Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
Mrs. SF and I tend to go away for the first week of December for our Anniversary. Mrs. SF likes Christmas markets
and I like to stuff my face.
We usually go to Vienna, but this year decided somewhere new was in order. After some debate we choose Budapest. I had wanted to visit Hungary for a while as it is the home of one of the world’s great wines, in the form of the glorious Tokaji (heavenly sweet wine that to many – including me – matches, if not surpasses, Sauterne at the top of the tree as sweet wines go).
As the post title suggests, Budapest is in effect two cities bisected by the River Danube. On the West side is the hilly Buda and on the East, the flat Pest.
We were based in Pest near the main Christmas markets at Vorosmarty Terrace, Deak Ferenc and in front of Szent Istvan Bazilica. We, however, made frequent trips over to Buda to the beautiful Castle District.
Of course (as is usually the case with me) we ate and drunk in both Buda and Pest and below are three places I would recommend for a decent meal (one located in Buda and two in Pest) in Budapest.
A lovely family run, neighbourhood, restaurant in Pest with the produce sourced from the Lake Balaton region of Hungary (mostly from the owner’s own farm). We were greeted with a glass of Elderflower fizz to drink whilst we perused the pleasingly succinct menu .
and wine list.
A nice touch was bringing out for us to taste a selection of 3 reds and 3 whites from the list, after I confessed I knew very little about Hungarian wines other than Tokaji.
I choose a bottle of rather nice Hungarian Cabinet Franc (from the owner’s own vineyard I believe) and due to confusion got a further glass to boot (as well as a glass of white for Mrs. SF to go with the fish starter she choose).
On the food front I started with a very tasty grey cattle (an ancient Hungarian breed) carpaccio,
whereas Mrs. SF had a very plentiful (I had to finish it off- oh the hardship) and satisfying portion of fried Lake Balaton fish.
The only bum notes were a lack of dressing on the accompanying side salads (olive oil and balsamic were on the table, but I would rather the kitchen had dressed it) and the use of the dreaded slate instead of a plate for my carpaccio.
For main course, I had a very good duck dish (Hungarians are very keen on duck and goose, especially their livers ) which was cooked just the right pink for me and which came with cabbage and apple.
Mrs SF had a hunk of veal, which was full of flavour.
We finished off proceedings sharing a good lemon tart and with coffees.
The bill for 2 courses, a shared dessert, wine (one large glass of white wine and another of red wine and one further bottle of red wine) and coffees was £21 a head.
To this we added a well deserved tip, as service was great.
Incredibly good value, in my opinion, for the quality of what we got.
Izabella Utca 36-38
Tel: +36 30 651 0880
This place (again in Pest) prides itself on its traditional (how Grandma cooks it) approach to Hungarian cooking. They make no excuses for using “Grandma” quantities of salt and fat (pork and goose) something I really like. Grandma knows best and is probably 120 years old based on a diet of salt and fat.
The menu here is unashamedly traditional.
We started off with some rather nice complimentary bread squares topped with sour cream and chilli condiments
and moved on to a mixed plate of Hungarian cheeses and cured meats for me
and chicken filled crepes with a paprika sauce for Mrs SF.
Both simple stuff, with no fancy frills or foams, but very pleasant.
For mains, I had a sort of plait of pork loin and bacon with a spaetzle type pasta and a paprika sauce
and Mrs SF had roasted duck legs with a rather nice accompaniment of red cabbage.
I also ordered some pickled cucumber – not pretty but very nice – as a side.
Mains were again simple affairs, but none the worse for it. Portion sizes are large and we therefore skipped pudding.
On the booze front, from a very reasonable all Hungarian list
we has a bottle of very drinkable Hungarian Cabernet Sauvignon
The bill for 2 courses each, wine and coffee and a tip was a very reasonable £20 odd a head
and came with complimentary glasses of palinka (Hungarian rocket fuel).
