Cafe Five, Kolossy tér, lunchtime.
A busy affair.
They mean business.
And these days even early evenings have their appeal.
Landing this side of town it’s definitely a recommendation.
Friendly staff, who speak English, and a bevy of buses, a tram line running by the window, and the urban railway (HÉV) a two minute walk away, makes this is not only comfortable but convenient.
If it’s sports you’re after then the Sports Bisztro on Pasaréti utca has something to offer, even if it’s just for the electronic darts or pool. On big game nights table booking is essential, a concept still alien to me when the onus is on me to make arrangements, but something most welcome on entering a crowded pub and having friends ask for the table which they’ve reserved. Moses couldn’t do any better!
A nice spot for social gatherings with seating both in and out and in case I’ve not mentioned it enough there’s also a screen outside to catch all the action as televised.
On a cold winter’s eve it’s a hideaway for a ‘warmer’ on the way home; in the summer it’s a place to sit outside and cool down over a fröccs. Other than that…
friendly staff who quickly adapt to your needs,
a selection of Belgian beers,
melegszendvics-es and other such snacking oddities, make up the change,
and whether it’s coming or going you are, transport is just around the corner.
I could mention the hospital’s proximity but this is not that type of place;)
When I first arrived in Budapest the Budapest Jazz Club was situated on Múzeum utca in the popular university area which spans the 5th, 8th, maybe even 9th districts of the city. It was near that area where an Irish pub consisted of putting the word Irish before it and the streets had yet to be pedestrianised. Now that the area is looking good the Budapest Jazz Club has upped pegs and shifted residence to the 13th. It’s still up and coming Hollán Ernő street style but somehow this district, this part at least, and my favourite, is more becoming of Jazz Club mystic post smoking ban.
In the place where once the Odeon, an arthouse cinema stood, it has changed little albeit better music emanates from the speakers mid morning.
It still retains the arthouse feel and along with the other arthouse cinemas that have fallen foul of progress, or other conspiracy theories, imagination has been employed in order to maintain quality, at least the quality of difference.
With regular concerts and an early morning, 10am, opening this serves to be as much a library as a theatre. It’s a cool place to hang out, literally during the almost unbearable summer’s days and it serves to enhance the spirit for those more musically curious.
And for those who’ve just popped in for a coffee you are in a good neighbourhood for some good quick eats if things turn peckish.
Along the streets I struggled, a groginess lingering two days on from festivities in the Belgian beer department, though I suspect the dregs I downed later were really to blame. Me and sense*, certainly not the best of bedfellows after alcohol’s been imbibed.
I passed a cafe still in the making it’s sign chancing at irony I guessed: Sunshine Cafe read the sign on the outside above steps which led to the bowels of the earth. “Good luck there” I thought.
Finally, in a twist and turn rhythm which would have seemed patterned to anyone observing, which indeed it had been, I ended up quayside on the corner with Cafe Panini. First impression: welcoming, and with panini specials on the weekly menu this certainly seemed up to its name. In fact everybody I spotted on entering was eating something freshly cooked to the point that when I ordered a coffee and croissant I felt a little like the one who’d just ordered the plastic flowers.
The coffee, long as is my style, lingered and certainly was good. The croissant, heavy on pastry, lacked, as many in Hungary do, the buttery edge I’d grown accostumed to in Paris, and Douglas, Co. Cork.
But for dippage it was perfect collecting coffee up between the layers, without too much crumbling to create a pastry caffeine sludge.
Yes, yes. My name is Martin and I am a dipper and have been for as long as I can remember. My clearest first memories are Maxwell House and Custard Creams, cheap granulated coffee and biscuits (cookies, keksz) just in case you were wondering!
So in a nutshell, a pleasant environment, and popular in that there seems to be a collection of colourful folk, artsy, studenty, but maybe the film buses across on the key may have something to do with this. I hope not. This place should always be like this, and when those ‘bledy’° buses move there’ll be a good view of the river across to Margit’s Island as well as her bridge.
My advice: come for a coffee and stay for a day.
*”Sense and I” is the grammatically correct usage!
On the intersection of Medve and Vitéz down in the second district this a colourful little chappy. The name itself arranged haphazardly above the entrance does little to convey the professionalism but a lot to carry the mood. A small counter is neatly stuffed with pastries and sandwiches with other oddities surrounding. A stairway winds its way up into the humble darkness but though tempting a snug in the clutches of winter, summer, even if Irishy at the moment of writing, beckons to the outdoors. Like two sentries, tables await left and right on exiting while a step out, under the shade of an impressive tree (name pending) which marks this corner distinctly, finds one in a cluster of more. Optimistic on those colder days, on any other day, or even wrapped up, the outside seating is the place to be. As the Norwegians say: there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!
An English breakfast sounded tempting and at half the price of the expat pubs I wasn’t expecting miracles, though hoping nonetheless.
Up till that point Culinaris was a chance to buy good or “rarely found in Hungary” food at a price that would leave you feeling like after a date in prison.
My first encounter had been through winning a 10000huf prize in a sudoku competition, back when ten was still considered money, but recently I hadn’t dared. Imagine if I saw something at a price I couldn’t afford. Well I’d probably have found a pub nearby and drank my wishes away.
This time I was determined and yet not surprised when a very big plate, or very small portion, arrived.
A ramekin full of baked beans. Perhaps better than the alternative bed of beans that one gets back home, the other home.
A rasher in the full, not streaky, sense.
A fried egg ; and the pièce de résistance, the sausage. A skinny affair if all be told but definitely a tasty morsel, unlike another expat haunt I could mention where you’d be waiting for Godot for a decent breakfast sausage.
A few cuts off a baguette dropped almost haphazardly off to one side finished off the presentation.
What had I been expecting and yet getting two for a price still less than the expat pubs meant it was a comparably good deal, if boxing to that weight division. I wasn’t so it’s doubtful that I’ll be running back, but as the only Culinaris I know that offers the cafe to the side, it’s definitely somebody’s cup of tea.
Location location location.
This is the place to be downtown on the edge of work, sun shining and the allsorts passing. If ever a backdrop seemed forced, much like Hollywood highway chase scenes did till I lived in Greece, this place will dispel all doubt. Sitting in the sun my arm scorched off and yet a stripey cardigan donned I write with no intention to compliment this place. It’s a drinking den nothing more but at that it’s perfect. C’est tous. C’est fini!
Up in the 12th, a climb if you’re on for it, is where to find the lovely Levendula. An owner that’s renowned for his alcohol intake, and an interior that’s black, and maybe because of paint, this is one of those places that’s not pretty but is nearly perfect. You don’t come here for fine dining or for beer served up in a clean glass but if you’re one of those let the heights deter you. For the atmosphere adventurers there is something about this place, accessible by either 112 or 102 bus from the city, the former runs right the way through Pest while the latter comes up from Széll Kálmán tér to its terminus hereabouts before continuing on its loop around, and both stop just outside the door.
Its point, beyond the characters than adorn the place all year round, is the garden. A balmy spot offering shade on the hillside it is also only a few stops short of a fabulous viewpoint if one continues up along the 112 bus route.
Not a place for run-of-the-mill connoiseurs, it is certainly a place for off-the-beaten-track troubadours, and when you find it remember to tell your doubts:
I told you so!
On Mészáros utca, in the 1st district, there lies a pizzeria of some renown, Don Francesco by name. and it was to this place I did find myself arriving having disembarked the 105 bus just outside its door, or as good as.
Of course, as is the order of my quest I went in search of the margherita pizza. Well, let me tell you it has a certain herbie good taste with slices of real(!) tomato adorning the top. It certainly had its appeal, but on an empty stomach much can be deceptive. In truth it had all the finery necessary for a good margherita pizza but not for a great one. I scoffed it down nonetheless, and released my tastes buds to a drop of red wine, the selection here being varied: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I got the plain:)
Downstairs at the entrance, where I took up temporary residence, it was much like a fastfood diner while upstairs there was the more restauranty feel, the ambience intended by the recommendation I had been given. Ah, but they really didn’t know me. Tucked away late afternoon in the solitude of a dimly lit recess was not my style. I crave life and with the comings and goings of the take-away people I had material with which to work.
The service was quick and friendly, if a bit subdued or maybe it was that I was expecting something which I hadn’t even put words nor image to. Was I being unreasonable? Probably. It was Poetry Day and I was off to a book launch and somehow that had me feeling important.
Overall: The pizza gets a 7/10 while the atmosphere restaurant-wise is yet to be seen. Weekend nights upstairs must surely be different to late Thursday afternoons by the entrance. As for its location: easy in and out of town, just off the 105 bus stop either way.
