Loving Huts are a bit like getting socks under the tree at Christmas: there might be anticipation before you know what you're going to get, then there's probably disappointment because you hoped for something better, but you're probably also relieved because - not that you want to admit it - it is secretly just the thing you need.
So it turned out to be when I spent 48 hours in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana recently. Having been up to the Postojna caves and stumbled back fairly ravenous, we were pretty chuffed to see a Loving Hut just opposite the city's main train station.
There are a few dishes you can order off the menu, like burgers, but the main business of Ljubljana's Loving Hut is a buffet. Half of the buffet is salady bits, and the rest is hot food.
I dived in and treated myself to a little from both: tomatoes, olives, lentils and cucumbers from the salad bar, and some homemade baked beans, spinach lasagne, and a mashed potato and chard combo.
If you look at the plate I made up, you can see why I wasn't expecting great things:
Happily, I was really pleasantly surprised. The spinach lasagne was gorgeous, creamy and comforting - the sort of thing I always aim to make at home and never quite achieve. I could probably have eaten double the amount, but I wanted to save room for the equally gorgeous, creamy, and comforting mashed potato and chard mix. OK, so I didn't have to do much chewing, but that just adding to the relaxing feel of the meal.
The baked beans were also a bit of a revelation. Equally not much in the way of a work out for the jar, the beans were so much more warm and spicy than the name 'baked beans' would lead anyone to expect.
For the grand price of not very much (I can't remember the exact amount, but we're talking a handful of euros) I got a decent feed.
When I saw that they also stocked a vegan version of Bled's famous cream cake, I couldn't say no.
The local soy milk has a sort of powdery taste to it, and that came through in the cream cake. It was bit overly set too. I wasn't much of a fan, but Mr Flicking the Vs rather liked it, so maybe just me.
If that one-off visit had been my only experience of Loving Hut Ljubljana, I'd be telling you to get yourself down there for a cheap and filling dinner. Only it wasn't - I made the mistake of going back. The following day, for reasons too dull to recount, we ended up returning for a second meal. It was a couple of hours before closing time, but a couple of the dishes on the hot buffet (from the five or six there were before) were off and not replaced. Of the hot bits left, there was a pasta dish that was so overloaded with oregano it was like eating medicine, and a millet dish where the millet was uncooked. Not so good.
For the rest of our time in Ljubljana, we picked up food as we walked around. We stopped in at both Kalcek and Zrno do Zrna, two veggie/vegan health food and groceries on Trubarieva cesta.
Kalcek was more the sort of place you'd go to pick up your ingredients for dinner - tofu, vegan pasta, chocolate spread, and all that goodness (maybe don't try and make dinner with tofu and chocolate spread though). There wasn't much in the way of lunch materials, but I did manage to pick up this tofu, olive and caper sandwich. It was weirdly sweet and creamy for a sandwich, so it didn't drive me wild.
On the same street, there was also Ajdovo Zrno, a vegan friendly salad bar, which we had a nosy around but didn't stop in for lunch (we'd eaten a lot of hummus and crisps by this point. A lot.) Also probably worth mentioning is BackWerk, a German bakery chain with a branch towards the big train station. It's not vegan, but it has some really interesting vegan options including spinach burek. You can find it at Slovenska cesta 52.
Also worth an honourable mention is Deli Zvezda, at Wolfova ulica 14. It's nextdoor to a cafe which sells vegan and raw cakes, but the Deli part mainly sells ice cream, including these two beauties:
I had hazelnut, Mr FtVs had chocolate. They're made with rice milk, and they're really very lovely.
My food experiences in Ljubljana were a bit hit and miss, but I think we didn't experience the best vegan food that the city has to offer. I'm pretty sure you could get a better plant-based dinner than we did, but regardless of eating, we still had a cracking couple of days in Ljubljana.