If you want traditional Hungarian food and charming service this place is a good shout.
Steindl Imre Street 13
Tel: +36 30 661 6244
A Russian restaurant in Buda (below and behind the Castle District), this place is quite a posh affair with a focus on caviar and champagne and very precise but friendly service.
Whilst they have a very good value set lunch menu (3 courses for €13 – about £9.50)
mine and Mrs. SF’s gaze was immediately drawn to their al a carte lunch menu
and, in particular, the chicken Kiev.
As fried chicken goes Kiev is vastly underrated perhaps because it is usually not done properly. When, however, it is done well it is a glorious thing. We had high hopes for this one, but first up was an excellent starter of home smoked and cured fish (€13)
which included, salmon, herring, butter fish and sturgeon (as well as caviar from the herring and salmon – regrettably not that of the sturgeon). A beautifully elegant and fantastically flavoured dish, with the fish perfectly cured and lightly smoked.
The main event in the form of the chicken Kiev did not disappoint.
No leakage here, with a wonderfully crisp and light breadcrumb coating encasing moist, flavour packed chicken and a pocket of oozing garlic and parsley butter. Add to this a lovely potato puree (not a lump in sight) and what we got was a retro joy. Best Kiev I have ever had.
Pudding wise we both opted for a traditional Russian offering in the form of Syrniki, a curd cheese based desert usually served as a sort of pancake.
Here it was more a hot baked base free cheese cake and came with a killer curd cheese ice cream and lovely sharp fruits to offset its richness. Different, but lovely with it.
Beautifully presented and delicious.
On the booze front they have a nice wine list, with lots of local stuff on top of their champagne offering.
We were guided by the sommelier to a cracking Hungarian (Lake Balaton) Olasrizling (otherwise known as welschriesling and unrelated to riesling) (€23) – very dry but with notes of apricot and its kernal.
The bill with 3 courses, a bottle of wine, mineral water and coffees was about £70 (which included a automatically added 12% service charge. – well deserved as service was excellent) for the two of us. Pricey for Budapest, but still good value. If you are on a budget, there is always that €13 fixed price lunch menu.
Ostrom Utca 19,
Tel: +36 1 201 6737
Three really nice, but different places to eat if you are visiting beautiful Budapest.
Hungarikum Bisztro is very traditional Hungarian, Zeller Bistro has a more innovative approach with a focus on using ingredients from (or local to) their Lake Baleton farm.
Whilst not Hungarian, the Russian focussed Arany Kaviar is good for something different, retro or a big blow out (if you are partial to carvier and champagne).
Tip – many restaurants in Budapest add a service charge of between 10% and 12% automatically to the bill so check for “Al szervizdij” on it before adding a tip.
If you are a foodie a visit to the Central Market is a must.
Loads of goodies (cheap paprika, saffron, mangalisa pork and foie) available to bring back and it is a good place for a cheap drink or bite to eat (£1.50 for a coffee and a beer, less than £2 for a decent portion of good goulash soup).
Also if you like Tokaji (insane if you don’t) go to Tokaji Borozo for cheap good quality glasses of the stuff and wonderous pork scratching pâté.
If you are a wine drinker a tasting at Faust Wine Cellar in Buda (in the Castle District, below the Hilton hotel) makes for a very pleasant and informative way to while away a few hours. Be aware the pours are very generous so maybe don’t go with an empty stomach.
Would I go back? Yes, will definately be visiting Budapest again. Great place and your money goes a long way there (always a good thing). When we were there the exchange rate (you seem to get a better rate changing money in Budapest than in the UK) was about 430 Forints to a Pound Sterling (Euros are also widely accepted in Budapest).
Tip – do not use the cash point at the airport by where you collect your luggage as the rate is awful. On seeing the rate I cancelled the transaction.
We flew with Ryanair from Bristol Airport direct to Budapest.
Our one bedroom apartment was very well equiped, clean and cheap (about £40 a night for 2 people).