Most definitely poplular with the locals for takeaway and, as has been my experience in the past, any place the locals go to is a place to be, unless it includes a length of rope, a gallows, or an arena and some freely prowling lions.
Don Francesco’s could be a single man’s teatime and chat, or a family’s mid-week treat, and with all the potential upstairs I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the young folk would venture in at weekends enthralling first dates with their understanding of Italian and economising in the process.
For dessert I had Madártej fagyi (an ice-cream of sorts) which was a tasty affair and just to take the edge off my criticism concerning friendliness I was given the cup and saucer in which it came for free.
A thought has also struck me:
What if all those serious faces are not indicative of general grumpiness but rather of pained attempts by locals not usually exposed to foreigners trying to speak Hungarian to understand what I am saying. Maybe I’ve mistaken their concentration face for a moody one! Stranger things reputedly have happened.
I missed the opening of an exhibition here at Jurányi arts centre, on the street of the same name, recently and frankly if I had turned up and there hadn’t been free wine I may just have thrashed the gaff. Now the drawings were good as far as chalk on wall goes but I wouldn’t call it an exhibition: a drawing exhibited, but not warranting the whole nine yards. Unless there was free wine!
Well, anyway, inside this old school building, well preserved as it is, there is a passageway down beyond the entrance. Turning right and following the coloured lines one will find the gallery, the exhibition area, but more importantly the cafe/bar.
On offer there is a selection of sandwiches, tasting as if just unwrapped from their plastic packets, cakes tempting to the sweet-toothed, and the remaining array of drinks you’d expect of any cafe.
Tucked inside the building one does get a feeling, what with hard chairs and checked tiled floors, that this could be canteeny, but being in the heart of an old school that doesn’t sound too shocking. There has been an attempt to brighten things up with the trademark colouring not only on the corridor floor but on the programs, almost inconspicuously placed about.
It is clean and there are even a few more comfortable sofa but what makes this place may be the view to the street or the courtyard or the chance to eavesdrop on artists’ conversations, but if like me you can’t speak Hungarian very well the former option is not enough. It doesn’t lack in offers: a lunchtime menu exists with soup, sandwich, salad choices, but for a person who craves atmosphere it is a bit of a let down.
Perhaps it’s the quiet before the storm; a festival event is scheduled for two hours from now. Perhaps it’s Friday. Perhaps it’s the hum of the fridges, the rain starting outside. All factors accounted for I ‘d say this place is a handy option in out of the bustle this side of town when bars and chain cafes aren’t your thing. It could grow on me as an escape from the crowd but for now I must go in search of that very thing.
The fact that the Hungarian word for tomato and pardise (paradicsom) are the same could indicate a reverence paid by the Magyars to this simple fruit ( or is it a veg?). Nevertheless tomato isn’t something I’d usually associate with a chocolaterie and yet here I am, still uncertain.
Hidden away a little off the synagogue in a passageway between buildings, joining Károly körút with Semmelweiss utca, this place could easily be overlooked and yet the Tripadvisor has been and gone. It presents itself up front as all sweets and coffee: the glass casing at the counter filled with little treats and ice-cream scoops, while behind, the caffeine cardinals lie in wait. Along shelving scattered here and there, there are other curiosities, bottles of spices, bags of chocolate buttons, and other such marvels. It’s almost chemistry, even alchemy, and now as I sit here ruminating the paradicsomos csoki teaser I’ve just recently indulged in is resurrecting in the aftertaste whispering sweet nothings to my soul…a taste of more for sure, though I think I may resist in favour of sanity. Already the odd rush of a strong coffee coupled with the overtures of cocoa and tomato have me screaming of the tragedy of man.
A pleasant retreat it’s hard to imagine the bustling junction some twenty metres away and in the heart of the fifth district, come tourist time this little haven may indeed become one’s salvation in an escape from the heat and the hordes.
The imposing, almost threatening, chandelier looming above the counter all aglass in the Auguszt cukrászda on Kossuth Lajos utca could seem out of place, almost vulgar, but not here. Alongside the finely upholstered easy chairs, as well as basic seats, and the classical wall mural, everything is where it should be…and without the lean towards forced extravagance. Even the edges, polished to the modern, still function clinically as reinforcements, their wrought iron effect not running against the overall turn of the last century feel. The two picture windows screen street life and so whether for a chat or to just watch the world there are the contrasting intimate corners versus the window display seating. Upstairs there is even more seating offering one the opportunity to look down on all the comings and goings.
As for the prices: at 450huf for an average cake and 490huf a long coffee this isn’t cheap. If you are pocket motivated then Jégbüfé at Ferenciek tere farther up towards the river is the better option but for a taste of decadence, at least by surroundings, this is the place to be.
The Művész Kávéhaz and Étterem in Orbán tér is old school posh (chandeliers etc) like downtown, but with low ceilings, and a feeling to pocketlandia 12th district style. I don’t know; I haven’t tried the bacon and eggs: there is a breakfast menu, and plenty of food besides, but apart from the generous croissant and coffee at 650huf, I suspect there’s little else to appeal, or perhaps in its clique it offers lunch time menus only to make a killing on the drinks. Krizia, Mozsár utca, comes to mind. I’m not against this place for its style, and even its location offers life, what with bus stops and a supermarket nearby. High up it also has a view towards a distance and on a beautiful Spring evening that’s colourful. What then gives, though I’ve hinted already! Dréher Bak: 850huf! Good luck and good riddance.
Ibolya at Ferencziek tere is retro in feel and seems quite tacky. Gaudy wallpaper mixed with pale yellow paints comprise the walls while lamp shades hang low just as Diana’s ‘V’ spaceships loomed large above the urban landscape, or perhaps even as a nod to Ed Wood in his more frenetic days.
Deeper into the darkness which resides away from the street there are the sofas, while upstairs too there is the gloom. The gloom in itself is the essence of an Irish bar but with funky American diner furniture it seems like an awkward union. In truth it’s borberline psychotic. However, don’t be deterred. Those of you naive enough might find it psychedelic, while those already in the vapours of madness might find yourselves right at home. For everybody else it’s an adventure but just in case I’ve built it up, really… it’s not all that much.
Being retro and maintaining the feel, air con seems to be window-wise but I could be wrong. A monstrosity above the bar sporting vents could actually be for real. Now where are the people operating that contraption? Holed up in a backroom being fed a staple diet of kifli, parizsi meat slices, and Kobanyai beer served luke warm?
The drinks menu itself is well endowed while the snacks remain old school: meleg szendvics and ropi plus some.
An overall assessment of the place would need to include purpose. This is certainly a place to water up before moving onto the tiles John and Olivia style, and, as it is in the centre of rejuvenation, it’s all about location, location, location.
Being on the sunny side of the street isn’t everything, especially when you have a view to it, and here at the Bakery Cafe near Nyugati at 9.30am in the morning, that’s how it is. Seating is set at a big picture window overlooking the tram stop and the steps down to the supermarket at the base of the Skála building.
There is plenty of floor space around the counter and considering the movement of customers in and out since being here I would say this was good foresight.
The question for me is this however. Is it really a cafe in the sit down and while away the time way or is it more fastfood, user friendly in that sense.I would venture to the latter because no matter, since I’ve sat down everybody else has come and gone. It’s a ten minute max, not an hour chat kinda place. The high stools indicate as such.
Anyway, on offer are sticky bun like creatures, tekercsek, pretzel savouries, teas, coffees, and other drinks, and going snacky it’s not bad. One quib: plastic forks etc…it doesn’t break the heart to wash a bit of cutlery and it is more environmentally friendly.
The best I can say is that with a few minutes to spare and in the vicinity it offers a cheaper alternative to Costa Coffee but less seating than McDonalds. The street can be a welcome distraction and no doubt due to its location it has every chance of flourishing. Good luck to it.
On Révay Köz, just off the busy Bajcsy-Zsilinszky, and directly across from the basilica if you find yourself on the high stools that line the pavement outside, Basil Ica is one of those little places that are impressing more and more in Budapest, and more often Pest. With a bustling tourist trade just off their edge, in fact beginning around the corner and straddling the 6th and 5th districts from this perspective, it is one of those cheap eat options that still retains its integrity. A simple pancake served up on a large plate sprinkled with a whisp of icing sugar suggests chef pretentions, or at least late nights with Paprika TV or one of the now numerous home education channels foodwise. And to rate it…a decent pancake with that right consistency, me being the self-proclaimed Prince of Palacsinta all of a sudden!
A neat little gaff with a selection of pancakes, sweet and savoury, sandwiches, salads, omelettes etc…it could make a mint from the thrifty tourists so why not read and spread this review. As to ulterior motives, me!?
