Let us begin right away by saying this is not another foodie post. It’s a post about courage, ambition, confidence and respect. An impression of looking at what it takes to drive one of Slovenia’s most prominent restaurants – Hiša Franko.
Ana Roš undoubtedly has the charisma, the talent and the determination that made her such an iconic Chef. But that wouldn’t count as much if she wouldn’t have a fantastic team, farmers, and producers behind her, something I’ve had the unique opportunity of witnessing lately.
Finally, things are starting to turn for the better in Slovenia. Restaurants were closed for almost eight months, making a huge, negative impact on the catering industry. An effect I’m worried we will be feeling consequences for the next couple of years. Many people from the industry decided to seek work elsewhere, which will require significant amounts of energy and time to replace them.
This impact is felt throughout the country, but imagine how even more if your restaurant is away from significant tourist attractions. Suppose you’re far from the business centres on a quite difficult to reach position. This just multiplies …
Hiša Franko has become a fundamental institution over the past years, an institution that also gives back to the community by utilising the best local ingredients so attentively produced by local farmers. And Ana has managed to manoeuvre quite well during these challenging times.
However, this year Ana Roš pushes the boundaries further. Like an unstoppable force, she just keeps on thrusting further, raising the bar, looking for bringing out the best expressions in everything she does, and this is something she also promotes from her team.
So as the reopening time was approaching, I’ve had the unique opportunity to see just a piece of this immense universe in primis. A lot has changed since my last visit to Hiša Franko, but probably those of you who attended it pre-lock-down will notice this change even drastically.
Mixology, fermentation and … naturally wine
This year you’ll have the pleasure of knowing three excellent sommeliers. I’ve had the honour to test their skills by witnessing their trials, and the knowledge displayed was immense. Maria Ogl, who used to work at Koks, knowledgeable, elegant and professional – Hiša Franko’s new head sommelier; and the boys Joel Gomez from Barcelona that worked at Disfrutar and Ignacio Diez Delgado from Madrid are the front of the house which will enchant and spoil you with a fantastic pairing at the table.
Then Andrea Vetere, the mixologist who will mix you innovative cocktails that will pair with dishes, taking you to new heights, and Anja Skrbinek, who is taking care of alcohol-free drinks with some outstanding ferments that just call for more.
And let’s not forget mentioning the kitchen stuff and everyone else building this really thought of universe of Hiša Franko.
Hours before opening
Have you ever asked yourself how it looks like in a world-class restaurant moments before opening? Intense, fur sure … You feel the tension and anticipation while watching the staff taking care of their duties, each at his station, caring of piecing together what the following composition in a long menu will look like.
Everything runs like a well-oiled engine. Ana Roš is presenting dishes, the team of sommeliers preparing bottles of wine and Andrea bringing us his rendition of aperitivo. The only two outsiders in this mixture Tuorlo magazine’s Mirco Mastrorosa and myself, looking at each other and feeling like kids at a luna park.
Our glasses are filled with a refreshing, sizzling Pet-Nat of Refosco. A couple of finishing touches behind the desk, and we’re introduced to the first dish composed of two pieces. Beef tongue pastrami, oyster, wild cress and green asparagus, creamy egg in milk skin, buttermilk with black truffle. A quick analysis of the dish, a sniff of aromas and then the first bite. Quickly followed by a sip of Pet-Nat, and yes, poetry happens! This is it, great let’s move to the second piece of the composition … oh, there’s a spicy component, and it gets nicely accentuated with a sip of sparkle. Well played!
Moving onward, we see hollow bones topped with our next dish – fermented potato with anchovies and bone marrow with black pine nuts. Oh man, what a subtle bite! And then it just went onward. We followed one of the most umami-packed carrot dishes I’ve ever experienced in life.
I’m intentionally just touching the surface of what awaits you at Hiša Franko, as first of all, I don’t want to spoil your experience there. Most of all, writing about this succulent experience just doesn’t make it justice. You have to experience this for yourself.
A rollercoaster of sensations
Ana and the team at Hiša Franko are just going all-in this time. You notice Ana’s determination, but also the care, respect and attention to every detail. We find ourselves sitting at the table when finished tasting the menu, sharing our impressions and exchanging our views regarding the pairing, the menu, and the plans for the opening that day.
We look at the uniforms of the staff that are made of organic materials, designed to breathe and feel comfortable, and they are tailored and unique for the individual, a real treat for the eye.
So, if wondering what to expect at Hiša Franko this season? I’d say expect a rollercoaster of sensations that will take you on a unique journey raising your senses high, then lowering the perceptions by gently caressing you and bring you high again. Expect a unique mix of wines, beers, world-class cocktails or alcohol-free pairings that will just make your senses rock. But most of all, expect to be treated with care by experienced and passionate individuals who barely wait to accommodate you in Hiša Franko’s immense universe.