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On the wall of the microbrewery near our new house (I wouldn't say being close to it clinched the deal but the fact wasn't forgotten) there's a cartoon map of Slovenia showing the location of other microbreweries. Seeing us examining it, the barman came over and told us which are still operating (the picture is a couple of years old); we made a mental note to visit Pivovarna Kostanj next time we were in the Slovenske gorice.
A 'pivovarna' is a brewery and 'kostanj' is a chestnut tree, so this is the 'chestnut tree brewery' - because there are chestnut trees in the grounds, not because they make beer from chestnuts. Pivovarna Kostanj is more than a brewery, it's a pub-pizzeria-restaurant set in lovely surroundings in the hills to the west of the town of Gornja Radgona, not far from the border with Austria. It's an area of pretty villages, castles and vineyards and it's a lovely part of the country to explore but you doo need a car, or you need to be fit enough to negotiate the hills by bike (as it happened we bumped into a fine gentleman there by the name of Paul Wadkins who runs Simply Cycling Slovenia, useful to know if you do
fancy a cycling holiday in these parts) as there is no public transport passing by. There's a car park in the grounds and a place to secure bikes.
This is a large restaurant with plenty of dining space. The main restaurant is on the first floor but there is a covered terrace beside the main entrance which is useful for wheelchair users or parents who don't want to haul pushchairs upstairs. In the main restaurant there are lots of tables and an area that is particularly suitable for large groups as it is slightly separate and can accommodate several tables pushed together. There is also an outdoor terrace running round three sides of the building and from here the views across the countryside are really something special. Our quartet decided to sit outdoors.
The menu was in Slovene and German (as I recall) but the young staff do speak some English. The offering is varied with a good number of pizzas (some classics, some quite novel) as well as grill mains, fish and seafood dishes and salads. The vegetarian in our party chose the 'vegetarian plate' and had no idea what to expect: this proved to be immense and hugely varied in content. There was deep fried cauliflower and broccoli (both fabulous and the pick of the lot), sautéed potatoes, coleslaw, salad and probably a few other things I've since forgotten about. It wasn't so much a dish as what the chef had found that didn't contain meat, but it was all very tasty and for Euro7 it was definitely not mean.
Our driver for the day is a confirmed carnivore and likes to get good value for money so he picked the lunchtime special, again it was around the Euro7 mark and it was a generous plate of cevapcici (a Balkan speciality of skinless sausages made from minced veal with the traditional accompaniment of raw onions and ajvar, a piquant relish made from red peppers and aubergine. This came with a basket of crusty bread. I presuming it was good because we didn't hear a word form Chris until he was done.
Over on the other side of the table Himself and I decided to share a large 'Indian' pizza and a salad from the salad bar. The pizza was plenty big enough for two hungry adults and nicely made with a thin crispy base and lots of topping. The toppings were not really Indian at all but there was a nice mix of vegetables, green olives and chilli peppers and we enjoyed it a lot. The salad bar is pretty good with the usual mix you get in Slovenia of fresh salad type ingredients and pickled stuff liked shredded cabbage. There were various types of beans (borlotti and kidney) and lots of different dressings including simple vinaigrette and rich creamy dressings.
It would have been wrong to leave without having tried the beer: they make only 'svetlo' at Kostanj, basically a lighter beer akin to a lager (temno is dark, like a stout). It's a very drinkable beer, not hugely distinctive but a decent brew all the same and very refreshing on a hot day. We even took a two litre bottle home with us.
Lunch for four with beers and a couple of coffees came in around Euro50 and we thought it a fair price. The food is fresh and tasty, the portions generous and the service fast and friendly. If you happen to be touring the area this is a good place to stop, even if only for a drink but with such great views, it's worth lingering.