Open from 8.30 a.m. and with breakfast options this place could be smart, although on that point… don’t expect WIFI. God, how we’ve forgotten ourselves!
For everything else it ticks boxes and while seating is high-stool and legroom-less on facing the window, don’t let this deter you: it’s not a fancy diner, rather a snack-and-go or to-go at best.
Will I return? If in the area and peckish. Would I recommend it? If you’re in the area and peckish!
But seriously, try it out…
On Lövőház in the up and coming area – once an awkward car street, now pedestrianised – there is another addition to the flourish, Bohem 16. As to whether it’s connected to what was there before I cannot say but the prices suggest otherwise. I remember sitting out for a coffee and just finding the bill criminal. These days there’s this place, with a pint of Soproni coming in at 390huf. Finding a place under 400 these days is tricky if you don’t want the overly-lived-in feel, and on Buda side it comes as a surprise. Not that Cheerio up the road isn’t cheap, it’s just that this place has aspirations to more than that kocsma flavour.
First off, there is wifi and a food menu which includes burgers and salads, the latter being the pricier at 900 – 1700, while, surprisingly burgers are 700 a pop. Of course, this would suggest basic but even still there is a variety on the theme, chili, cheese, etc. so if feeling peckish and thirsty and in the mood for something cosier than the kocsma meleg szendvics and minimalism, this is a good alternative.
On entering from the street down a flight of steps one is confronted by a cellar bar with the cavernous ceilings to boot. Tables line the wall under the street level windows, while the bar dominates the other wall, bar stools all aligned. Over in the far corner is a wonderful armchair for the purposes of being.
Another room adjoins just off the entrance and has even more of the comfy chairs to offer. In all a tidy affair with the potential to a good booze-up and, what with the street outside for those of the feet persuasion, tables in the sunshine means Springtime.
The music was unintrusive, if desired, but the selection including The Boss meant that in between moments lazing back and allowing the atmosphere to envelope me, I wasn’t left all alone.
The staff were up to the task, and engaging, so for me its relative newness merely spells great potential. Let’s see.
TIFFANY’S in the Batthyány tér market hall offers airiness and comfort without the hustle and bustle of the Plaza cafes. It’s set off from the rest of the shops on the first floor and, if standing, there is a view which carries one across to the parliament buildings on the Pest bank opposite. In fact, for many tourists, a photo of said building at river level is best obtained from here, by here I mean the bank wall on Bem rákpart.
Through the window another photo is possible, made perhaps more atmospheric through the dusty glass, but with the foreground that includes the comings and goings of this Buda-side public transport hub. Buses run to and fro around the square while a tram at the bank takes one south on what can be at ponits a very picturesque tram ride.
NOW as for the cafe itself there are seats leading in from the pedestrian way around the floor, islands in their way extending out from the area, itself a stylised island, three quarters open with the part nearest the windows closed off to counter service,instead alllowing for a gallery area providing more seating.
Staff are friendly with one particular chap, though a tad stern-faced, quite welcoming of my mashed Hungarian. A smile on such a frown is almost unsettling as it is relieving.
Prices are to the level of the square it located in with coffees starting at 350huf while teas of flighty pretensions starting at 590huf. A bottled beer, Soproni, is 390huf and this is for the 500ml which is the price list’s most positive surprise.
In a nutshell, a place for an intimate chat away from the congestion of other cafes nearby, and a step off escape routes up and down , as well as, across river if required.
Set away within the framework interior of the Lehel market building this Fancy* little Cafe has its general appeal. Below on the market floor, the raw meat, and fresh fruit and veg vies for purchase on the punters’ purse strings while on this floor in the environs, cheap clothes and shoes make promises in price that I know from experience they will not keep.
Never mind because if you’ve found yourself with time, maybe with shopping bags weighing you down, this little cafe offers hope in terms of well made coffee.
A polished affair of wood and brass inside, there are also the obligatory metal seats outside and whereas they may not offer the same luxuriant feel they are perched at the railing, overlooking the activities below.
Coffee is freshly ground here and can be bought by the bag as well as enjoyed in brew. Other beverages are also on offer, teas etc., and there are the compulsory marlenkas (layered cakes) on the counter. Sometimes there’s more, sometimes less, but it is a place to pass a while, the atmosphere within the shell of Lehel market building, abounding.
First impressions of Code 7: trendy but determined. This place wants to appeal and in an area around the 3rd district where old town and high-rise clash, and where Spar and büfés often times win the day, it is a chance, methinks, to capitalise on the migratory office staff who work in the district.
It seems to take itself seriously: the breakfast menu is cheap between 7 and 9 am to draw the early birds. About time! Oft times, Pest-side, it has been impossible to find a cooked breakfast before ten.
Well, on entering I firstly noted the friendliness; a smile can so often cushion the blow even in a bad establishment, something the Hungarian service industry is slowly coming to grips with – and I don’t mean 5 star hotels and the like. I mean down on the ground basic joints.
I ordered ham and eggs, and a coffee, and sat to think. The music was on but unintrusive, and, while, not my taste: it was funky not irritating.
Waiting no more than five minutes when a white plate arrived, two yellow eyes peeping up at me, a promise of the ham hidden beneath. Apart from this, two lumps of something similar to potato sat perched on the presentation – fresh bread-rolls as it turned out.
To put it simply – delicious. Well cooked, nothing burnt! – smooth. As they say, the way to a man’s heart… I’m happy. I’ll be back.
Worth Noting: Ham & Eggs at 490huf, with a long coffee and a sparkling water came in at 990huf.
Downside: Not exactly townside but if you are in the area give it a shot.
Well, where there is a doc there is medicine, unless you’re computer burdened and can only associate d-o-c with Word. God help us but I think I’m becoming such. Not my fault except, of course, it is. I’ve chosen the medium to continue.
And so I shall.
On Paulay Ede utca leading from Nagmező to Liszt Ferenc tér there is a place by the name of Cafe Zsivágó, and it has all the pretensions to the old world, the old style, the cafes of central Europe as I would have imagined them 100 years ago. It certainly has all the grandeur with the front section reaching to a high ceiling, the paintings along the wall marking the level which is continued by the gallery which runs from behind the counter area to the back of the establishment. A neat little poke of a room hides inside an archway to the left, and upstairs there are available perchings to allow the full experience of watching – intently if you so wish.
Above and over my right shoulder laughter comes, descending. In that little corner, separated from the greater part of upstairs, a couple, almost hidden, have taken up residence. Indeed a cosy affair. Not the place for the boys and the beer I imagine. A bit too sedate. Hot chocolates and laptops are the order of the day, the latter clashing with my fin de siècle illusions. Bloody Mac!
Ah, but a taste of my hot chocolate and all doubt dissipates. Express divinity personified! And even as I write this I salivate for more. Jesus, and I was going to buy a beer. Sometimes the universe chooses for you and here it surely has.
Now I’m still not about to sing the praises of the place in terms of service. I was sitting upstairs and never approached. However, it could be the policy. And sitting down here with a bit of fresh air, courtesy of an open window, coupled with smoke from the shop assistants of the surrounding outlets who somehow need to congregate right there, I am rather content. The music has run from Louis Armstrong to something a lot more classical. This is what I’d expect – not the bleeding WIFI brigade, though I am not a stranger to this myself and so will not here set myself up the hypocrite – but it’s akin to a Chinese takeaway inside the Acropolis – but I guess this is not meant to be old, just old-fashioned, or old-school, or something, and I’m occasionally glancing at my mobile on the table. The illusion is there – the boundaries are yours.
This Buda pub, just up the street from the back entrance to Déli train station, on Nagyengyed utca is a comfortable place to find oneself. There isn’t anything too surprising about the prices considering that it advertises itself as a restaurant/pub. The draught beer is all above 500huf. The bottled beer has one under. Guinness, and this is what first attracted me to this place some years ago, has now passed the 1000huf mark. In fact, it’s a little bit more still. But never mind, I wouldn’t recommend it. When I asked for a pint I was told there wouldn’t be any till November; it was a draw* I was unwilling to wait for. Instead I opted for Dreher Bak in the bottle, a potent affair, and perused the menu.
There is a wide selection of the usual Hungarian fare. Meat, in different styles with the usual trimmings. I won’t here elucidate. I was hungry but had not intended to run too high a bill so after flirting with the main courses all in the 1800huf to 2200huf range – steak higher, of course; salads surprisingly not that much lower – I chose a soup. It wasn’t necessary to splash out. I would be heading home in a while and to plenty of food in the fridge. As it was another soup would be waiting for me – thankfully different. What I chose at the Clock was a veal ragout with sour cream. Nice? Yes! Very nice? Hmmm, yes. The best ever? Take it easy!!! I may have to turn into Johnny Depp in “Once Upon A Time In Mexico” if that were to ever happen. In truth, to sum up the dining experience: it was pleasant, efficient, quick as was necessary, and the staff, at least my waitress ‘for today’ was comfortably friendly. By that I mean she didn’t have to try – no fake smile cracking her frown – she was a natural. On good days, on bad, I’m sure she’d have her moods but she struck me, as first, professional.
