Gregor Vračko's Hiša Denk should be a permanent fixture on the gastronomic bucket list of any self-respecting foodie visiting Slovenia, or the wider region for that matter. The famed chef has a much deserved reputation for being quite an eccentric - both in and out of the kitchen - and a culinary curriculum vitae that few in the country can rival. He earned his proverbial stripes, or perhaps more appropriately his chef's whites, working in prestigious kitchens across Europe, eventually ending up in California at Thomas Keller's French Laundry, long-hailed as one of the best restaurants in the world. Upon returning to Slovenia, Gregor breathed new life into the traditional family gostilna in the village of Zgornja Kungota near Maribor, and the rest as they say is history.
Nowadays Hiša Denk's premises match the 21st century food, boasting a modern building constructed in minimalist Scandinavian style, with copious amounts of exposed wood and lots of glass. The individual dishes also have an unmistakably New Nordic cuisine look to them, and might be the closest you'll get to eating at the legendary Noma without booking a ticket to Copenhagen. Of course all the ingredients are locally sourced and perceptible homage is paid to regional Štajerska culinary traditions, if you look close enough. There's no menu, so ordering consists simply of choosing the number of courses and leaving the rest up to the chef - and the British-born sommelier if you'd like perfectly paired wine with your meal. Increasingly becoming known beyond Slovenia's borders, Hiša Denk conveniently offers a handful of elegant, minimalist rooms for overnight guests, which are both a great value and the perfect way to round out the experience.
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