Žeja is a family-owned restaurant/inn in Ozeljan, in western Slovenia. Their philosophy is all about simple, honest food with a few quality ingredients, which are somehow put together in the fanciest, tastiest way possible. The name means thirst in Slovenian, which is ironic as they will serve you so much food and drinks that you won’t be thirsty or hungry until next week, but that’s what they chose.
My uncle found out about the Žeja inn somewhere and we’ve gone there a couple of times for family celebrations. The restaurant is located in a small, cosy house and every time we came it was full of people, some Slovenians, Croatians and plenty of Italians due to its proximity to the border. Their ambience is quite homey and inviting and despite the fancy food it is not a place where you’d have to show up in high heels and a tie. They serve both fish, meat and vegetarian options from the menu and you could go there for a simple lunch, but what we come for is their slow food option, i.e. basically the whole menu served over several hours.
We always go for the fish option, but the meat dishes I’d seen also looked extremely tasty, so I’m quite sure you can’t go wrong with anything. The last time we went was in November 2019, when we decided on a joint celebration of 4 birthdays and I managed to take photos of all the food we got. Trust me, it was pretty hard to remember to take photos when faced with such awesome food, but I persevered!
If you are there for the whole culinary experience, you can expect to get about 15 courses of fresh raw appetisers, soup, warm appetisers and main courses with an oven-baked fish at the end, followed by different desserts and herbal liquors to settle your stomach after so much food. They tend to change the menu based on the availability of fresh ingredients, so you’re never quite sure what the next plate will hold, which adds to the experience. Speaking of the menu, there isn’t one per se, as the owner likes to greet each guest, explain what the inn is currently serving and help the guests select their meal based on their personal preferences.
Since Žeja’s main vibe is unpretentious, I’ll let the food speak for itself:
As you can see, all of it was absolutely delicious, even if I couldn’t remember or translate all the things we ate. The food came with copious amounts of malvazija (a type of white wine), which I’m not a fan of, but the others were more than happy to guzzle it down. Even the simple stuff like the bread and olive oil were so good your stomach could cry and we also had some coffee, espresso of course, to wrap up our meal.
Know before you go
Naturally, there’s no public transport to Ozeljan, so the only way to get there is by driving. Due to their limited opening time and popularity, reservations are pretty much mandatory, especially if you want the whole experience we had. It is by no means a budget place, but the prices are actually relatively reasonable for what you get (cca. 50 – 70€ per person depending on the quantity of food and drinks), considering the sheer amount of food and the awesomeness of it. The friendly owner always makes sure you’ll leave happy and well fed, as he seems to know his guests’ preferences better than they themselves, so it’s more than worth a splurge if you can afford it.