This felt almost like a picturesque fairy-tale. Friday evening, alone with my best half Teja, and a reservation at the place that’s been spoken of a lot lately. Located in the village of Vrhoplje, which is believed to be the setting of the battle of the Frigid River, the battle that decided the outcome of Christianity in the western Roman Empire. The winner, the emperor upon which this restaurant holds the name – Theodosius I, who is believed to have prayed right above the village the night before its final battle.
Gregor and his team started this cosy inn in 2017 with the intent to offer to its guests seasonal dishes prepared with local ingredients. And this is clear right from the start.
All about local, seasonal ingredients
We’re greeted with a fruity extra brut Pinela Theodosius and home made goat cheese with olive oil and fleur de sel. The wine, an extra brut Charmat method, fruity, creamy and delicate as is the cheese. It is made here, by local goat milk. They heat it up to 72 degrees Celsius and then cool it down to 38. Out of 100 litres of milk only 3 or even 1,5 kilograms of cheese are produced. It is creamy, silky and delicate, it doesn’t have the typical goat cheese flavour. Even bread here is made with different local flours, at our table slices of delicious buckwheat bread.
Gregor joins us shortly, a bottle of Pinela by Krapež in his hands. A 2017 vintage and the winemakers tentative to produce a fresher version of its wine. Fruity, soft, tasty and fresh, ideal combinations for our first entrée. On our plates slices of wonderful beef carpaccio with fresh chanterelles, wild blueberries and matured cheese. A wonderful play in between saltiness, sweetness and fresh, even the aroma of pepper is rounding the bite.
Moving on to Sveti Martin’s Zelen, still a 2017 vintage, but with an intense note of aromatic herbs, a full bodied wines which indicates what to expect from our next dish. A risotto variation of pearl barley with smoked ham and Ekolat’s mozzarella produced entirely with Vipava valley’s milk, to note also a crunchy leaf of sable. Again the combination with wine is perfect, a wonderful play in between the aromas of wine and the dish, the freshness which opposes to the sweetness of the dish and both persistencies.
Gregor’s mastery is felt all the time, all dishes and wines are enthusiastically presented and you literally feel the effort they invest while listening to his presentations. He has this rare talent of making you feel almost like beeing there when dishes are made.
Continuing with the next course our glasses are being filled with White Classic by Krapež. A blend of Poljšakica and Welschriesling which is macerated for a longer time and then laid in 1.000 litre acacia barrels. The wine is unfiltered, limpid of a golden colour. The aromas are intense, dried fruit, herbs, honey, dried acacia flowers and spices. Also the taste is intense and tannic, it’s just a little bit short on the taste due to Poljšakica’s characteristics. This however is skilfully paired with our next dish, Trebuša’s trout with sautéed vegetables. A wonderful play of tendencies towards sweetness from the dish and freshness and bitterness of the wine.
Main dish is about to be served and our glasses are changed. Time for Jamšek’s Barbera of the demanding 2014 vintage. After 25 days of maceration it is laid to mature in barrique barrels for 1,5 year. The secret here are partially dried grapes which causes this wine to be balanced and soft. Fine and intense aromas of dried red berries, chocolate, cloves, spices, black pepper. The taste is intense, vigorous and lasting.
Perfect for our main dish – beef cheek and polenta, the sauce a skilfull reduction of cheeks own juice and the wine we’re served. Polenta is cooked from an autochtonous corn named “Guštenca” and has red coloured grains. It has a more intense taste than of the usual polenta, but here also the graining is unequal, causing bursts of flavour with each bite. The cheeks are cooked to perfection, soft as butter and packed with flavour. No doubt this dish is demanding, but the pairing with wine is like a symphony.
Oh, the sweet temptation
Needles to say our tummies were full at this stage, but we were offered a combination of three deserts. The temptation was too strong and resistance proved to be futile. Especially after getting our glasses filled of a semi sweet Muscat by Jamšek. Just the time to have a sip and deserts were shining at our desk. A trio in the form of black chocolate and vanilla mousse with wild blueberries and granola, Vipava’s pasta crema and a refreshing home made goat yoghurt mousse with blueberry coulis. All were good, but we loved the pasta crema so much we just had to order another, yes I know we shouldn’t but it was sooooo good …
With the menu priced at approximately 40 Eur Theodosius once again delivered. Dishes made with local, seasonal and fresh ingredients are skilfully paired with local wines are a recipe for success. The presentation of dishes sometimes lacks slightly, but this all pales when you taste them. I didn’t manage to look at the wine list, but I hear their wine cellar is also a treat. Gregor is without a doubt the soul here, a great restaurateur with the right feeling for its guests. Next time you’ll be looking for a cosy place to eat don’t think twice, I advise you to visit Vrhoplje and look for this hidden gem.