Ljubljana – Neboticnik Skyscraper
Nebotičnik is a unique and dramatic setting for a restaurant and when you first walk in you are transported into another place and time. Designed by Slovenian architect Vladimir Šubic in 1930, it was upon completion the tallest building in Yugoslavia and the ninth-tallest high-rise in Europe. The owners have retained many of the original features as well as the original name. There is always something so opulent and gangster-like about Art deco, and Neboticnik is no different – its thick, royal blue velvet curtains; high ceilings; gold plating; and period lighting are all finished to a very high standard. The original oak spiral staircase runs throughout the building and the views at the top are by far the best in town. The mezzanine bar has a full circle terrace with stunning views of the castle or, for more greenery, Tivoli Park. At the bar you can enjoy a variety of drinks mixed by award-winning bar tender Tomaž Fartek, and/or enjoy a light lunch basking in the Ljubljana sunshine. Neboticnik is also home to a trendy nightclub decorated in plush, coloured leathers, which hosts great live performances by various up-and-coming artists. This jewel is a destination hot spot.
The restaurant, meanwhile, has something for everyone. Dishes use locally sourced ingredients and all are cooked to Michelin guide standard. In addition, the Nebotičnik menu provides a range of fixed-price options incorporating seasonal specials, which is available every lunchtime and in the early evening.
With influences such as Thomas Keller, you will understand why Chef Kordež’s food resonates with artesian delicacy. His culinary skills and his exceptionally high personal standards leave you relishing every morsel. Kordež is also very much inspired by nature and the changing of the seasons.
We started our meal with an aperitif. Uncertain of what took our fancy, our waiter was kind enough to give us some helpful suggestion. We settled on a glass of bubbly from their extensive wine list – we needed a minute to take in this great room and all the history and secrets it held. Once seated at our table we were served a warm trio of fresh baked breads accompanied by the house smoked butter with crushed almond: quite simply yummy! Now I am not always a fan of smoked produce, as often they are over smoked and you lose the flavour of the actual food. However, this smoked butter was light and fluffy with just the right amount of nutty flavour from the almonds. Perfect. With smiles on our faces we were then handed our amuse-bouche. I was delighted to see wine-soaked cherries with almonds and gorgonzola. This was a sign that the chef has his finger on the pulse of the seasons (I had just been picking my first crop at our weekend house in the east a few days before).
For our starter the waiter suggested the house smoked trout. Being so impressed with the chef’s smoking techniques, I was eager to see if his trout was going to come together as well as his smoked butter. It did. Not only did this dish look like a thing of beauty – with its miniature spring flowers and colourful pickled vegetables, finished with pearls drops of trout caviar and a spicy aioli – it was also a flawless blend of flavours.
Our friendly and helpful waiter assisted us in picking the perfect wine to go with our tasting menu. We opted for just the one bottle as it was lunchtime and we had the rest of the day to get through. He suggested Edi Simčič Rebula and it proved a great choice. It had notes of honey, nutty, limpid nose with small floral notes. Very nice fruit sweetness, with depth and balance, with just the right amount of freshening mineral acidity.
Our second course was caramelised seared scallops on top of the most gorgeous cauliflower puree, a thin slice of crispy pancetta, and a floret of cauliflower curried tempura. This looked and tasted amazing. Everything that I look for in a dish – colour, texture, taste, seasonality – was here and it was shouting at me.
A beautiful combination
Then it was on to the main dish – local caught sea bass fillet on top of parsnip puree, served with asparagus, baby carrots and a heavenly mustard sauce, finished with mustard foam. The parsnip puree was smooth and creamy with just the right amount of seasoning. The sea bass was cooked to perfection and the asparagus and carrots had just the right amount of bite to them. Exceptional cooking.
We rounded off our meal with a trio of desserts: mango ice cream with a biscotti cake crumble, caramelised banana drizzled in English sauce, and banana mouse served with puff pastry wedges. Tomaz, our bar tender, kindly brought us a recent award-winning drink he has come up with for the restaurant. I think it should be called the “skyscraper”. With its multi layers of cognac and creamy liqueurs; it was a delicious end to a scrumptious meal.
I often go to places in Slovenia were either the design of the restaurant is exceptional, but the food falters or the food is exceptional and the décor falter. Here at the Nebotičnik, you have it all. I have worked and eaten in many Michelin stared restaurants, and I believe that Chef Kordež is definitely someone to keep your eye on. I urge you to go and see for yourself this masterful blend of architect and gastronomic fare.