Kunstelj Inn – A True and Tasty Tale of Tradition!

Kunstelj Inn in Radovljica is a family-run restaurant with rooms that has a long tradition and a great reputation. It is also one of the participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants, takes part in other culinary events such as Slovenian Restaurant Week and is featured in the Gault&Millau restaurant guide.

Five year’s ago, Maja Buden (nee Štiherle), daughter of Toni and granddaughter of Tone and the fourth generation to head up the family business, took over as manager of the inn. To mark this anniversary, as well as a certain ‘big’ birthday with a zero at the end, she threw a celebratory gathering last Friday! Happy Birthday and congratulations Maja!

And, of course, a Slovenian celebration wouldn’t be complete without accordion music and traditional entertainment!

Having recently translated a special edition newsletter to mark this special anniversary, I was keen to be able to share with readers of my blog some of the highlights and photographs of the inn’s long and fascinating history, and, fortunately, Maja gave me the nod to do so!

Kunstelj Inn was opened by Franc Kunstelj in 1873 and some years later handed it over to his son Rudolf. Rudolf was very ambitious and had a vision and belief that the small family inn could become the heart and soul of social life in Radovljica.

The Rudolf Kunstelj Inn in 1906. Photo: 110 years of the Radovljica Tourist Association

He set to work building a large lounge with a stage for celebrations, a wine cellar, a freezer and a veranda with views of the Julian Alps. The renovations placed Kunstelj Inn on the map of the most popular local restaurants in Slovenia.

Grandmother Jerica later took over the running of the inn. She had a reputation as a fearless woman who always knew exactly what she wanted and was not afraid to tell people to their face what was on her mind! She survived two wars, became a widow at a very young age, raised two sons, and took over and managed Kunstelj Inn all by herself.

Many of the dishes Jerica introduced onto the inn’s menu can still be found today, albeit with a modern ‘Maja twist’, as well as other traditional Slovenian food, including blood sausages, Carniolan sausage with sauerkraut or turnip, buckwheat polenta, homemade štruklji and more.

Meanwhile, grandmother Maria left home at the age of 14 to work at the Roblek dom mountain hut. Tone and the now legendary Slavko Avsenik – the founder of Slovenian folk music – used to visit the hut as rumour had it that there were a lot of pretty girls there! And it turned out to be true, since Tone and Maria met and later married, and Slavko Avsenik even played at their wedding!

Grandmother Maria (second from left) doing washing at the Roblek dom mountain hut

A particularly amusing tale is that of Grandad Tone and his golf ‘caddy’ Grol. Tone didn’t start to play golf until he was 62, when, due to his weak heart he gave up hunting as well as skiing and golf became a form of relaxation and enjoyment.

As the doctors had instilled in him that he must strictly avoid all forms of exertion, for some time Tone thought about how he could lighten the load of carrying his heavy golf clubs from one hole to the next and he hit on the idea that his faithful companion Grol could help!

Uncle Ivan made Grol a special trolley for transporting Tone’s golf clubs, and Grol adapted really well to his role as ‘caddy’.

Maja’s father Toni regularly went on exchange to Switzerland to “learn from the best”. It was there that he learnt skills from one of the most well known Swiss patisserie chefs, Hans van den Klinkenberg, in Hotel Eden in Lugano. Toni brought all the tricks and secrets he learnt from the patisserie chef to Kunstelj Inn’s kitchen, which led to Kunstelj’s strudels, pies, ice-cream and other cakes soon gaining a reputation as the best desserts in Gorenjska.

Like her father, Maja also has a passion for desserts and, also like her father, she went to Austria to learn her patisserie skills. Her role model, who she met on one of her culinary travels, is Lea Linser; at that time Lea was running an acclaimed restaurant in Luxembourg and was the first ‘tv chef’ on German television. To this day Maja turns to Lea’s cookery books for inspiration for her signature desserts.

Some year’s back Maja created the first Kunstelj ‘grizike’ (cake pops), which later became – and still are – one of the star attractions of the Radovljica Chocolate Festival!

You can also visit during the time of Slovenian Restaurant Week, which takes place twice per year for 10 days in autumn and spring, when you can take advantage of a 3-course menu for just 19 euros per person, the next edition will take place from 11th – 20th October (note: the website is currently only available in English, but menus will soon also be available in English and by next year the entire website too – working on that one too!).

Kunstelj Inn is also part of Taste Radol’ca and for the whole month of November all nine participating Taste Radol’ca restaurants offer special menus based on local ingredients also for a set price of 19 euros  per person.

So, now you know (some of) Kunstelj Inn’s history, why not visit to find out (and taste!) more!

© Adele in Slovenia

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