The eastern half of Trubarjeva cesta, the one heading out of town after Resljeva cesta (the road with Dragon Bridge), is fast becoming the ethnic food centre of Ljubljana, boasting Thai, Chinese, Indian, Lebanese, Greek and more, as well as the excellent Hiša začimb (House of Spices), for all your exotic cooking needs. While these seem to do good business, and have been briefly reviewed here, one place has the fully-booked sign out more often than not, and that’s Čompa.
In the summer months this isn’t unexpected, especially given its name checks in the foreign media and high ratings on Tripadvisor. But this small place is popular all year, a solidly Slovene restaurant in an increasingly international street, and one that attracts a good mix of locals to return again and again, with some claiming it’s the best in town.
It’s a cosy restaurant, with tables crammed into the corners and up against red brick walls and a small open kitchen, the scent of grilled meats and lots of red wine, run by a couple, Chef Robert and Host Mila, and their young assistants. The place is often listed as a steakhouse, and while there are a few options for vegetarians I wouldn’t bring one to Čompa for a treat. It’s not that kind of place, but nor does it aspire to be, and instead is a proudly red-blooded affair with an aggressively short and focused menu.
Two thirds of this simply lists the drinks, with a broad selection of Slovene wines sold by the glass or bottle, along with a few domestic beers and non-alcoholic choices. The remaining third is a simple list of hot and cold starters, main dishes, side dishes and the dessert of the day. Cold starters are around six euros and centre on plates of cheese and dried meat. The warm starters are seasonal vegetables and fungi cooked on the grill, from 2 EUR for a grilled mushroom with gorgonzola to 12.50 for 125g of grilled wild asparagus with pancetta (although this is only available from April to May).
A plate of vegetables
The main courses are plates of grilled meat, priced from 12.5 to 25 EUR and sold by the 250g portion. Here you can opt for some pork from the famed Mangalica pig, a hairy variety that makes especially good eating, as well as cuts of beef or foal, from the back or as a fillet. Side dishes, from 1 to 6 EUR , include baked potatoes, olives, salad, black truffle salsa, vegetable crudités, and pogača, a traditional bread.
A meal for two could easily run to 50 EUR, and although the main dishes are suitable for sharing those with healthy appetites will want to purchase more. Add in a few glasses of wine, and you’re looking at a relatively expensive, if enjoyable night out.
Still, it’s clear that with this much business Čompa doesn’t need to compete on price rather than quality, and perhaps because of the slightly seedy location, just down from a sex store and tattoo parlour, it still compares well with other steakhouses in town, and the atmosphere is arguably much better, rarely less than packed. As such, reservations are recommended, but if you just turn up and can’t get a seat, don’t worry – as long as you’re flexible the street has a lot more to choose from.