The place itself is all indoors so forget it if you want the garden-terrace ambiance. Down the street there is a pizzeria place, good as I’ve heard – the verdict is forthcoming, and they have that outdoor appeal. Here it’s enclosed in a typical Irish-y pub feel, the theme here being clocks, the big one looming above, on entering, on the ceiling; the shelves all around covered with them, pictures, wallpaper, real old devices.
The Clock is not short of clocks so if you have a funky phobia, forget it, but if you’re a little malicious and like to set alarm clocks in appliance shops, this may have that quirky appeal, though I haven’t test-driven any of the clocks here on offer so don’t take my word on their functioning.
To the front and left of the entrance runs the bar with a smattering of tables off into the corner while to the right another cluster of tables and chairs. It’s all cosy without being cramped. It is nice. I would recommend it so, if you have the time, and if you don’t, try out The Clock.
*In this case draw means “the draw on the pint” meaning how much has been taken from the keg that particular day.
Rigó Jancsi’s Cukrászda in the 12th district came as a surprise. That a colleague of mine had posted or “checked himself in” there on Facebook was how it came to my attention. You see it’s easy to miss; a poke in all ways, the 4 tables inside overly optimistic given the real floor space, not that the passage way from door and along the L counter is impeded, and I got to see why. Like 2 or 3 others I sat with cake and coffee, but what surprised me was the entertainment in the form of the constant flow of people in and out – and where there are people characters emerge.
Like the Yanks who spoke fluent, at least to my ears, Hungarian but conversed among themselves in English. A reminder of this country’s history of emigration.
But apart from the people the place itself is also worth noting, the business I mean. Some call the interior retro, I call it old-fashioned. It hasn’t changed much in all the years so it isn’t like it’s tried to look this way. It is original. Not many these days.
The staff is all friendly, engaging people – the banter flows, smiles flashes, and all in the name of top service.
However, people, furnishings, staff and all, it was the prices that took me aback. This is the 12th district so I expected to be drawing blood for little luxuries but at 280huf for a cup of coffee and cake I was more than pleasantly surprised. I was almost suspicious. Something had to give. In truth, it didn’t. The illusion come reality remained with me right out the door and onto this page.
With its selection of pogácsa, cakes and other pastries at prices that would shock the farmer’s daughter this has become a surprising new favourite, which must be put into perspective considering my history as a beer drinker rather than a cake-eater.
A step off the main drag, Margit Körút style, at the corner of Varsányi Irén and Eröd utca(k), this one’s new to me, but I gather, also to the neighbourhood.
The first thing I noticed was its relative modesty from outside, a chalkboard and a small sign bare indication. If I hadn’t been told of this place I may never have found it – but aren’t such places sometimes the best.
Well let’s see.
On entering: a low table to the left, two small tables to the right, and a bar curving out in front makes it, as the exterior, certainly not boasting swank. A stairwell winding up suggests seating out of sight and this is pleasing considering everything downstairs is full, with one-a-table being a jam.
There’s free WIFI just in case the laptops accompanying nearly every single customer haven’t aleady given the game away, but these days that’s par for the course/to be expected.
I order and settle upstairs. Cosy seats, low tables, not the best for writing on, but it does force me to unwind, and that is what I do, caffeine to hand.
The general atmosphere is subdued, gentle, placid and the staff are suitably laid-back, friendly, and curious. Chalked up on the wall is a food menu but I regard it only as a snap Hungarian lesson, I’ve just come from food…home-cooked…the best:)
But what has me really kicking back and letting go, beyond the confines of my armchair is the music; a mix of Jazz, slow blues, and old R&B (the good stuff when singers had voices not just funky names). To top it all off the sounds are omitting from a record player, the real deal – vinyls, needle caressing, and not a scratch to be heard. What manner of preservation is this! Almost unholy, what with my Hits 5 playing like a seance snippet off of Paranormal Weekly these days, well like it would if I had a record player. I’m not HD me, I’m all for da mood. Like smoke in a dark and dirty Jazz bar, I miss some of the things which are now considered bad for me.
As I finish my coffee I laze, I inhale, and I promise to return. It’s a wee bit on the parsimonious in terms of overall space but just to huddle up to the vinyls and speak about times past, I could offer up my peg leg – again!
Moka…tis no joke!!!
A cafe half hidden by the flyover outside and on the wrong side off Fő tér, in Óbuda, this place is worth more than a mention. It could be another functioning kocsma like the ones in the underpass nearby but it has prettied itself up with a simple choice of furnishing: wooden chairs, simply cushioned benches, and the decor of brick work and plaster. From outside it could almost be mistaken for a Pékség/Bakery or Cukrászda/Confectionery due to the display cabinet in the window. On close inspection one notices the meleg sandwiches on offer and begins to realise that there is more beyond.
It’s a tidy affair inside with enough seating for a comfortable 20 and with lights low hanging as well on wall-mounted fixtures one gets the feeling that a little thought was put into making this a little more.
If making the most is to be referred to as a means to encouraging entrepreneurialism then maybe this place should be included in the books. No glitz or glam, yet spotless. Not easy to find that combination in these days of crude commercialism and utter depravity.
My advice: if you’re ever near here and tired of the streets, pop in. It’s surprisingly cheery, even when quiet. In fact, with WIFI and solitude it could be numbered among my offices on the go these days.
Warning: Unlike some of the bars in leafy suburban Budapest, which holds their own surprises…this place can begin to fill up early evening (and midweek) and gets a little on the noisy side so if it’s a quiet chat you’re after maybe look elsewhere. However, if drinks, or chatter around you are your thing, try Perszé Presszó.
Sitting, nestled between the two Mammuts on the Buda side of the city, this little treasure can easily be missed by those who are more image-conscious. Before its face-lift it was little more than a glorified kocsma with games machines flashing and whirring and buzzing, and to be frank little has changed. What it has got and has always had as long as the weather holds is outside seating and though you might find yourself sitting, inhaling the fumes of the passing cars (as an ex-smoker I still like to flirt with the lung damage) there is an undeniable atmosphere worthy of it all. The footpath that the tables encroach upon is a busy thoroughfare so as far as people watching goes Buda-side; this is oddly one of the best. Across Szena tér the other bars are either locked away underground or without the promise of such flow. Trombitás at Moszkva/Széll Kálmán tér is hidden behind stained glass and Fasor is too far out. Right here, right now…well, wait up…
That was an ad for Cheerio some time past. These days farther down Lövőház utca on the pedestrianised part, there are other bars like Gyöngye and Shakesbeer, which have got their acts together, but even so, and along with the newer entries on that side of the street, Cheerio is the stalwart in what was reliably a boring stretch between the looming monotony of two sides of a commercial centre. In the market itself there are the pokey joints, teeming with life, but for today, at this point, a little on the reminisce, Cheerio has the vibe, the buzz, the dirt required to be included. I still wouldn’t rate it inside; one could view it as a point of its consistency, I expect!
A lunchtime menu attracted me to this place seeing as its reputation precedes it in terms of price. And yes, while the main courses begin in the high 2000s and soar it’s the drink that’ll catch you. The only red in glass is a generous 650huf per “deci” (100ml/10cl) while the water is even pricier. Still, prepared for that, I wanted to enjoy this. Then what of it?
The place is pristine and service implied. The only fault early on was a horrible buzzing made by the air-conditioning. It was turned off on request, if somewhat reluctantly. Silver trays serve as place mats and the whole thing is too Upstairs-Downstairs (or Downton Abbey) for my liking. The cutlery is set up with the intention of being worked through, and the serviettes are folded and propped. Not a place I’d bring my daughter – the bull in the china shop image prevails, though the rebel heart would almost delight.
I imagine regaling her future husband with what may, or may not, be an embarrassing story. If she’s truly my daughter she wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Beneath her such finery would be, but not beneath me it would seem.
The waiter was a friendly chap, verging on a professional courtesy, but he engaged, held eye-contact, and played his part unobtrusively. He knew we were there for the menu!
Coming then to the food. On first impressions I saw only average – presentation aside – and in taste I felt that while competitive, it wasn’t high end as the prices would suggest. Okay so I had the menu of minestrone soup, a main course with pork, fried potatoes, and a ragu sauce, which could explain the simplicity, but my partner’s pasta, while certainly tasty, was only that. In fact it was the sauce that saved it. Maybe we were expecting too much, but it seemed overly simple considering the prices. That the ingredients are fresh is a given – this is the stronger selling point, I imagine, and on this note I’d have to conclude that overall it was worth the experience.
