Hisa Franko

Kobarid, Soca Valley, Slovenia Book from Eur90

Reviewed by Liz Simpson
A renowned restaurant-with-rooms: gorgeous in décor, sublime in taste
Hiša Franko is a visual feast. As you wander into the burnt-sienna reception area, your eyes dart about, trying to take it all in. Everywhere you look there’s something to admire: fabulous modern art, an upright piano, an enormous husky dog sprawled under the radiator, lace sculptures and a chaise longue laden with plump pink cushions. The open-plan design leads straight to the crimson dining room where waiters glide past at top speed, wines are opened with a flourish and owner Valter greets guests with open arms.

But it’s not just the setting that’s theatrical. The gourmet food is both a showpiece and an explosion of taste, created by Valter’s wife Ana. People come to Slovenia purely to eat here - yet it’s buzzy and friendly rather than pretentious. Better still, when replete you can retire to one of the 13 bedrooms rather than drive home. They may not be the focus of the place, but they’re very lovely: airy and light with contemporary décor and sink-into beds. All in all, it gets a standing ovation from us.

Highs

  • Beautifully presented food in small taster plates - probably the best meal we’ve ever had, and a real experience
  • Based in the stunning Soca Valley, just outside historic Kobarid - a pretty little town with a fascinating history and lots of activities on offer
  • Ana, Valter and their staff are absolutely charming; very thoughtful, attentive and generous
  • The Superior 2 rooms (No. 9 and 10) share a large terrace, ideal for an aperitif or digestif
  • Great combined with a stay in mountain-top sister hotel Nebesa, run by Ana's parents

Lows

  • You wouldn’t want to eat here more than 2 nights in a row; the food is amazing but it’s rich
  • Restaurant opening hours vary seasonally, check and book your table in advance
  • Some bathrooms are set within the bedroom rather than being separate
  • All rooms are different and quality can vary
  • Expensive by Slovenian standards

Best time to go

The climate is continental, with warm summers (75-80F) and cold winters - some of Slovenia's alpine resorts are ski destinations in winter. The heaviest rainfall is in June and September/October, though sudden rainstorms can occur throughout the year, especially up here.

Our top tips

Bring a detailed map, jumpers for chilly evenings, a raincoat in case of bad weather, hiking shoes, suncream and your swimming costume for watersports.

Great for...

Foodie
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 13
  • Breakfast (+ dinner on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 1 Jan 2016 - 25 Mar 2016
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The stylish and contemporary rooms are all welcoming and comfortable, though some are newer and more sophisticated in detail. Ana and Valter see Hisa Franko as a ‘restaurant-with-rooms’, but our Superior 2 room (No. 10) was a selling point in its own right: spacious and light with a sloped eave ceiling, cubist oak furniture and a Jacuzzi bathtub. The kingsize bed was lowdown and comfy and a big satellite TV sat opposite, above a well-stocked minibar.

The bathroom was slightly open-plan; 2 cubicles (the first housing the rain shower, the other the toilet) fronted by a green glass door that slid to cover one at a time. It felt slightly public which wouldn’t suit everyone, but the sleek chrome finishes and piles of white towels meant that it looked fab.

More sliding glass doors led onto a shared balcony covered with cool hammocks and white plastic chairs that could be illuminated at night. A great place to read a book, have a drink or sit and chat.

Unfortunately the hotel was full when we stayed, so we were unable to personally view any other rooms. That said, if you want a Jacuzzi tub, go for a Superior 1 (no terrace) or Superior 2; Standard rooms are more understated (though Standard 2s have terraces). The Simple rooms (in the yellow house) offer good value, but limited space. Frankly though, after a hearty meal in the restaurant, a whirlpool bath will be the last thing on your mind!

Features include:

  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

The quality Hiša Franko’s food is even more extraordinary when you know the history behind it. When Ana (then a business graduate) fell in love with Valter (sommelier and owner), she knew nothing about cooking. But as a real foodie and a lady that loves a challenge, she decided to become the hotel chef, and after months of intensive training she made the kitchen her own. Today, Ana is one of Slovenia's top chefs.

Set-menu meals are served at immaculate tables in the intimate crimson dining room or out on the terrace surrounding by meadows and mountains. Every dish in our 5-course dinner was divine, and complemented perfectly by selected wines. A wild herb and flower salad with tarragon, mint, watercress, blueberries, edible flowers and a peanut sauce set the tone - quite incredible. Elegant presentation and creative flavour combinations are a constant. The highlight of our meal was the roasted duck with beetroot, pink grapefruit, kumquat and melting pumpkin, though the pudding - cucumbers marinated with vineyard peach, elder blossom meringue and puffed honey caramel - was also exceptional. Food art at its best.

Breakfasts are much more modest and relaxed, though still very good; local cheeses, meats, handmade bread, and homemade peach and prune jams, all washed town with pots of tea and coffee.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • There's a glorious waterfall loop walk through the lower mountains, which offers bird's eye views of the Soca and some hearty hiking; ask for directions at reception
  • Take a pony trek through the mountains, go white-water rafting or canoeing along the turquoise Soca river, try your hand at fly-fishing, or paraglide over it all. Activities can be arranged in Kobarid
  • If you're feeling super-fit, borrow a bike and venture up into the mountains for staggering views; if not, pedal through the flat plains past wonderfully lush scenery
  • Visit the excellent Kobarid Museum, which presents the events of WWI that took place on the surrounding Isonzo (or Soca) Front
  • After the museum, you may want to do the historic walk of the area, which encompasses the sobering Italian Charnel House (containing the bones of 7,000 soldiers killed on the Soca Front), Tonocov Grad (an archeological site with the remains of 5th-century churches and houses), the remains of the Italian defence line and the famous Napolean bridge

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Rafting

Kids

Children are welcome; Ana and Valter have littl’uns of their own and Ana is happy to cook plainer versions of the food on offer.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

All rooms can hold baby cots and extra beds can be provided in all but the Simple rooms

Babysitting:

Babysitting, by arrangement

Baby listening:

Baby listening/monitors, on request

Baby equipment:

Baby cots, on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kids Activities on site:

A kids' playground - though it's right at the back of the grounds so not easily accessible

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
10/
Food
9/
Service
8/
Value
9/
Overall

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