If you follow the road from the centre of Ajdovščina into the mountains, you will pass the Youth House and end up in front of an impressive waterfall of the river Hubelj. In the ancient times, Romans called it the Cold Water and it was the source of life in the valley. Next to this rock surface is the lowest mountaineer hut in whole Slovenia (only 210 metres above sea level) that is named exactly after the river: restaurant “At the Hubelj’s Spring” (Pri izviru Hublja).
The Pižent family runs the restaurant since 1992 over the weekends and from 2007 until today it is open as a standard restaurant. It is favourite getaway for the citizens of Ajdovščina, especially in warm summers when the touch of mountain gives so desired shadow. The whole family greeted us warmly and presented their cuisine that boasts with local tastes and aromas, together with the beloved wine sorts of the Vipava Valley.
In fact, it is precisely these traditional and good tastes that invites locals to Hubelj. The kitchen often prepares dishes that may be partly forgotten or are not so usual in the everyday life. In cold winter nights people still remember to warm up their organism with bacon spread over the baked bread. Full white fat melts in mouth and brings the scent of pork that is clearly very local. As a very pleasing introduction, this appetizer was given to us together with Pinela Tomas, from the Fabčič Household. Fresh white wine with accentuated acidity is a rewarding start of our culinary voyage to the classic Vipava table.
It was spring when we have arrived at Hubelj and the asparagus season. That is why we were surprised by the home-grown asparagus with homemade sheep cheese over which the local olive oil is spread. It is a mild combination where cheese dominates with its salty flavour, while the olive oil is a significant reminder that we are not so far away from the sea. The asparagus can be found also in soup, and we did refresh ourselves with an excellent soup made of asparagus, carrots, and potatoes.
Another fine example of Mediterranean influence came with gnocchi made with the bear leek sauce and ten other herbs, with addition of pancetta. The chef plays with us, the dish comes in a shape of wine cluster. Gnocchi are soft and full of potato flavour, while bear leek and pancetta give tremendous interplay of tastes. Pižents suggested us cleverly Zelen Vipavska dolina, a table wine from Zelen sort in the neighbouring villages of St Martin and Brje. Its freshness and mild aroma greatly support the culinary experience.
The same is with herb rakija (brandy) made from the herbs growing just next to the restaurant itself. We also visit the waterfall and learn more about the place that once was a mountaineering resting place near the old hydro-energy plant. It is peaceful place, excellent for body and soul. The jolly and ever-smiling family Pižent says cleverly: “If you are ashamed to eat, you are ashamed to live” and it is indeed a slogan we stand with. Their philosophy is very simple; cook as you do it at home, and put meat in the beef soup! No wonder this family, father Stane and mother Zdravka, together with daughter Sonja and brother Tomi, were cooking for the Slovene Olympics representation in 2000 in Sydney.
The reason why exactly Hubelj’s staff was invited hides in the simplicity and honesty of its dishes. Such a clear reason is the lamb with baked potatoes and onion. It is a classic meal in the Adriatic region, but every lamb has its significant touch. Mild lamb still brings its distinguished taste, it is tender, and served with caramelised onion, rosemary, and a touch of garlic. Everyone appreciates good lamb, but there are significant varieties. Vipava’s lamb is more fatty than Adriatic island lamb, and it leaves that great and unique lamb aftertaste. But, word of advice: don’t even consider to eat lamb ribs with fork and knife, it is the fingers that should feel the essence of why we love lamb so much!
The same goes for pork ribs with asparagus and fennel, an interesting combination of beautifully baked pork with strong fennel, which gives to this dish a specific taste. It is served with dumplings and salted mildly.
A beautiful dinner at Hubelj concluded with classic desserts made by Mrs Zdravka (the mother) whose knowledge and brightness transforms dough into the walnut dumplings and cherry strudel. Rich in substance, it opens way to the family’s soul: giving the best of home cooking in the relaxed and enjoyable natural environment!
Gostilna pri izviru Hublja, d. o. o. IV. Prekomorska 75, 5270 Ajdovščina 00385 5 366 37 88, 00 386 41 201 924 http://www.gostilna-izvir-hublja.si