Nevertheless I do, with bias, think Andi could have made as good, if not a better, job at home. And perhaps this is not really a criticism as it is in Italian culture to love home-cooking anyway.
Finally, dessert was a caramel cream pudding with an alcohol twist. Tasty but the chocolate sauce was too buttery. Ahh, what the heck! A good destination for the menu but if intent on good Italian food in the city I suspect there could be better.
What can be said about Anker klub, in the köz of the same name, in the up and coming hubble and bubble that is the rejuvenated 7th district, Király environs, can be said of many of the other student frequented, minimalist decor, pub/eateries in the city.
Like a good Hollywood romance there is a template – variables in this case being but location and size. Each one defines itself as unique but each one finally succumbs to being a rehash of an original which in the pubs’ case may amount to Castro, Madach tér, but I’m not sure.
What then can I say of Anker in particular? Service is suspicious, almost unfriendly, but that follows the templates of these moody studenty gaffs all across the city.
The food when cooked well is of a reasonably good quality – I would serve it to my child if she hasn’t gnawed too much table already – but the standard is again inconsistent. Some days cooked well with complementing presentation, other days one would have to wonder as to the mentality of a person who would even dare to serve up burnt sausage as done.
Prices are learning towards city centre but a Brunch menu does seem generous. One quib – in the drinks choice of this set menu, coffee or tea is not on offer. The cynic in me sees the catch: 1650huf (at weekends/ 1250huf weekdays) for drink, main, and dessert, plus the added expense for a basic coffee. Still it is value for money provided the chef is firing on all cylinders.
A spacious affair, venting exposed, it certainly has the lived in feel. Not quite ruin pub but leaning there. In all worth a shot and its location is everything except on a sunny day! That is, unless you like the shade.
Up in the hills which comprise the 12th district the Stone Kávézó Söröző is run of the mill. Modern decor, indicative of youth-club culture, its strength is it’s at a transport hub, where the 112 and 102 bus terminus cojoin.
With a Tesco in proximity, looming in fact above the eyeline, the cafe itself offers street life, quiet-suburb style.
It is a cosy affair with prices that won’t make one feel like one of Fagin’s gang has just lightened your pockets and, considering the wealth of the neighbours, this comes as a relief.
There are a few things marked on the menu; though a list is provided, the majority are not priced, suggesting their lack. A meleg szendvics,a pizza, some beer, a chat – this place could work.
That I’ve never seen a crowd mid-week is typical of residential Budapest where families stay at home. As for the weekends, that’s up to you. Personally, I wouldn’t make the trek up here if it were just for this, but that I have to has allowed me the opportunity, and yes, I can imagine sitting here pre- or post- class as the weather warms up- pondering- as to what – that remains to be seen.
Martin’s Bistro in the 2nd district is not only a pleasure by namesake (not The Hairy Teacher!) but also by service. The staff is pleasant and professional. The menu is user-friendly with a compact choice, and a surprising number of fish dishes considering.
The location is questionable, tucked away as it is and, by fact, a failed spring board for previous businesses with the same culinary ambitions. Still, having got there the reward was awaiting.
The dish I chose was grilled wild salmon with creamy garlic spinach and potato ravioli, cooked succulently, hinting at red to the centre…hmmmmm. What was more surprising was the tenderness of the steak which my girlfriend ordered (Argentine braised steak with roasted potatoes, grilled vegetables and fried onion sauce). It practically melted in the mouth, not an experience I’ve had much in Hungary when it comes to beef, especially steak.
The evening panned out perfectly with even the chill accompanying us on the homeward track endearing, so satiated were we.
Warning: the portions are not Hungarian Étterem in size but all the better to enjoy the taste and not just the gluttonyJ . As for the latter, for the month of February every Thursday is/was Torkos Csütörtök depending on when you are reading this), and so everything comes/came at half-price.
“I just love it when a plan comes together!” Hannibal Smith, The A-Team
It has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. It’s small with a rather cramped appeal but this somehow allows it to always feel full. The counter on entering whets the appetite with its impressive display and if one is interested in take away or sitting in there is the choice. The traditionally French twist, the baguettes, the croissants, the éclairs, the croque monsieur et madame all fit. I remember when it first opened I had the fear it might fail on this Franco-feel, Trianon still burning in many a Hungarian heart. However, not enough of them, it would seem, care to, at least this, associate the food and culture with the travesty of war – and that’s a good thing. Thriving, I would say, A Table is as much a testament to Hungarian open-mindedness as it is to any good business plan. Being Buda side is obviously a plus with the up and coming all vying for real estate this side of town, and, with the traditionally wealthier classes hereabouts, any business plan with such culinary aspirations was bound to have a greater chance of success. Still it is nice to see its progress in slotting into the life of Retek utca and long may it continue. That I hold some of my classes here nowadays does in no way compromise me in regard of this critique…unless it gives me a discount. Oh how principles are thwarted by the promise of power!!!
A note to the negative: It can get cramped in here as mentioned but on a cold winter’s day this may turn out to be a little biased to the side of endearing. However, on a scorching summer’s day, with air-conditioning coming in the way of an open window this place may become stifling for many. That said give me the smell of croissants and other butter pastries at the death of my light over the stale stench of a butt-filled ashtray, or rancid spilt beer, any day.
Go there, visit it, and see for yourself. For me it is a somewhere in the middle of a nowhere. Kolossy tér, you see, I’m not a fan of, and though there are things which will always tempt me when in the environs, I will never, and could never, recommend this area as an outright party place. Kolossy tér, I mean. It’s all very fabricated…check out Symbol up the street, that raw, mafia-esque, bling bling appeal, type of place, indicative of the decadence as resides within the remnants of this post-communist state (Forget the Puskas Pub appeal. Go Pest side and to the heart of the footballer’s club grounds if you want a sense of the authenticity on that front). The farther East you go in Europe the greater the obvious gap between rich and poor. Note, before you react, how I used the word “obvious”. Just because us in, what people here call, the West have found cynical means of concealing it doesn’t pass us off as saints. Being Irish I’m often left dumbfounded by what all continental Europeans deem as the greatness of England, Britain, the United Kingdom. As far as the bloody colonialist history that is a pan-european involvement (Irish included) goes, Britain remains one of the stalwarts at least in its representation, Queens etc, and this is probably what got the hackles up in the Irish press concerning the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. Why other Europeans didn’t seem to take offence…could it be the hankering for the old order?
Jesus, talk about straying from the point! Cafe 5 around Kolossy tér on the Buda side of the city has plenty to offer. It’s a full day cafe, with an alternating lunch menu, a selection of drinks, cocktails, and all, and if I was stuck for a place to sit down in for a while there could be a lot worse. However, in the way of things, if I was looking for atmosphere in the mid-afternoon I would choose any of the Kocsmas nearby, and only then if I had no means of escaping into Pest, or at least away from here. Why? Go and see!
There used to be a Casino here at one time; I know cos I sat on a stone bench opposite one night sipping beer and smoking cigarettes. In fact, I passed it many times when my friend had a flat in the area – the Soho of Budapest, or is it the Westend…Eastend. Now that I think of it, maybe it’s called the Broadway of Budapest. For alliterative purposes at least, this will here apply.
Nowadays it has turned itself into a cafe with the entrance located in the same spot, the windows merely peeled of the tacky white-out employed to allow the casino goers their privacy, or the casino owners theirs! Enough said.
At present the interior is a lot more visible but with its sparse decor it has all the feel of transition, something I didn’t expect from the street. With a mixture of low and high tables, and seating appropriate, everything is rather spacious. A more enterprising – greedy – businessman may have opted for more tables.
On entering, to the left, the short wing, runs four tables in across 2 windows adjacent to the sweet section. Off right the greater length of bar and floor space is set aside. Nestled in the back here is an open area which gives this, coupled with the light fixtures, a back stage feel. This is where the exhibition area is and if this sounds so matter-of-factly, note this.
Almost every bar in Budapest which has any aspirations beyond mere drinking den allots wall space to the greater endeavours in the pursuit of all that is arty. If the arts isn’t your cup of tea don’t be perturbed – the drink tastes the same, and sometimes better. The price impact on the pocket is still much less than in the ex-pat pubs which, in my opinion, do little more than encourage divisions between the locals and the foreigners, except, of course, where express financial status is on display. As an ex-worker in one particular bar I can say that it is odd to see locals with money blending with bousies over on a stag. Perhaps the former imagine this is merely the temperament of the aspirant classes elsewhere. The latter, it is sure, don’t give a _____!
