When poet Antun Mihanović was writing a poem in 1835 that will later become the Croatian national anthem, he surely didn’t even think that in a protected nature forest of Zelenjak, where is a monument dedicated to him and his poem, will be also one of the top quality restaurants in whole Zagorje. Family Ventek runs the restaurant Zelenjak and is proud of dedication to beautifully made, eye pleasing, and traditionally authentic Zagorje foods.
Immediately next to the Sutla river, for already seventy years, this place enchants its visitors. They can now stay and rest in the family hotel, a pleasant destination for business ventures, family dinners, and various feasts. Grandpa Ivan and grandma Josipa opened in 1936 a small inn here and very soon the spot became favourite among merchants and citizens of nearby Klanjec. Zelenjak is also protected natural area where you can go for bird-spotting, walk alongside Sulta river all the way to Klanjec, or hike up to the Cesargrad and Chapel of Our Lady of Snow.
Gastronomy here is based on protection of real Zagorje taste, but it is also an inspiration to create something new and different, but again very local and traditional. Fresh and quality ingredients from Zagorje make it even better. The Ventek’s are very busy but also very tentative to their guests and we weren’t an exception.
First meal of the day – Zagorje soup. It is now so known outside the region that five star hotels all over Croatia offer it on their menus. Zagorje soup is clear-creamy mushroom soup and consists of dried ribs, potatoes, carrots, greens, but what really gives a difference are the locally grown boletus.
Full of taste, it gives great energy and fills with warmth. The same goes for aperitif we had, homemade plum brandy with bits of dried plums inside the glass, and clear fruity taste of bitter-sweet cherry brandy.
Main course consisted of pork loin wrapped in bacon, very nice delight for everyone caring for pork. Crispy bacon gives full flavour to tender pork loin, and blends well with cooked vegetables. Additionally, we were surprised with turkey roll filled with savoy, giving the accent on famous Zagorje turkey. Last but not least, mlinci (thin dried flatbread prepared by simply pouring it in boiled salted water) baked with boletus and bacon were real treat! As usual, the simplest dish turns out to be best surprise on the plate. Full of good old taste, it is also praise to the cook’s knowledge and blending of ingredients.
Don’t look far for sweet ending. Baked štrukli (pastry filled with cheese) with raisins is a sweet variety of this old and most recognisable Zagorje dish. Although it looks hearty, it is easy and not too sweet dessert, given the rich and smooth cottage cheese and bitter-sweet raisins in it. All the time we enjoyed Klanjec graševina, a mild wine without much acid, that was splendid with all the dishes we had.
Overall, Zelenjak is unavoidable fine dining place for everyone who likes to get a great introduction to the Zagorje cuisine.
Restaurant Zelenjak is listed in 100 best restaurants by www.gastronaut.hr