Updated: Feb 19, 2019
In the very centre of Delnice, itself an unofficial centre of Gorski Kotar region, a hotel named after the National Park Risnjak stands since the earldecades of 20th century. Today, it is one of the strongholds of Gorski Kotar accommodation facilities, with quite a long history. Because of the transport connections between the continental Croatia and the Littoral, Delnice became a hub for road and railways. Very soon, not only the businessmen and drivers were regular visitors, but also many scientists, mountaineers, hunters etc.
In place of today's Risnjak, the Hotel Tomislav was built in 1924. In its prime time, it was the leading hotel in this hilly region, a beacon of Delnice's touristic development. After the Second World War, the hotel is renamed Risnjak and caters for visitors until 1998. For a substantial time, the place was closed down, but the family Kraljević renovates it and brings it close to the past glory.
It is an unavoidable site in Delnice. Situated close to the bus and train station, and next to the beautiful park-forest Japlenški vrh, the three-star-hotel offers 21 rooms, Goranska kuća restaurant, café bar Ris, conference hall, and fitness. There should be no doubt, of course, where we have been! In sunny weather, it is excellent to soak up some sun on the beautiful terrace, but if you would like to taste the very best of the Gorski Kotar cuisine, you should head to the Goranska kuća restaurant.
The name itself becomes understandable once you enter the restaurant. It is made as an authentic Gorski Kotar architecture, with many interior details evoking memories of the highlanders' lives in the past. In this settlement, the team of chef Nenad Živanović makes culinary history, based on the past and contemporary nutrition in the Croatian mountains.
As an introduction to this story, we got a classic entree. Spicy wild game sausage and mild smoked wild prosciutto go well with ordinary prosciutto and Slavonian kulen, almost as an evidence of the contact points between Delnice and other parts of Croatia. This town was so known for a layover or casual stop for many Croats travelling to and from the seaside, that almost every other town in Gorski Kotar is combinedly known as Delnice. At least it is what we often hear in the intercity buses – people would pass the sign of Vrbovsko or Fužine, but when asked about their position, the answer is often: „It's Delnice, stupid!“ Luckily, other places got their deserved mention in people's minds as well. The traditional plate cannot go without the cheese, and Goranska kuća offers excellent škripavac and cheese with herbs, from the Miščević dairy in Josipdol. And yes, it blends perfectly with the brandies from Vid Arbanas, who lives in the nearby Lokve.
The stuff coming from the local producers is not a coincidence. The Goranska kuća focuses on using the seasonal products of Croatian origin. Except for frogs. Although a whole neighbouring municipality of Lokve has a frog as its identity mark and frogs are a special delicacy of the region, these amphibians are also protected by law and should be imported, as no frog farm exists in Croatia. Nevertheless, it is the way of preparing the food that matters. Don't forget – you are not only what you eat, you are how you eat!
And in Delnice people can eat lavishly on weekends. Almost every weekend, the Hotel Risnjak prepares some special menu. We came to Delnice on a weekday, but if we would have come for the weekend, we could have tried some fresh mushrooms, boar ribs, wild game goulash, or local Gorski Kotar lamb. These are festive dishes in Delnice, and it shows still that people go to the restaurants for some heartier and special meals. That is why Goranska kuća might not have brunches or simple dishes that evoke the memories of the highlander commoners. Not that we had anything against it!
While we are preparing for the T-bone steak with mushroom sauce, we talk to the hotel's manager, Mr. Željko Obradović. He was born and raised in Karlovac, came to Delnice just for few months to help in organising the hotel – and stayed for years. His devotion to the regional culinary heritage is immaculate, yet he manages things according to the demands. Many foreigners stop in Hotel Risnjak and many of them would like to taste a solid piece of meat, just as we did. Thus, our table was enriched with a T-bone, mild, soft and juicy, that melts in the mouth. Obviously, to have a good steak is an advantage wherever you are, as the meat-lovers will surely have a droll-effect. The steaks here have also a characteristic highlander twist, as it can come in blueberry sauce, with chanterelles or hot peppers. Of course, a steak is valuable as such and all the sides are just that, companions on a trip of flavours.
What would a Gorski Kotar restaurant be if you don't try at least some deer, bear, boar or other game? We enjoyed the deer steak, with hunter sauce and dumplings. Maybe you'd like to try making similar things at home (especially as there are deer, rabbits, boars etc in your local stores) but it is a demanding job to make a great, juicy, and soft deer (or any other wild) steak. For that, we applaud the kitchen staff! The deer steak was joined with homemade hunter dumplings made with the addition of onion and bacon, while the hunter sauce included dry plums, onion, and mushrooms, with a slightly spicy background, as all hunter meals should be. And yes, there are hunters around.
If meat is not your thing, you can try trout from Gorski Kotar's fish farms, or go vegetarian with some special vege-plates, gnocchi with four kinds of cheese, or baked polenta with broccoli and cheese. Long forgotten are the days when vegetarians ventured through Gorski Kotar only to find some curious looking mushrooms and plain rice. It is, in fact, a place of wonderful non-meat possibilities, rooted in the history of the region. After all, meat was seldom on the table of the highlanders. Lard and bacon, well... let's say we can all adjust to the requests!
Homemade strudel with cheese, apples, blueberries, forest berries, or just plain pancakes with blueberries are classic sweet finish of every meal in Goranska kuća. Several years ago, we were here with a British journalist from Time Out Croatia and with American TV presenter Ashley Colburn and the place was always kept in a good memory. The same can be said today – Delnice may not have a lot of gastronomy destinations, but the Hotel Risnjak is definitely the best place to come and enjoy in local hospitality and specialties.
Gallery (photos by: Taste of Adriatic, Andrea Seifert & Hotel Risnjak)