Privacy settings

Essential cookies

The website uses cookies and records anonymous statistics of visits to www.tasteslovenia.si for the purpose of improving performance.  

Statistical cookies

Do you allow us to collect anonymised data on the viewing of our content? We will improve your user experience.

I allow
I don't allow

Segmentation cookies

Do you allow us to record your activities on Slovenia.info? This would allow us to learn about your interests and offer you interesting features and content about Slovenian tourism that interest you most.

I allow
I don't allow

Advertising cookies

Do you allow us to occasionally offer you advertising content from other websites that best match your interests?

I allow
I don't allow

I allow the Slovenian Tourist Board (STO) to record and store anonymised data about my activity on www.tasteslovenia.si, which are used by the STO to provide a better user experience for visitors to the portal in the future. I also confirm that I have been acquainted with my rights related to the personal data provided.

Manager of personal data:
Slovenian Tourist Board, Dimičeva ulica 13, Ljubljana
Phone: +386 1 5898 550
E-mail: info@slovenia.info

I allow the Slovenian Tourist Board to record and store the displays of my received messages and clicks to links in the received messages with the purpose of providing me with the most high-quality and the most interesting contents for my purposes (profiling). I also confirm that I have been acquainted with my rights related to the provided personal data. Because the Slovenian Tourist Board is trying to send contents that are as high-quality as possible and as interesting to recipients as possible, it would like to measure the responses to its sent announcements. To provide better and better-focused notifications and to adjust future messages, it automatically processes, analyses, and profiles personal data, and the users’ level of interest in the announcements provided is assessed.

Manager of personal data:
Slovenian Tourist Board, Dimičeva ulica 13, Ljubljana
Phone no.: +386 1 5898 550
E-mail: info@slovenia.info

I allow the Slovenian Tourist Board to record and store the displays of my received messages and clicks to links in the received messages with the purpose of providing me with advertising contents in which I have previously expressed interest (re-marketing). I also confirm that I have been acquainted with my rights related to the provided personal data. Because the Slovenian Tourist Board is trying to show advertising contents that are as high-quality as possible and as interesting to recipients as possible, it would like to use advertisements to once again notify you concerning topics in which you have previously expressed interest. These settings apply to advertisements that are shown through the services of the company Facebook, including Facebook and Instagram, and also through online applications. If you do not agree with the recording and storing of received messages and clicks on links in the received messages with the purpose of displaying advertising contents on topics in which you have previously expressed interest (re-marketing), the same number of advertisements will still be shown, but you might not find them as interesting.

Manager of personal data:
Slovenian Tourist Board, Dimičeva ulica 13, Ljubljana
Phone no.: +386 1 5898 550
E-mail: info@slovenia.info

Skaručna, the iconic restaurant where you walk on the edge

 

The closure of the restaurant Skaručna will mark the end of an important chapter in Slovenian cuisine.

It may seem strange to begin a story about a restaurant at its end, but at Skaručna, one always has the sense that guests are witnessing the final act of Slavko Žagar Junior, an eccentric genius, probably the only one in this country who puts so much of himself into his work. Perhaps too much of himself.

Skaručna always makes you feel like every meal you eat could be the last. Skaručna is reminiscent of the last days of the Roman Empire, with its bacchanalia, excesses, and hedonism. It’s the kind of place you enter at lunchtime but may not want to leave until well after dusk. When restaurants adopt ‘by appointment’ rather than a fixed timetable, it signals a flexible perception of time, and in a restaurant like Skaručna that can be both intriguing and risky.

Slavko Žagar
Photo: Suzan Gabrijan

A visit to Skaručna is not merely about dinner; it’s about embracing an experience, no matter how often the term may be used. It’s an opportunity to witness Slavko’s performance. The journey begins innocently enough, following a scenic road from Ljubljana past Šmarna Gora, leading to the picturesque village of Skaručna. The restaurant, unmissable along the way, stands frozen in time, a reminder of a time when it was run by Slavko’s father, Slavko Žagar Senior.

Žagar’s nickname was ‘Pulinoga’, because of the unique fighting stance for which he was famous. Slavko Senior opened Skaručna in the 1970s, at a time when the Slovenian culinary scene was undergoing radical change due to industrialisation, the exodus from farms towards urban centres, and the profound metamorphosis of the countryside.

