For those who love delicious, yet inexpensive food, the Hungarian capital definitely has something to offer. Also, the choice is very diverse from the Italian all the way to Indian cuisine. Also, a must try of course, the Hungarian one.
The bus rolled down to the Budapest main bus station Nepliget. Upon arrival, I went down to the interior of the metro station and the first scene that I saw was the “living room” of a dozen homeless people who slept on shabby mattresses hiding from the cold. On the way I met a man who is of Croatian origin and for twelve years is living on the route Zadar – Budapest. In Zadar he goes to work, and in Budapest he has a wife and family. “Budapest is beautiful and I think you’ll like it,” he tells me, “For ten years I lived in New York and I can tell you that I don’t miss the rush hours. Here is all more or less leisurely “.
My Budapest host, Anne from Germany, volunteers as a teacher of German language in Budapest. After she had met me at the metro station she and her friend Aliena took me to Szimpla Kert , the number one night-life place in Budapest. In 2002 the old factory was turned into a ruin pub and now serves as a central place for a good fun with a pub, theatre, street food diner and a stage for live music. Entrance is free of charge and the staff will check you out if you have something that is not allowed to bring in, like plastic bottles or something. Of draft beer offer they have their own lager Szimpla (0.3 l for 1,2 €, while the 0.5 liter is 1,9 €), dark Lasko, Pilsner Urquell and only craft beer I’ve noticed: Schneider Weisse. Although it was Sunday, the place was full of people. Sober, half-drunk, drunk, tourists, locals, just a diverse team. It is interesting and special place.
Opening hours of the majority Budapest restaurants is similar to the one in Bratislava, as well as many open their doors from 12 to 13 h, while pubs (at least those who I was interested in ) are starting to work from 15 h. On the first day I got up very early (when you’re on vacation this means around 9 am) Anne had to go to work and I went for the sightseeing.
For breakfast I have chosen the Italian restaurant Akademia Italia , which is located next to the Basilica of St. Stephen and is opened from the early morning. It is conceived as a concept of three in one: an Italian restaurant, pastry shop and culinary school. The interior is decorated in Italian style with two “transparent glass kitchens” that are used for preparing meals, one part for sweets and coffee. There are also a large “papyrus rolles” on the walls and on which are printed recipes of traditional Italian specialities. Also they have their own “mini market” where you can buy cold meats, cheeses, wines … As expected, the food offer is made up of typical Italian dishes: pizza, pasta, bruschetta, risotto and many others.
On the outside terrace with a view of the Basilica I have ordered a coffee and breakfast consisting of eggs and bacon, cherry tomatoes with basil, toast and butter. Quite tasty, although the eggs were perhaps a bit of unsalted , but here is crispy bacon for the balance. Toast was perfectly fried, crisp and in combination with delicious butter made up a really fine meal to start the day. Price of the entire breakfast and coffee was 2000 HUF (approx. 5,80 €). You can pay by cash or card.
Historical conditions have left their mark on Hungarian cuisine . Nomadic traditions with meat dishes (especially those of pork and beef) that were prepared over a fire, like stew and fish stew are today very known Hungarian specialities. In the 15th century women of Matthias Corvinus contributed to the development of cuisine with variety of spices, especially onions and garlic. Also during the Ottoman Empire, the Turks brought dishes like cabbage rolls, stuffed peppers, and many desserts.
Of course, for my stay in Budapest, I had to try one of my particularly loved dish: goulash, and as I had heard, a good stew offers KonvyBar & Restaurant located in the Jewish quarter and looks like a library that was adapted for the needs of the restaurant. The menu is every two weeks inspired by one of the many books from the shelves, so the chosen one on the time of my visit was the work of Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita . The restaurant is not very large, it accepts about forty guests and has professional and friendly staff and all in all offers one interesting concept of restaurant and bar.
Excellent stew that I had a chance to try was not overly spicy (for those who like spicy, stew comes with serving of a quite hot pepper on the side) with soft pieces of meat, carrots and potatoes. Very good and tasty. Working time is from 12 to 24 hours, and the accept cash and cards. Stew price is 1390 ft (approx. 4 €) which is more than cheap.
Lehuto , which is also situated in the Jewish quarter, is primarily a pub with craft beer, but also has its own kitchen which offer mainly consists of hamburgers, burritos, sous vide dishes and hot sandwiches. Specifically, two vegetarian sandwiches (with aubergines and cheese or other variant with vegetables and cheese) and one aimed for us normal people (meat and cheese). The price is quite affordable, 690 FT, which is about 2 € and the sandwich was surprisingly tasty, although I had to wait for it about 30 minutes, so I already thought they had forgotten about me and my order. Just when I was thinking to ask the waiter for my meal, he told me that sandwich will come in a minute. “I saw the chef preparing it” he said.
The base of the sandwich is made with bread ( obviously ) and the filling consists of meat (not cheap salami), tomato sauce and cheese. Great for snacking with beer. Maybe it’s a little hard to eat it with your hands, because it is quite large, and you don’t get the fork and knife with it, but you will find your way to eat it when you are hungry.
Bors Gasztrobar is street food place in the true sense of the word. Very small place, which is almost always full. Surely you will not miss it, because from it almost always rises queue of people on the side walk, and sometimes even on the road that is ahead of him. Here you can meet tourists, business people in suits, the alternatives, hipsters, however almost all kind of people. The biggest hit is their soups, ranging from sweet to spicy and, as I had the opportunity to see, they are selling like crazy. The process of ordering is simple. On the surrounding walls is written the food offer, and when it’s your turn to order, you say what you want to eat, they ask you for a recognizable name, nickname or anything by which they will remember your chosen dish and literally shout that word when the order is ready, so you know when to pick it up. My choice was Bors Dog. Instead of hot dog, you get spicy, very tasty, thin meaty sausage, which is located in a crispy bun with sauce, onions and melted cheese, and of which you can let the saliva leak in whatever direction it wants. Excellent. The price I have forgotten. Sorry.
Budapest market is something that every food lover should visit. CNN had in 2013 declared it the best market in Europe . Although is almost always fairly crowded, there you can find almost anything you want from a large variety of fruits and vegetables, food and wine to the Hungarian porn movies. Just kidding I did not see that. At the top are the restaurants and fast foods. One of the most famous is Fakanal Etterem that nurtures traditional Hungarian style. From meals, which are slightly more expensive to the interior and the Gypsy playing for people at the table. It’s almost always full, mostly with tourists and the whole concept of tourists – Gypsy player at the table is not what is my favourite restaurant concept. And so like Anthony Bourdain says : ‘Do not eat like a tourist. That’s not the type of knowledge you want. “
The surrounding streets offer a slightly different picture of the restaurants, so I decided to lunch at a nearby Borbirosag . How they for themselves stand out: “WE ARE SAID TO BE STRONG IN DUCK. And we do not protest. “Also, I would add that they are strong in wine also and for that they do not need to protest. Almost more than 100 types of wines offered on the glass, bottle or even for sale. Very transparent and nice wine list , on which you can see the regions of the wines that they have in the restaurant. The modern and stylish interior, where I especially liked the wine gallery in the lower part of the restaurant, as well as excellent integrated cork wine plugs located at the bottom of the stairs.
Outside, the rain just started, the temperature was falling and I needed something to warm up, so my choice was duck soup with coriander and fried julienne vegetables. Aromatic, rich in content, slightly salty and very tasty. Excellent. For the main course I chose a great steak of duck breast, which had a nice crispy crust, while the inside was medium-rare roasted. Although for me it lacked a little salinity and spices, to be precise it had a lot of neutral flavour, but it was fine and filling meal. Lunch that included soup, 0,3 l draft beer and a steak of duck breast with a side dish of salad with citrus, rhubarb and salty bites cost me 4590 FT, which is approx. 13 €. For this meal more than acceptably.
For the last night of my stay in Budapest my host Anne and her friend Frederic decided to take me for the dinner at Hummus Bar which is actually a franchise diner that has an emphasis on dishes made from this Arab specialitie. Quite a modern, spacious and neat interior. The most interesting thing that I noticed on the wall was written in the so-called hummusology . Perhaps one of the best writing for me was the one about eating with your hands: “This is the way the kids like to eat, so keep yourself young.” My choice was the Shawarma, a dish consisting of roasted soft parts of chicken , which is seasoned with some secret spices and also is the “top seller” and “must try” in this Hummus bar. As a side dish comes vegetables like seasoned bits of carrot, and “julienne” cut carrots, tomatoes, pickles and fresh cucumber, cabbage, and of course humus. Also you get the “pita bread”. I expected chicken to be the bomb of various flavours, but this is not the case. Far from it was not tasty, and spices were balanced so that they do not “stick out”, so you need not to worry about extreme taste in the mouth. Hummus and vegetables are also a good fit with the chicken, and I especially liked the combination of pita bread and hummus.
And for the leaving of Budapest, of course another breakfast at Akademia Italia. Delicious Foccacia prosciutto, rocket and mozzarella.
And at the and, big thanks to Anne for hosting me and Frederic for the good times.
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