Getting hungry in Hungary
It seems everyone’s heading east to visit the European Union’s closest neighbours. We’ve heard about how cheap it is, about the cheery disposition of the people and the fabulous architecture.
But no one’s been raving about the restaurants.
It’s time they did. We used to think of Hungarian cuisine as broth-like goulash and heavy porkolt — the meat stew it’s often served with. But take a break to Budapest now and you’ll see how far the capital’s kitchens have come. New chefs and restaurateurs are updating classics and creating fusion dishes.
“It’s not about fusion foods, it’s where you’re from and where you’re at,” says United States chef James McClure, who spent 10 years in South-East Asia before setting up this upmarket bar-restaurant on Budapest’s answer to the Champs-Elysées.
Friendly staff dressed in black serve a mix of Hungarian, Cajun and Asian foods. After pan-fried goose liver with apricots in sweet Tokaj wine, try “black-and-blue tuna” served on a rocket salad with wasabi mayonnaise.
Before eating, prepare your taste buds with a Goa martini, a zesty mix of vodka, pineapple and fresh ginger. Andrassy ut, District VI. Tel: (+36) 1 302 2570.
Celebrating its ninth birthday this month, this dining room feels like an upmarket locals’ restaurant, where regulars shake hands with the staff and kiss their thanks as they leave. 17 Sas ut, District V. Tel: (+36) 1 311 0053.
Owned by Budapest’s premier restaurateurs Tamas Sztano and Gyorgy Lefkovics, and known locally simply as “TG’‘, this is the Budapest socialite’s favourite. Try the tasty Mangalica pork fillet served with toasted peaches and goat’s-cheesebread. 6 to 8 Oktober ut, District V. Tel: (+36) 1 266 3525.
At the Andrassy ut end of the square, this retro-styled eatery looks like a US diner from the 1970s, with traditional Hungarian food. 2 Liszt Ferenc ter, District VI. Tel: (+36) 1 413 1482.
In peak season Szoda Garden makeshift bars spring up in Pest in the courtyards of buildings set for demolition. They offer a festival atmosphere, cheaper drinks and the thrill of discovery. 19 Dob utca, District VII, 2pm to 5am.
Trees, fences and white plastic tables make drinking in this makeshift bar like hanging out with friends in a garden. 36 Kisfaludy ut, District VIII, 5pm until dawn.
On a boat moored to the Pest bank of the Danube, guests come to sit above deck. It probably has one of the world’s best views from a restaurant toilet — of the Royal Palace. 3 Vigado ter, District V. Tel: (+36) 1 411 0933, noon until midnight. — Â