In terms of location this is central and though the real centre is ever elusive as to whether to define it culturally, socially, gastronomically, or otherwise, this is A hub and with that one must note the importance of this cafe come bar come casual food-ery come exhibition spot. On the intersection with Nagymező, with all its splendour, and Mozsár utca, and Andrassy, the sort-of Champs Elysses of Budapest, in close proximity, this certainly is a contender for the place to be…but the competition is rife.
My advice is to find this spot and let its environs carry you beyond all expectations. A review, a guidebook, will tell you nothing as much as the streets themselves, but where time is of the essence then you would do yourself an injustice if you dared not venture into the heart of the sixth district and even perhaps in here.
On the road to the cool valley, temperture-ally speaking…well, on the way there there is here…phew!… and this is the Full House Pizza. As the name suggests it serves all things Italian, relatively, and whereas the pizza is tasty it does have the Hungarian tendency to over-emphasise the fatty, oily, salty.
Other dishes here include traditional Hungarian fare with goulash and other soups to start. A personal favourite is a variety of fish and chips; Trout – baked – served whole (head and all) in a light coating, only enough to hint at golden, the grey scale, however, still visible. This is not beer batter country and for that I am thankful.
In the winter the inside seating booths to the right on entry, tables back and to the left will suffice but on occasion it can get cramped. Somehow the families always choose the tables – space I suppose.
In the summer the outside seating, along wooden benches as well as separate wooden armchair –style seats, is abundant. And here lies the treat for said families; a swing and slide and sandbox. Heaven knows no modesty.
It’s not a central location; it’s a place away but if you’re into exploring beyond the realm of all that tourists do, or find yourself at the end of the Children’s Railway, bottom end – Hűvösvölgy- and feeling peckish on the way back into the city, and therefore much aligned to the spirit of this place, why not give it a try. On a personal note, the staff here are much friendlier than those around Hűvösvölgy…and by that I mean but one place, the garden where the lads would dare to go. Here, they not only smile and treat locals and foreigners the same (that works both ways by the way) but they truly pull out all the stops. Comparitively speaking Híd Cafe has one of the best Margherita’s and good service to boot but out of town and on the way back in if you wish this is one of the honestly homely experiences. Miss it and you miss a piece of the greater jigsaw puzzle which is the infinitely enlarging Budapest.
Opened just over 2 years ago I’ve personally witnessed this establishment’s progress from an oasis in a sea of construction to a flourishing business.
Where it lies, at the foot of Margit’s Bridge, Buda side, sets it off from the traffic that daily passes above.
A tram stop nearby means there is always a movement of people and with a generous outdoor area it must be one of the most promising places to settle back between here and there.
A selection of pastas and pizzas are on offer with the Margherita hitting all the marks and if this is anything to go by then the pizza here is most recommendable.
Perfect pizza outside of Italy! Well you could be pushed and pushed in the right direction you could end up here in Budapest, and this is definitely one to behold. Other places offer pizza and most sin on the side of greasy when it comes to the simple Margherita. Also some more local practitioners tend to the Trappista* cheese, which boasts a history but has been lost to the taste of mass production. Here at Híd Bistro there is still Mozzarella, and this has made all the difference.
On Podmaniczky utca, near the corner with Teréz körút I’m perched facing West to South West as the road runs. I can make out from the street signs yonder that Jókai utca parellels the körút, but I already knew this. I just now, however, decided to write about this: Jókai utca to Jókai tér and Nagymező down farther being more than familiar to me on my late night excursions.
I find myself sitting street side at a cafe which I’ve been to before. The TV plays reruns of matches; I hate that, I always have, especially when the game was boring the first time round.
Cars pass up and down as do trolley buses. The tram runs to my back. I know it. I’ll not take it now. It’s the metro I’ll be needing in less than 5 minutes.
I finish my wine, a white – the only dry they had –, I peep over the shoulder of a man in front catching Zorba’s restaurant in my glance. Those are other stories.
This place, this cafe, has changed from what I knew. My favourite perch just inside the window, where I sat with Andi watching the snow, where I sat alone writing, has been altered. A low table, those knee high abominations, now sits in place of me. The chairs no doubt comfortable do little to lure me. I hate having to bend every time I want to take a drink. Abominations I tell you!!! The bar has also changed though admittedly moving the service entrance away from the front door is a good idea.
I scribble these last few words, pleased to have sat, and perhaps destined to have had the street experience. The rain threatens, the heat cools and I must run before I’m late. Good teaching!
*In all my time I’ve never noticed a name so the directions given here are the best clue to finding it that I can give.
This fits into the cosy bracket, perhaps a little too cosy. One could try swinging a cat in here but I’d recommend at least a kitten, and at that a Manx kitten!
Leading in the door one can avail of 3 tables along the wall, for two people really as three would block the passageway. Set high in the far left corner there’s a bench allowing customers the option to sit above the bar, it being at the lower rib level here, a clear view behind the bar and of the workings therein. Up the steps on your immediate left of entry sits another table barely managing to seat two but with stools provided nonetheless. This is a window seat extraordinaire allowing you the feel of the street from within relative comfort. Dob utca, being narrow, it amounts to an ambience rushing to the interior. Upstairs there is further seating but I didn’t dare, it seemed dark and lonely in those ascendant regions.
In truth I was first drawn to this place by a friend who, himself, has become somewhat of a regular, if not resident. Well known among the staff the banter among them flows allowing the place to grow in one’s heart even if the Manx kitten is still not getting much in return. To top it off the bar itself, provides fresh coffee – loyalty card included – and fresh croissants as well as a variety of other pastries and sandwiches. I know I’ll visit this place again and not just for the sit down stand-up comedian or the friendly staff. Those are just the bonuses one learns to take in one’s stride on the road to enlightenment.
Where there is Pest there is Buda and vice versa and well let me explain. Recently I posted an article and a bit on the Best Burger place near Nyugati and on my Facebook page even chose to tempt people into suggesting alternatives. I knew only this place and of course it was dear to my heart, not least because it opened up next to a bar I used to frequent.
Well since moving to Buda I have had my work cut out for me cos like many other things Pest v Buda related burger places too were not jumping out to greet me. I say this but you must take into account that having lived in the 6th district where every corner offers promise, from pubs to shops to bakeries to gyros places, I was feeling all at sea to begin with out in the 2nd. A nice area for a family but as a young father still struggling with the idea of that other life and a realisation that fatherhood is only a word not a sentence(!) I was in need of local entertainment of occasion, even if it was only to catch a Premiership game the odd weekend.
My exploration I must admit has been wavering, not on all cylinders as it once was. Maybe it can be accounted for by the lack of sleep or maybe it’s just because I don’t get the same thrills out of little pokey places as much as I used to. There was a period in my life when the dirtier the better was my basic selection criteria. I know that that flies in the face of quality at times but beer from a bottle tastes the same everywhere, even if the draught beer can have its inconveniences. Perhaps in this lies a clue because in recent times I’ve made the daring transition from beer to wine, half out of support for my girlfriend as she went about her paleolithic diet (my reasoning was that where others had to give up bread and potatoes and all things carbohydrate-y I would improvise in the alcohol department) and half out of a need to change some of my habits. I had become somewhat disconcerted by the continuous feeling of being bloated which is the drawback of any normal dietary intake coupled with beer, and given Hungarian portions this is multiplied.
But…what about a decent burger? I’m sure that in the wings there are people crying out (can you hear them?) that their restaurant has just that but I’m not looking for a fancy place to take the mother-in-law, to sit and peruse a menu, to order a bottle of wine! God no! That’s only Sundays and then only rarely! I’m looking for the basic fare but tasty. I’m talking speed but not overdone. I’m talking price and not losing quality. Could there be such a place?
A nice nook of a cafe, it has six tables with enough seating for a stretch to 16 maybe 18, with room for 2 more at the bar. In the fine weather it pushes out onto the street and this is possibly its greatest feature. You see the outdoor seating is arranged in the little garden-esque surrounds allowing one the hum of the street but the pleasantness of the shrubbery abounding. About halfway between Moszkva tér and Batthyány tér metro it is in a good location to walk to from either hub and with the castle district perched above it, stairways nearby leading that way, it could be the perfect reprieve, especially when slightly lost but still within striking dsitance of everything.
It’s pokey, especially in the winter, and there’s a tv in constant motion, and a radio playing but these are not the default methinks. The day or mood may lend to silence and blank tv screens.
It’s not to be recommended as a place to serve you off the beaten track, there are plenty more, but it is slightly. Nor is it for the hungry traveller or particularly for the peckish free hour wanderer but it is a place for pause when the opportunity presents itself and if you are someone who finds it difficult to like a place it’s probably not for you, but for everybody else, don’t despair if once you are presented with the choice. A quick coffee and a sample of the flavour is not such a bad thing.
