This summer, we embarked on a two-week road trip around Slovenia, to make a guide to the best restaurants in the country. Our first stop was in Kranjska Gora, where we visited Slovenia’s most ambitious new restaurant. Milka received their first Michelin star just three months after opening, and their second star just one year later – but we expect that is just the beginning for this passionate team. This restaurant is one to watch in Slovenia. Chef David Žefran’s tasting menu is Nordic-inspired, with a focus on foraging, fermentation, and sustainability. This world-class eatery is set in a luxury boutique hotel nestled in the Alps, with artfully-designed suites looking out onto a crystal blue lake. We recommend spending the night, if only to experience the breakfast in the morning – it’s the best hotel breakfast we’ve ever had.
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MILKA Address & Contact Information Vršiška cesta 45, Kranjska Gora, Slovenia Website Instagram Facebook
A Boutique Hotel Nestled in the Alps
If you’re planning a visit to restaurant Milka, you’re going to want to spend the night in their luxury boutique hotel. Kranjska Gora is just an hour’s drive from Ljubljana, but once you arrive it feels like you have entered another world. The location is absolutely stunning, and has long been attracting tourists who are eager to embark on the many nearby hiking and skiing trails.
Hotel Milka has just six luxury guest rooms, all with their own unique design elements. We stayed in the Rock Suite, aptly named for the giant boulder protruding through the floor – the architects have artfully constructed the room around this stunning rock. The suite has a very natural feel, with plants, tree stump tables, and hinging wooden doors that seamlessly conceal the entrances to the bathroom and the spacious walk-in closet. The room boasts sweeping panoramic views of the majestic mountains and the clear blue lake, and the biggest free-standing bathtub we’ve ever seen, situated smack in the center of the suite. The tub has a movable back rest which can be arranged to best suit your needs. I placed it so that I could face the window, watching the rain fall outside while reading my book. True relaxation! Most importantly, the bed, the most essential component of any good hotel room, was extremely comfortable, allowing for a deeply restful night’s sleep.
The setting is breathtaking, and the hotel is spectacular – Milka’s exceptionally friendly staff has thought of every detail. Their passion for sustainability is evident in all aspects of the stay – there is no plastic on site, and all bath products are handmade for the hotel. In our room, we were overjoyed to find real coffee beans in the coffee machine (no pods are used here), as well as their own tea, which is made with local herbs.
The highlight of our stay was the breakfast – Milka serves the best hotel breakfast we’ve ever had. It’s a generous morning feast that satisfies every craving, from sweet to savory. We started our day in the main dining room (where dinner is also served) with impressive views of the peaks. To begin the experience, we were offered a selection of fresh-pressed juices as well as coffee – we adored that we could order a pour-over coffee (our preferred brewing method) made fresh just for us, from a local Slovenian roaster. An abundance of small plates loaded with local delicacies arrived on our table shortly after, including assorted charcuterie (bear salami, anyone?), cheeses, smoked fish, seasonal fruits, cookies, and freshly baked bread served with a selection of spreads, including butter, jam, and dulce de leche. Those with a sweet tooth will love the light-as-air ricotta cake, served with a berry compote. Milka also offers made-to-order egg dishes such as a French omelette topped with edible flowers, and soft scrambled eggs. All egg dishes can be topped with herbs, trout roe, pork cracklings, truffles, or caviar (for a small fee). It’s hard to imagine a hotel ever topping this breakfast experience. It encompassed everything we love in a good meal: high quality ingredients cooked well, served with love – and lots of butter.
In addition to the restaurant, Milka has a terrace cocktail bar where guests can order a house-made craft cocktail or a glass of wine. On site, there is a Finnish sauna which can be reserved privately, as well as a dedicated room to store ski equipment and bike gear for the exercise enthusiasts. Are you a member of The Hungries? Milka offers a discount to our VIP members: 15% discount on rooms during off-peak season, 10% during certain peak seasons, and a surprise perk in the restaurant. Join the club to get the best rate.
Milka is Slovenia’s Shooting Star
Until now, Kranjska Gora has not been considered a food destination – but, thanks to Milka, that’s about to change. The Milka team is very young and passionate, with the shared goal of making Slovenia a food destination. The fine dining restaurant opened in June 2022, received its first star just three months after opening, and its second star only one year later, in September 2023. This is an unprecedented climb for a new restaurant, and just goes to show the incredibly high level at which Milka is operating. Milka is Slovenia’s shooting star.