During this period, the age-old traditional taverns were gradually disappearing, while staples like goulash, cabbage and sauerkraut were being replaced by foreign dishes, as if there was a sense of embarrassment about our rustic origins. And indeed, the sentiment was evident. Stuffed peppers, meat salad, and dressed polenta, once reserved for home dining, were giving way to a dining-out culture centred on pizzas, burgers, and tacos.

table at the inn
Photo: Suzan Gabrijan

Skaručna stood its ground, resisting culinary trends until it became a trendsetter itself – a landmark restaurant that attracts everyone from politicians to Ljubljana hipsters, from acclaimed foreign chefs to couples on their tentative first dates (perhaps an unintended risk).

Slavko Žagar Senior, a distinctive figure with a robust moustache, was a visionary who advocated the “local, homemade, zero kilometres” philosophy before it became an international culinary trend. His speciality was the knuckle, mostly ox, but also veal, pork and venison.

The menu also included other hearty dishes typical of this part of central Slovenia, such as ričet (barley stew), žolca (aspic), esihflajš (meat salad), prežganka (burnt flour soup), pražen krompir (pan-fried potatoes with onions), krvavice (black pudding), stewed calf’s liver with onion, rolled dumplings. Žagar Senior was one of those born restaurateurs who was as passionate about his stove as he was about his record player, on which he played everything from the golden oldies of Slovenian pop’s heyday to the melodies of San Remo.  His photographs still hang on the faded walls of Skaručna, somewhere among hunting trophies, rusty horseshoes and old newspaper clippings.

records and vintage decorative objects
Photo: Suzan Gabrijan

Slavko Žagar Junior grew up in this environment, the restaurant business was literally ingrained in him. Absorbing his father’s wisdom and inheriting his father’s treasured recipes, he carried on Skaručna’s legacy, transforming it into a phenomenon in its own league.  No other pub or restaurant in this country can match its unique charm and heritage.

Upon arrival, a drink is generously bestowed upon you, well before you are even seated at the table. “You’ll have one to start with, won’t you?” they say, more as a command than a question, and they’re already pushing a shot of thick, red, homemade raspberry liqueur into your hands. Other spirits are readily available – before dinner, after dinner and in between, if you fancy.

“Would you like to give our beer a try?”  We try that, too, before a third type of glass, this time for wine, changes hands, as it were, casually. At this point we move closer to the dining room, where Slavko begins his first act, the ceremonial slicing of ham and serving it with deliciously warm, toasted bread.

Photo: Suzan Gabrijan

Despite a few bandaged fingers, collateral scars from the culinary world, Slavko fearlessly wields his knife, powerfully slicing into a smoked ham and tearing into a huge horseradish root, scattering white flakes over us like the first snow of December. He places the ham on a slice of bread and piles on the horseradish, presenting the flavourful combination right in front of our mouths. Slavko works without filters, or rather, if he comes across one, he smashes it with delight.

From somewhere he brings a few salamis that he has dried this season at Joško Gravner’s, or perhaps at some other Brda winegrower’s. In the midst of our indulgence in bread and hors d’oeuvres, he insists that we hold back, assuring us that there will be “plenty of food” to come.

We are slowly ushered into the dining room, a rustic farmhouse room with heavy red curtains, retro checkered tablecloths and shelves lined with dusty majolica pottery. Slavko keeps us in suspense for a while, allowing his staff to fill our glasses with amber wines from small, sustainable producers. It looks like this is going to be a long evening.

salami
Photo: Suzan Gabrijan

The menu at Skaručna is based on what the fishermen, hunters and nature itself have provided that week. However, in the midst of all this variety, certain classics are almost always to be had. So the culinary journey usually begins with delicious homemade spreads, cottage cheese with chives and Liptauer cheese, a duo of terrine and an array of homemade pickles – setting the stage before the main course unfolds.

First one or two soups are served, maybe a burnt-flour or beef consommé, followed by bowls of seasonal salad — dandelion salad, lamb’s lettuce, or bean salad, depending on the time of year.

ducks
Photo: Suzan Gabrijan

Soon huge trays of veal tongue, infused with the essential flavours of garlic and olive oil, and accompanied by young goat’s cheese, are presented to us. As if we had been starving for days, we gobbled up every last bit, generously spread on bread, albeit a little discreetly, to avoid any scolding from Slavko.