Situated at a busy junction, yet separated from the main road by tramlines and a cycle/ footpath*, the Lipóti Pékség (bakery shop), at St John’s Hospital (Szent János Kórház) tram stop, now in its second year is the epitomy of success. Along with rivals Fornetti, they have been carving up the market share of late and while others like Princess still hold prominence at some metro locations one does have to wonder as to for how long more.
The small park adjoining this particular outlet makes it all the more alluring for the early morning commuter and whereas Hungarians are not as inclined as some other Europeans to the early morning coffee trade (many cafes in the centre don’t open till well after nine am), things are changing. A healthy flow of customers passes through here each morning but as to how many stay for a cup of Joe, I cannot say. Now when it comes to buying pastries and such Hungarians are no strangers. Some, in fact, may tell you that Hungarians don’t have the money for such luxuries a cup of coffee but that’s not about to stop their ‘pékség’ intake. Priorities is what it’s about really!
Sitting in the covered outside seating area provided, the flower pots almost encroaching in their splendor and proximity, if one could just for a moment filter out the noise and put their backs to the road, it may be a type of paradise. Perhaps I’m stretching it here but what with a tram-stop that caters for two tramlines, frequently running, and a bus stop with 3 to 4 buses stopping, dropping and picking up, it certainly is a place for the people watchers. As this is a day long process business is never too far off which is apparent by the selection of cakes and sundries now available that weren’t here last year.
It’s also perfectly located 3 stops from the busy hub that is Moszkva ter/ Széll Kálmán tér and on the 61 tram-line to the picturesque suburb of Hűvösvölgy, itself home to the lower terminus of the children’s railway, the upper station situated on the hills in Normafa boasting spectacular views of the city.
There is a hospital nearby, if that’s your thing, a supermarket, a couple of bars and a park. It is also quite near the cog-wheel train terminus so if its tourism Buda-side you’re after with a break between places you could do worse. The Lipóti Pékség is one of a chain so don’t expect anything different here, but for easy tastes and snacky urges, it serves its purpose well. The coffee on offer is better than any canteen crap but it probably won’t be found listed in this year’s Connoisseur Coffee Magazine
Now if you’re this side of the river to see the castle and you find yourself here you’ve gone too far but before you turn back take it from me…if you’re on holiday relax, the castle’s going nowhere…sit down, enjoy the sights and sounds and if you do decide to hurry back from whence you came why not take the park option, a pathway just off the 59 tram starting point leads under the cog-wheel rail tracks past a sports centre and school and returns you to Moszkva tér through the park.
Whatever you choose you’re never lost if you have a minute to sit down and get your bearings, and why not here!
On my partner’s (girlfriend’s*) insistence I have decided to sit down and write this. It’s merely a reminder as to the Best Burger review I did earlier.
The burger itself: The retro burger contains meat (no surprise there), buns which are larger than the usual with that certain sheen to the top bun which makes it all the more distinctive, and maybe even slightly rustic. Sour cabbage or a mix of cabbage and red pepper are also included. It is a messy affair which allows for plenty of finger licking, a habit which only serves to accentuate the pleasure! I am not, by all accounts, high on table etiquette in such cases, rather relishing the prospect of getting down and dirty.
In truth I don’t remember all that was inside but I do recall it being top notch burger-isation (ref: The Best in the West).
For a more comprehensive list of ingredients I would advise a trip to the Best Burger or try on-line for recipes to play around with at home. Below’s just a sample.
There is burger joint on the steps that lead down from Nyugati Square, Skala side, to the underpass. You are by all accounts required to ignore the temptation of a homogenised Subway (brand placement nonetheless) and move one flight farther down to the Best Burger. It’s a Gyors Étterem, not to be mistaken for Győror Gyros as once I did! Let’s be honest. I may again depending on my mental state.
Well to cut a short story long in my earlier days here in Budapest this landing, if this is what one would call it, was home, and still is, to a small bar. In the winter you sat inside and suffocated in the fumes of blazing cigarettes. The only way to counter it was to add your own to the equation, and certainly when strapped for cash a cheap beer and a dirty rollie coupled with the ci-mog, while rarely fulfilling the former at least allowed for higher levels of nicotine to pass into your body. Nowadays with the smoking ban all that fun’s gone but it does lend to a smell of freshness rarely before encountered. This holds especially true when considering to venture a lunchtime beer where before one would have come away smelling like an ashtray.
Concerning burgers, that’s next door and while being introduced earlier in this piece, chronologically it was a later addition to the steps, and most welcome. Sitting with a beer and a ravenous ensuing, one was now offered choice, real choice. A retro burger from the Best Burger at Nyugati does not taste like one in Beijing, Tokyo, Vladivostok or even Cork (where’s that?)! It’s home grown, Magyar Termék maybe, at least in concept and composition and it’s a taste sensation. To put it mildly it’s delicious and not just for those post beer experiences, or other munchie inducing activities. You see, if like me, you get the notion to have a burger, perhaps influenced by a billboard, but not yet ready to compromise your dignity to yellow arches and royalty ( inebriation and geographical disadvantage excepted), then this is the place to be.
It shares its terrace with the bar next door so if the mood prevails one can have the best of both worlds. Shoppers weary of the load they are lugging may find time for respite from the chore, the drudgery, of being dragged around to look at every handbag, gladrag and high-heel. Those whom the heat has oppressed may fall to countering it in a two tier motion, lending hand to energy inducing feeding while at the same time thirst quenching. And if you find yourself inclined to vegetarianism and teetotalling there is still room for a veggie burger and soft drinks. This place, but dare I say places, lends to the all-inclusive, not the exclusive. Give it a try. Don’t be shy
A return to the same establishment with a full family in tow conveyed to us a different picture of the whole affair. While service was still splendid the speed with which the dishes arrived to our table had slowed considerably and, whereas that can be understandable with a big group, a kitchen needs to be prepared. However, drinks to hand the waiting was made tolerable. The biggest fault this times was that the potatoes, chips (french fries) served with the meal were slightly singed and while we hungrily ate the lot it was still something of a disappointment after our previous visits. Perhaps the pressure had been too much and, well, if it had then it’s not up to the customer to pay the price!
Situated in the 12th District of Budapest Brownie’s is one of those suburban gems. If you don’t know the area you may never stumble across it but if you have the lust for life (or just the mere curiosity to see around the next corner) you could do a lot worse than find yourself holed up in here on a cold winter’s evening. With its modern furnishings tastefully done, and with a clever use of space, it has all the provisions for that home away from home. It is cosy, snug…etc.
Seating is arranged in the interior in two sections, with the larger of the two areas ideal for those long table affairs so bring along the pals and have a proper knees up. However, if a more intimate evening is required you could do well to perch yourself at the tables just inside the door. Somehow with the bar facing and a pillar marking the entrance to the other section, it removes you slightly and offers a sense of privacy, that is if the traffic in the door and to the toilet aren’t overwhelming.
There is also outside seating on offer when the weather starts to pick up and knowing Hungarians is to understand that though a place may be quiet during the winter months, a seat outside and a hint of sunshine brings them crawling from the woodwork in search of La Dolce Vita. The warmer weather brings with it the barbecue season and on the decking outside amid a tumble of benches a space is set aside to start the juices flowing. So be prepared. You may arrive for a drink and end up homeward bound with a bellyful, and not just alcohol.
Lest it be said that this is it, the end, the whole deal, a full menu is on offer at anytime from the kitchen and is marked by weekly,and seasonal offers. There is a basic set of dishes too which include such appetisers as breaded mushroom stuffed with ewe-cheese, a cheese, fruit and nut plate, aubergine cream with toast (quite popular hereabouts in the starter menus so try it everywhere you go just as a comparitive adventure!!!) and so on. Traditional meat dishes are catered for in the main courses with a particular roasted piglet, cabbage and potato dish served up especially for New Year’s Eve. Pizza and pasta is also on offer and a selection of tasty desserts. Drinks are in a variety of qualities, house wines as well as those more upmarket. Beers are within range with a local on offer that won’t break the bank.
Overall the prices are more than competitive and one gets the feeling that the owner has set out to truly put the customer first in his endeavours to keep such a selection, and quality, within such a reasonable price range. Or maybe it’s because the owner himself is also the one that ensures that your experience is pleasant by overseeing everything personally from the floor, waiting on you and offering suggestions as he deems fit. If the latter allows for the former so be it.