Chef David Žefran is 34, and has only been cooking for seven years – he was getting his master’s in sociology and working as a DJ when he decided to try his hand in the kitchen. (His passion for music is evident in the restaurant’s playlist, which he creates himself – he really knows how to set a mood!) To begin his career in the industry, Žefran worked at a few restaurants in Slovenia and also did a two-month stage at Frantzén in 2020. The pandemic brought him back to Slovenia, and investors approached him with the opportunity to take over an old guest house and transform it into a luxury culinary getaway. And thus, Milka was born.
The style of the kitchen feels very Nordic, yet authentically Slovenian. Although chef Žefran is highly influenced by Frantzén’s flavor-driven philosophy, he wanted his restaurant to showcase local ingredients, rather than sourcing from around the world. Milka proudly uses exclusively regional fare, lots from their own garden, and others from the best small producers and farmers. The philosophy of the restaurant includes a big focus on foraging and fermentation, and the team works to use ingredients that would otherwise go to waste.
Milka’s Drink Program
Milka offers three separate drink pairings, and we tried some glasses from each. The wine pairing features local Slovenian wines, the house-made juice pairing is made with lots of foraged ingredients, and the third pairing (which they call “Our Story”) features a mix of beverages: cocktails, sakes, beers, and other drinks. It was clear to us that the team is passionate about offering a lot to their guests. While we loved their impassioned energy, we have to admit that we felt a little overwhelmed by all the choices, which is why we asked to try some from each offering. (They happily obliged!) In our opinion, it would be easier for guests to choose between just two pairings (one alcoholic and one non-alcoholic), and if Milka felt like a cocktail or beer was a better match for a dish than a wine, then they could offer that on the pairing. But we understand that every diner has a different preference for drinks during a meal, and we appreciate and respect that Milka is able to offer a pairing for every preference. Our favorites were the drinks made in house – we felt that these best matched the dishes and also were the most original. Overall, Milka has an exceptionally strong drink program, with an abundance of choices.
The Tasting Menu: A Dish-by-Dish Breakdown
Our meal at Milka started with some incredibly tasty small bites. It was clear to us from these first flavor-packed snacks that this was going to be a great meal, with stunning presentations. The first one reminded us of a grown-up version of a buttery shortbread cookie, filled with creamy chicken liver. There was a dollop of berry compote on top, which added a vibrant burst of acidity, and a crispy piece of chicken skin, which added a nice crunch. An auspicious start!
The second snack was another dish that was “love at first bite” for us – a cake made of trout belly fat, topped with lemon crème fraîche, onions, and Alpenkaviar (caviar from Austria). This cheeky little cake had it all – a fatty base, a fresh cream, and our favorite kind of salt sprinkled on top.
Another couple of stunners arrived on the scene: first, a charred zucchini swirl atop a fried pastry dough cracker, with a rich cheese rind emulsion, smokey baba ghanoush, and a fried zucchini flower. Really great flavors here – the hits just kept coming! The last of the snacks was a tartelette filled with langoustine, string peas, and roasted hazelnuts. While this was also a good bite, we didn’t feel the presence of the langoustine as much as we expected to. That’s probably because the chefs only used scraps in this bite, for example, an emulsion made of langoustine heads. But we’re not complaining – we’ll happily take part in eating all the langoustine leftovers!
The first course was our least favorite dish of the meal, only because it was a little one dimensional in flavor. Žefran combined pike perch, daikon radish, black currant, and celery – the fish was fresh, but we felt that this dish predominantly tasted of the celery, similar to a healthy green juice. This serving felt like a bit of a step back after the insanely punchy snacks, and didn’t have any of the richness or complexity we’d already begun to expect from Žefran’s food.
But we were just getting started – the next dish was one of our favorites of the night. Beetroot, which had been steamed and pickled with spruce branches, was served with a creamy sauce made from bear fat spread, fig leaf oil, and a healthy scoop of Oscietra caviar. This is one of the best beet dishes we’ve ever had, with an intense smokiness that perfectly balanced the sweet and earthy notes of the root. This is a signature dish of Žefran, and it’s easy to see why – we shortlisted it for one of the best dishes of the year.
Following the beet was another vegetable-focused dish: charcoal-grilled kohlrabi served with an Alpine-style ponzu, caramelized cream, pickled spruce tips, and juniper branch oil. The leaves were wonderfully crispy, and the caramelized cream perfectly balanced their natural bitterness. It was a really tasty dish, but this was the only time we didn’t understand the accompanying drink pairing. The kolhrabi was served with an expertly prepared cold brew coffee. While we loved the flavor of the coffee on its own, we felt the strong coffee clashed with the notes of the dish. We loved every other pairing, but this one didn’t work for us.