The feast continues with an array of courses. How many? Who knows, depending on the day, depending on the chef’s mood, but after a few drinks, no one’s really counting anymore. And the glasses keep being topped up by the head waiter Mateja, Slavko’s long-time assistant, or even by Slavko himself, who insists on a bottle of Brandulin and pours the wine without paying too much attention to where the wine is spilled.

wine
Photo: Suzan Gabrijan

We’re nowhere near the main courses, but it’s time for crispy polenta “koruzjača”, a baked polenta with sour cream, cottage cheese and kajmak, baked in a rustic wood-fired oven and served with a wooden spoon.

At one point, Slavko begins to unveil his entire pantry before us – piles of citrus fruits, ranging from limes to oranges, salt, olive oil, a wooden board and an assortment of fresh herbs harvested from Skaručna’s garden. With an ominous air, he approaches with a massive butcher’s knife, which he plunges into the board with a sudden, dramatic motion. He chuckles in that cracked voice of his, clearly taking pleasure in frightening and energising his guests.

If luck is on your side, Slavko may present you with a culinary creation – be it beef tartare or, as on this occasion, a dish of pike. Baked the day before, he transforms it into a delicious, fresh, cold fish dish before our very eyes. The pike’s snout seems to be watching us intently as Slavko expertly chops herbs and halves lemons.

He takes a bottle of olive oil and pours it over the fish, then does the same with all the citrus fruits. The final touch is a sprinkling of fresh herbs. He divides the exquisite creation among the waiting plates. Although this dish is not a regular item on Skaručna’s menu, like the trout, it shows Slavko’s spontaneity and culinary brilliance.

Photo: Suzan Gabrijan

The theatricality continues as Slavko brings a huge fish to the table on a trolley. Sitting beside it, he puts on his gloves and begins to fillet the delicate pink trout in a highly suggestive manner.  There is something erotic about the gesture, as he slowly runs his finger up and down the taut belly of the fish before making his decisive cut. Some of the guests are visibly uncomfortable.

He adds just a spoonful of horseradish to the fish, creating a dish that will be remembered long after the meal is over.

fish dish
Photo: Suzan Gabrijan

As another round of wine begins, accompanied by the clinking of glasses and a little more culinary magic, the knuckle, is brought into the main dining room. It’s huge, so big that it sticks out of even the biggest pot. Slavko, like a conductor in front of his audience, gazes lovingly at the knuckle, asking for a moment of silence before he begins his culinary performance.

By this time, most of the guests are satiated, but who could refuse Skaručna’s knuckle? Who would dare to refuse? Some of those with less beer mileage and fitness, and those who have set the pace too fast, feel fatigue creeping in. They turn to Mateja for a taxi. Manoeuvring between controlling Slavko’s excesses and satisfying the needs of the guests, she skilfully tries to delay their departure, holding them back until the last half hour, when the desserts are ready.

“Just wait a little, the rolled dumplings are coming,” she reassures a tired couple at a table on the verge of calling it a night. The couple give in, realising that there is no point in resisting. After all, a visit to Skaručna isn’t about a quick bite.

sausages in an open oven
Photo: Suzan Gabrijan

For those who persevere, the reward is extraordinary. The rolled dumplings arrive, soft and bathed in copious amounts of butter, sugar and cinnamon, caramelised into a sinful dessert the likes of which they don’t make anymore. One wonders if such desserts ever existed before, as perhaps your grandmother refrained from subjecting you to such a cholesterol bomb.

“A dram of schnapps for the road?” asks Mateja, as Slavko must have retired to his quarters by now. Deciding to go all the way, we indulge in one last nightcap, “to soothe the digestion”. Something thunders from the lobby before being replaced by the soothing sounds of jazz. Still on the move, Slavko energetically sifts through his record collection, searching for the perfect tune to end the day. It’s unclear whether he’s choosing the music for his own enjoyment or for the last of the pub’s lingering guests.

A white porcelain doll on a pin continues to twirl tirelessly as Coltrane gradually fades into the night. Skaručna has successfully navigated another evening of culinary delights.

bottles
Photo: Suzan Gabrijan

More unique stories

Matiček – chef with a green hat

The dishes of Matjaž Erzar – Matiček read like a walk through a forest, across meadows, streams, ravines and along mountain ridges.

Read more

Gostilna Cajnarje: Swapping Ljubljana’s bar scene for an old tavern

Welcome to the culinary gem in the heart of Notranjska Region.

Read more

Zeleni gaj: A Prekmurje feast at the end of the (Slovenian) world

The life of chef Boštjan Berke is marked by Prekmurje culture, tradition and local ingredients.

Read more

Taste more.

Learn about the story od Slovenian gastronomy. Discover local culinary and wine specialties.

Read more