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12 October 2014


Over four days in Budapest and Esztergom we’ve encompassed pretty much the gamut of eating options that you might expect to find on any given city break. Some good, some less, but I’m going to say that on average Hungary seems to be a resoundingly positive place to look for good food, especially given the prices are a tidy third less than anywhere in western Europe! Anyway, the run down…

The informal modern restaurantZona, as I mentioned before, was jolly good and only a hundred metre stagger from our hotel. Though Budapest is pretty well modernised, there’s probably still only a handful of restaurants that would look still look sharp transported to London.
The Michelin-starred splurgeOnyx, where the ladies sat in grand black thrones and we were feasted with a staggering selection of different breads, with brook saibling and goose liver coated in sour cherry, with raw pumpkin and rare venison and lots of lovely petit fours.
Disappointing hotel recommendationAszu, a good example of something too common these days: located in a central spot for tourists, offering a menu that looks modern, local and fine-dining, but with nothing in the way of actual cooking to back up the high prices; it’s where you end up if you want fine dining but haven’t troubled to research and just ask your hotel for a recommendation.
“Authentic” tourist restaurantBistro Pest-Buda, up in Buda’s touristy high town, a menu littered with all the staple dishes of Hungarian cuisine, doing a decent job on all of them without exactly knocking your socks off, singing about “authentic local home-cooking” but unsurprisingly with zero locals eating there

Ancient old-school dining roomKiskakukk “since 1913” has obviously survived two World Wars and a Communist era, but hasn’t noticed that the expectations of diners have changed in that time. Soaked with atmosphere and entirely un-ironic aging and tatty decor, the menu is all thoroughly trad and you have to use words like “hearty” and “authentic” and “rich” to describe the food because you can’t use words like “exciting” and “fresh” and “delicious”.
Random last-ditch cafeCafe Vian. At some point you need breakfast or lunch or dinner, but you’re in an unfamiliar city so you say “we’ll go this way and see what we find” and you don’t find anything, or you find a McDonalds, or a place that doesn’t look fab, so you go on… and then it’s all residential, or all offices, and you’re hungry… so you go on, and you find an uninspiring looking place with few customers and little chance of good food, but a bird in the hand is worth two in a bush so in you go. An hour later you emerge to say “well, at least we’re not hungry any more” and then find a lovely looking cafe with an enticing menu just around the corner!
Wine-lovers barDropshop, with a loooong and loving list of local wines available by the glass, and a couple of different plates of nibbles to have with the booze if you need to. The staff have plenty of time to help, and apologise needlessly for their bad English even though your own knowledge of their language amounts to “please”, “thank you” and “cheers!” (Egeszegedra!)
Wine bar – I forget the name, but where there are only 6 wines by the glass, and one of the whites will always be a Sauvignon Blanc and another will always be a Pinot Grigio, and none of them will be as good (or as cheap) as any of the wines on offer in the wine-lovers bar, though it may have nicer decor and a full menu of adequate food.
Patisserie cafeGrand Cafe Esztergom. It really doesn’t matter if there’s a menu at the table, you still have to go up and LOOK AT ALL THE CAKES! If you aren’t in the UK, they’ll all be delicious. If you are in the UK, you may be lucky. Same is true of the coffee. In Esztergom they do a nice thing with an espresso and a little jug of hot vanilla-infused milk.
Airport bar/cafe – ah yes, the spare hour because it’s never worth trying to be exactly on time for your flight in an unfamiliar country, over-priced but often decent snacks and drinks.
Genuinely local restaurant – one thing we didn’t actually find on this trip, sadly, but I’m going to stretch credibility and claim the little place in Esztergom just because (a) the goulash soup was very good and (b) there was at least one table of locals. Given the location at the foot of the steps down from the Basilica it has to be a tourist spot really.

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One Response to “Hungary?”

  1. Lukas says:

    Thank you for the review on Cafe Vian, glad you enjoyed the place and food!

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