January 22, 2018
When I first came to Ljubljana it was summer, so naturally I was taken to Petkovškovo nabrezje to enjoy a drink and the promenade of well-dressed locals and delighted tourists by the river, opposite Plečnik’s arcades, in sight of the Castle and not far from Dragon Bridge or the Three Bridges.
The first place I went was Fany & Mary, some years ago now, where I had a disappointing burger, perhaps a misfire, as I never tried again. I also didn’t like the décor and jokes on the walls inside and out, the ones that are still there, and still raising a laugh and repetition from tourists in the high season. But the service and the beer and the fries and the pizza are good, and they also have the most photos on Facebook, and so are over-represented on this page in that regard.
The next place I was taken to was Petkovšek, back in the early days of the craft beer boom, when Bevog and Pelicon were what the serious folk were drinking. But I’m not a fan of hoppy beers, so this bar struck me as a rather earnest place, while still perhaps the one to see and be seen at if I was to be a credible source.
The view from Petkovšek, from the bar's almost photo-free Facebook page.
That said, over the coming months and years I found myself nearly always sitting inside or outside Premier and ordering a Laško, Union or Bernard when I came to this strip with a thirst, keenly aware that I wasn’t among the serious beer drinkers, but happy in the knowledge that at least I wasn’t sitting with the know-nothings at Fany & Mary.
Premier's sign in the distance. Source: the similarly photo-few Facebook page of Premier
In those days, well before I knew Borut from Boris Pahor, I felt the clear hierarchy was Petkovšek > Premier > Fany & Mary. The first for the serious beer drinkers, stroking their chins and enjoying the bitter; the second for people who were more relaxed; and the third for the tourists and those who like pizza, fries and beer, a fairly large demographic, to be sure.
Fany & Mary's richly illustrated Facebook page
Those were first impressions, and now, after many repeat visits to this little part of the riverside, at all times of day and year, and in all moods and appetites, I’m ready to reassess and summarise my experience on this, one of the more trafficked parts of town. (And one that’s also getting increasingly expensive and unwelcoming to long-term residents, to the extent that the person who first took me there now spends their first two or three beers at Petkovšek grumbling about the price and the fact the serving staff use too much English).
In short, I had it all wrong, or at least a different kind of wrong to my current one, and so this is how I feel about these places after putting in hundreds of bottles of patient research, waiting for this moment to justify it all and show what I have learned.
This light is very flattering. Premier's Facebook
As noted above, of the three I spend the most time inside or outside Premier, my revealed choice, by far. I like the relative darkness inside, and when not showing sport the TV plays classic rock and MTV. Since my tastes run from baroque music to DJ sets, with few electric guitars in between, this makes it feel like an educational experience, with many possibilities and paths of escape. Premier also has a long list of beers, slightly more than Fany & Mary and much more than Petkovšek, plus some snacks and premade sandwiches. It also has the most space inside and the greatest variety in terms of table and seating options, and what appears to be the best wheelchair access to the bathrooms.
However, since I prefer to drink alone with a book I’m reluctant to go to a place if I can’t get a seat at a small table, ideally tucked out of the way, and this is the main reason why I spend less time at Petkovšek and Fany & Mary than they may warrant, in addition to the brighter lights.
In sum, if you’re in this part of town and you have to make a choice among the three then all are competent in terms of drink delivery, and if you just want a drink and to sit outside and watch the city show its best in terms of promenaders, flâneurs, and tourists then any with a free seat will do.
From left to right, Petkovšek, Premier, Fany & Mary. Photo: Fany & Mary's Facebook
If you want food, go to Fany & Mary. If you want lots of inside seating, choose Premier. If you want a no-nonsense pub that focuses on ‘the best craft beer’ so you don’t need to worry what to order then go to Petkovšek.
The fries at Fany & Mary. Photo: Fany & Mary's Facebook
Currently (January 2018) all three have Laško / Union for 2.90 EUR a big bottle, with 3.80 for Bernard and other things going up from there, although there are happy hours and sometimes offers (see the signs for details).
Nearby are three relative newcomers, Lockal, Flancat and Forum, all of which seem to be playing a different game, and I’ll examine these in another post.