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STORIES OF ACROBATS: Bistro Bombina (Urh and Barbara)

The story of Bistro Bombina is essentially a story of love for food and love for Trbovlje. Above all, it is the story of Urh and Barbara, who were able to unite their diversity in the same vision.

Petra Škarja 26.05.2024
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Urh and Barbara. A young modest couple with wonderful values, who in their simplicity have endless ideas of what they could do in Trbovlje - for themselves, for their family, for the people of Zasavje and for all who would come to this town.

Urh Kapelar is an exceptional chef. His creative dishes combine the basics of French and English cuisine with traditional Slovenian recipes. Three people, in particular, have helped shape his mastery of food: the London chef of Slovenian roots, Oliver Lešnik, who ran the kitchen at L'Escargot (London's oldest French restaurant), chef Jorg Zupan from Atelje in Ljubljana, and his uncle, whom many of you still remember - Jure Kapelar, who even cooked for the Queen of England, and spent the last years of his life cooking for Dewesoft and Katapult employees.

When Urh was still cooking on the 'Posestvo Pule', he met his current partner, Barbara. Wherever he worked, he needed a strong vision, to be part of a bigger story, and to feel that he could develop himself alongside it. When he could no longer find that, he and Barbara started to create their own story together.

From the castle in Laško to Kranjska Gora, from Croatia to London, from the prestigious estate Pule to... Trbovlje. He could have been a chef almost anywhere in the world, and of all the worlds, he chose Trbovlje. Why?

"Ever since we met, he's been saying he wants to go back to Trbovlje," says Barbara, who is originally from Dolenjska region. "There's something about these Zasavje people that they have a special belonging and love for their home towns. Because a lot is missing here, it seemed to us that there were also a lot of possibilities. It seemed to us that it would also mean a lot to the city."

They spent a long time looking at the site of a former patisserie with a centuries-old tradition on Ulici 1. junija, and then another year explaining their plans for a kind of 'Parisian day bistro'. The owner wanted to make sure she was putting the space in the right hands. She wanted the place to come back to life.

When they finally shook hands on the signing of the contract, they designed the space with precision. "It's the little things that make the difference," says Urh. Next time you walk into Bombina, take a look at the lighting, for example. Urh emphasizes that television does not belong in a restaurant. "Music. It has to be at a specific volume." He spent months choosing the right combination of songs so that even the SAZAS inspector praised the selection. Right down to the colors, the comfort, the cozy homeliness... What to explain - go for a bite to eat and have a look.

Where did the name Bombina come from? "How unnecessary it would be to give the name Urh Restaurant, Urh Bistro ..." Innovative as ever, they were looking for something more... interesting. Special. So Barbara came up with the idea: "What if it was Bombina?" In England, the urchin was indeed called 'bombina', which is the Latin name for the lowland urchin, i.e. the frog. 

That's it, Bombina it will be. To round off the story, Andraž Krslin has painted the walls with a cute little frog, who also has a wise word to say. 

On 27 November, they opened their doors to visitors for the first time. 

(There has not yet been an official opening with all the accompanying programme, so we are still looking forward to that.)

Interestingly, Urh, the chef de cuisine, finds it quite difficult to get in front of the customers. He likes to be in the kitchen, he likes to create. He would like restaurants to be judged primarily on the quality of the food and not so much on the person who runs the restaurant. "Let the food be what makes people go to the restaurant." Yet he is aware that business is built more on personality than on food. That's why he sometimes shows up in front of the customers - which is usually what Barbara gets him into. Smiling and skilful, she makes sure that all the guests enjoy the feast and generally feel comfortable. The overall story, marketing and creating a bigger vision is something they both work on.

"Every business start-up is difficult," they admit. "If money was the main motivator, we would never have done it. It's an industry with low added value." It's easier because there are two of them. Because they see the meaning in their work, they are motivated. Because they get wonderful feedback from happy customers, they know they are doing something right.

 "We often question ourselves why bother so much with the little things. For example - I always pour the drinks. Urh always puts the food on the plate very nicely, even when it comes to the daily snacks," Barbara praises him. "It doesn't take long to put it neatly on the plate. But maybe it means a lot to someone," Urh adds. "Then someone comes along who notices and appreciates it. That gives you a lot of will to go on."

What makes the food at Bombina special? "The fact that it's cooked." The initially nonsensical answer took on a meaning when he explained, "As cheesy as it sounds, it's true. I don't overcook, I don't overheat, I cook everything. We always make sure we have fresh vegetables, although it would be cheaper and quicker to pre-cut or just buy frozen - but that won't happen in my kitchen."

All the while, they are striking a balance between knowing how to cook top quality cuisine and at the same time providing food for everyday snacks for both selected foreign guests and manual workers.

"Well, once we went a little too far." Yeah? "I made a dessert with rhubarb sponge cake and black tea cream." Apparently, it didn't go well, because costumers wanted something more ordinary, like a cake or a strudel. Urh makes that too.

And when someone comments, "Ah, that's too much, everything is good for the Zasavje people...", Barbara gets angry: "No! Why shouldn't it be for the Zasavje people - the best?!"

That is where they find most of their motivation - to make something nice for these valleys. Let's give the city more innovation, good food, places to meet and special experiences. Urh is very keen for Bombina to become a place where friends meet in the evenings to chat over a glass of good wine and fine cuisine.

How to go on? "Ugh, the ideas are endless..." Bakery, patisserie, events, expansions, lively streets ...

"We complement each other well," says Urh. "Barbi has a constant desire to expand, she has these big ideas of what to make. She can't just do nothing. I have a lot of ideas and desires too, but I'm the one who makes it all more of a reality. Then I let go a little, and she lets go a little, and that's it."

"I don't let go," Barbara smiles, and Urh smiles back.

Too many ideas, not enough time. But it's all about - reviving Trbovlje and good, quality food.

Barbara and Urh, we support you endlessly! We are hungry every day, and we are hungry for good stories of Zasavje.  #akrobats

More about the Bistro Bombina >>

Photos: Mitja Ličar

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