A steamy serving came next – we lifted the lid off a small ceramic bowl to reveal brown butter-poached crayfish, pork brain tempura, lovage stems, mustard seeds, and a foamy sauce made from crayfish shells. This was a warm and comforting serving, a play on surf and turf.
In the following course, grilled leeks, reduced whey, silver onions, and almonds took a bath in a Robuchon-inspired goat cheese sauce, with a sprinkling of pickled rose petals on top. (How romantic!) There was a lovely balance of flavors in this dish, with the floral and pickled elements perfectly harmonizing with the sharp cheese sauce.
Another meal highlight was the fried pork croquette, a small snack topped with fermented celery, a leek emulsion, and artfully arranged spheres of radish and nasturtium. This beautiful bite reminded us of a couple of our favorite dishes from Mexico and Spain – a carnitas taco meets a croquette, and the result is a total umami bomb!
One of our favorite bread servings of the year arrived next. Although brioche has become extremely popular in fine dining restaurants, Milka’s version stands out from the crowd. Their house-made brioche is glazed with mushroom butter and sprinkled with fennel, caraway, and anise seeds, which completely changed the flavor of the buttery buns we know and love. The rolls were served with a sunflower seed chili crunch and a fermented butter, which comes swimming in buttermilk and chive oil. These big buns were so airy, extremely light and fluffy, and made for an excellent scarpetta vehicle for the sauces to come in the following dishes. (And yes, the team keeps the bread coming until you beg them to stop!)
The flavors continued to ramp up as we approached the final savory dishes. Grilled mushrooms brushed with XO sauce and chili flakes, were combined with braesola garum, trout, mussels, and a fermented roasted barley zabaione, and topped with edible flowers. This was an extremely rich and powerful dish, not for those shy of salt.
Finally, it was time for the main course, which came in two servings. Part one was a plate of perfectly grilled lamb, served with pumpkin seed cream, charred broccolini, and summer herbs, with a sauce of lamb bones, cascara, and ramson. This was a very tasty main course, and we loved the nutty pumpkin seed component. The second part of the main course was a bowl with two small dumplings filled with the back and thigh meat of the lamb, served in a broth of roasted potatoes, with charred onion skin oil. This was an absolutely delicious one-two punch of a main course.
After all those heavy flavors, we craved a palate cleanser. A fresh pre-dessert kicked off the sweet section of our meal, with dark berries, peppermint, and a rum and fruit consommé with black currants, topped with a sour milk sorbet.
The main dessert was another favorite of ours, combining goat cheese, tonka, and walnut in a fluffy foam, and topping it off with a scoop of hay ice cream. On the side, teardrop-shaped slices of peach were arranged in the shape of a flower and served in a meadowsweet jelly, and a peach iced tea was poured over this fruit serving tableside. This was a remarkable dessert that perfectly captured the essence of summer – it tasted like sipping sweet tea on a sunny porch. We loved the original flavor combinations!
The petits fours were a weaker point of the menu for us; while they were pretty, they were not our favorite bites. A choux pastry filled with miso cream, chantilly infused with apricot, and plum jam was too savory for us at this point in the meal. The liqueur gummy with lemon verbena was too boozy and bitter for our palates. The best one was a tartelette filled with sweet potato fudge and blueberry compote, with preserved egg yolk shavings on top.
But the very last bite ended things on an incredibly sweet note. Inspired by the generosity of the famous madeleine serving at Frantzén, Žefran wanted to offer a final sweet bite that the chefs could keep cooking, as long as the guests kept eating. Milka serves small, ring-shaped hazelnut cakes, made with pork fat and glazed in apple juice. They reminded us a bit of a hazelnut financier, incredibly moist inside and sticky from the apple glaze. When they refilled the dish (yes, we got seconds… and thirds…) they brought the cakes topped with a thin strip of lardo. This flavor combination brought about fond memories of pork chops served with applesauce. An absolutely decadent finisher, and another highlight of the Milka experience.
When we visited in the summer of 2023, Milka had barely gotten their first star, and we already felt that they were operating at a two-star level. In September, Michelin showed that they agreed with our sentiments, and updated Milka’s ranking from one star to two. Not only was this meal a highlight of our trip, but it was also a top dining experience of the year for us. Milka is a must-visit for any food lover in Slovenia.
Have you been to Milka? Let us know in a comment below.