Concerning families, there is a child tolerant atmosphere with even a small table set aside for the kids but a nappy changing area is lacking so if not deterred be prepared to use your ingenuity. It will not be frowned upon to change a nappy as long as there is an alternative to be discreet, i.e. not on top of the bar or next to other customers who have just been served their food while baby has just served up their own type delicacy!!!
In all a place worth revisiting and where good service and quality come naturally.
In a nice location, just below the castle and just up from Moszkva tér/ Széll Kálmán tér (!) Ostram bar is underground and, while furnished in a modern sense, it still holds enough not to be too obscene or tacky. With two big screens on the wall facing as you enter it is all set up for those Saturday afternoon football affairs. Beer is reasonably priced and even the better quality wines won’t break the bank. The house wine for that matter is very palatable, at least for the less discerning taste buds and lest I be the snob I’ll give the ‘folyo’ the thumbs up. Well lit it lends to a relaxed atmosphere but with a sound system that boasts potential (it’s down low now and the rumbling base resonantes soul deep, the hungry beast beneath) this place could get very loud, and very club, later on.
Nibbling on nuts I’m reminded that here in Hungary it isn’t the custom to serve snacks with drinks, unless requested, and so these little touches are warming the cockles of my heart. WIFI is also available so for those with needs not directly drink related there’s still the excuse to combine the two. And if peanuts aren’t your thing, check out the sandwich selection on offer. Basic, but just what the doctor ordered.
Overall: Like a good mojito I’d call this place refreshing!
Near the corner of Nagymező and Ó utca there is a little poke of a place, Saloon Pub, by name. It’s lit up well and as the name suggests it’s done in the Cowboy/Wild West style. The painted wood finish, in plaster, allows for the idea tha someone made use of their artistic skills while at the same time remaining shrewd concerning real wood furnishings. With seats enough for twenty and still floor space left over between door and bar and toilet, it certainly is a good use of space. The T.V. stuck up on high to the right as you enter through the almost non-door, is a prerequisite in bars of its kind. A step above the typical cellar kocsma, it perhaps is merely a ground version with pretentions. The drinks on offer are basic, the selection of wine being ‘kimért’, while the beers include among them nothing Hungarian. A shame by any standard, it perhaps is indicative of the Hungarian mentality of selling themsleves short, seeing everything foreign, at least in the beer sense, as better. Pitching oneself against the Czechs and Belgians, one would favour the foreigners but with the Danish and the Dutch, especially popular, brands there’s hope on the homefront. Ah, but try telling that to the nouveau-riche, aka új gazdag!!!
While cider may warrant a mention it’s merely to suggest that, in a town that has, until a few years ago no idea what the apple brew was, it is available!
Pálinka has a seperate section on the price list and well may it while other Hungaricums, including Unicum and Vilmos, also make an appearance. With wines and spirits Hungarian pride is much more prominent to the point of arrogant. That’s another story!
The parketta floor completes the wood feel and overall it’s a place to visit for a quiet one mid afternoon or for a few with the lads before moving on. Again be warned. I’ve found this place near tea-time on Thursday and it’s quite probable that later on it takes on the life of a bar so centrally located should, so it is wise to arrive on time for a seat cos sensibly in most places, Hungarians prefer to sit and chat rather than stand and be jostled. That is until club time, then all decorum is lost. Enjoy.
In Óvár, there is a cafe, or perhaps more a Kávéház, with Cukrászda intentions. For a facade with such pretentions the interior is no less obnoxious. It is of the old cafe style, I fear, less frequented by my ancestors who took more to dingy dark damp holes, the Irish way.
The greeting I received was in Hungarian but the question as to the way I wanted my Cappucino was definitely German, which I found a shame, though judging by the other clientele and the Auf Wiedersehens flying, it could be forgiven. The default setting in these parts is heavily leaning towards Deutsch.
Nicely situated and, apart from the German flittering, which was only frustrating for a student of the Hungarian language anyway, a pleasant staff all round. Although, and this is perhaps only because of the day that’s in it, the confectionery selection for a house of such elegance falls short of a real range, the few token familiars sparse on the refrigerator shelves. Perhaps as I’ve said, tis but the day that’s in it or maybe, and let not my bias be ignored, a suti to my liking wasn’t on offer – I couldn’t, therefore, see the woods for the want of a Francia Krémes! On a final note and revisiting the location element, with seats sitting out on the Lajta, canalesque, bank this is certainly a place worth whiling away a lazy morning or hot summer’s day. As of yet I haven’t paid the bill: note, just a cappucino with cream, but if the other clientele are anything to go by this will be more in the American chain price bracket than the cellar Kocsma kind.
We’ll see, but in truth maybe you should see for yourself!!!
Epilogue: At 390 huf it was standard price and I may be forgiven for thinking that being plush equates to being pricey. In Budapest, yes…but not here seemingly.
At half past 3 in the afternoon it could be expected to be quiet, and with the wear and tear in the toilets, cigarette burns all over the flush tank, one imagines busier times outside of Wednesday afternoon in early Spring.
The look of the bar is good though the Michael Jackson image is perhaps a little too tacky. On entering, at least you get the feel that they’re trying to be consistent, in a pop thing. Or rock I hear me say. Bono looking down at me through those post Fly sunglasses, the ones where you can see his eyes again. Ye Gods! Does he dare to judge me? Like I would this bar, I guess.
There is a menu on offer, cheap as chips and no wonder. Their only hope is that some straggler will find his way out here. On that count I’m more a drinker, and a kind soul by the name of Gabriella, has just fed me. The fare here is the usual, eg vegetable soup followed by some rice and meat dish; the proper name Bácskai Rizseshús, I can’t fully figure out. It is simple, it is filling, it is cheap but… Location, Location, Location!
No doubt, come evening time and a place closer to home this could be all about drinking, or even eating out, but methinks, the day time is the centre’s time to shine.
On look, again, I’ll say the rock/pop affects lie at head height, with wooden carvings of microphones, Jacko’s hat, stars, and a real guitar, strings attached, interspersed between pictures of the hip and famous. Just now I catch a glimpse of a grinning Ray Charles over my left shoulder, the sunshine barging in the bay windows off to the left and back of the bar, illuminating his dental work even further. Even death cannot keep a good man down. The great on the other hand never do die. As if inspired I twirl to face Elvis, a young Elvis, a short-haired, handsome Elvis, the King in his prime.
From the hall entrance the bar splits right and left into two arms reaching back parallel to the front door, the windows on either side and the ones back at this corner ensuring that even with the deep green upholstery and dark varnished furniture, there’s enough light to keep it moody without being depressing. The cream-white walls, peeping out from behind high seat backs and wall hangings, means that even on a dull day the colour of sunshine will remain resplendent. Like Elvis!
Szép Ilona Kisvendéglő, situated in the leafy suburb that is the second district of Budapest, has a lot to offer and if you’re willing to make the slight hike from the city centre it will certainly be worth it.
From outward appearances it has all the ingredients of something quite swanky and on entering the relative formality is abundant. The waiting staff are done up to the nines, well comparitively, and everything seems to have its place. But rather than let that become over-bearing a simple glance at the menu will afford you a chance to exhale again. While wines may push things up into the priceier range, for a restaurant, but not a kocsma, it can be assumed to be reasonable. Starters, mains and desserts all serve to leave you feeling loose, perhaps even venturing an after dinner digestif, or coffee, safe in the knowledge that there’s still enough money in the bank to afford a few pints, or what not, a little later on.
What was sampled:
An aubergine cream starter with a hint of ginger (perhaps only the minutest of hints or maybe just my palate is shot) seved with toast. A tasty beginning but could be enough for two unless you’re really really hungry.
A salmon salad with strips of salmon in breadcrumb with a smattering of the usual suspects, cucumber, tomato and yellow pepper. A mayonaise-ish sauce deemed quite watery by my companion, though such anonymity will probably get me hung later.
Quilted leg of venison with forest fruit sauce and potato donuts was how it was described on the menu and smothered is how I would have described it. Couldn’t see the food for the sauce spoiling any hope of tasting a simple mouthful unadorned, which was a shame because it was temptingly tender.
The desserts were without flaw, a chestnut purée with a kick of rum, and a somloi galushka, described as a Hungarian Sponge Cake (http://hungarianfoodrecipes.blogspot.com/2011/12/somloi-galuska-egyszeruen-hungarian.html), the twange of orange zest rendering any protests prior null and void.
The wine was a red, Imre Herceg Bora Kékfrankos, and I’ll leave that to the wine experts to consider. As the cheap choice it still wasn’t free and this accounts for my previous reference to the wine prices.
Overall a pleasant experience and accommodating waiters who did a professional job to the end. Even my smattering of Hungarian was taken on board with aplomb, a lesson some of the more touristy establishments downtown could do with learning. Nagyon szépen köszönöm