant and offered at very convenient prices: 90 euros for a double deluxe room and 80 for a standard, including a rich breakfast. The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from January to April, while the other months it’s only closed on Wednesdays. Holidays include the first ten days in August. Around eighty euros will suffice for an unforgettable sensorial experience.

(Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso)