Eating out in Budapest
Innovation has been taking place at both ends of the culinary scale, on the one hand street food eateries are taking over the city, on the other haute cuisine has been making significant gains. Bistro has become the word on everybody's lips with diners looking for fine dining but in a relaxed setting where no one has to stand on ceremony. This trend is reflected by the fact that after Costes and Onyx, in 2014 Borkonyha was the third restaurant to receive the highly-coveted Michelin star.
Borkonyha combines the relaxed atmosphere of a French bistro with traditionally inspired dishes done to perfection. Zona puts an Asian twist on Hungarian cuisine and the modern interior design has been chosen as one of the most beautiful in the world by Night Fever magazine. Mák Bistro, following the French idea of "bistrot gastronomique" wants to make fine dining available to a wider audience. És Bisztró in Kempinski Hotel Corvinus reinterprets the favourite dishes of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy to suit contemporary tastes in a design-driven interior. Terminál Restaurant & Bar is in the iconic building on Erzsébet Square that served as a bus terminus for decades, the menu is a happy fusion of classic Hungarian and modern bistro cuisine. Menza embraced a retro aesthetic but it's uncompromisingly contemporary when it comes to food and service. In Buda, the 21 Hungarian Kitchen dusts off grandma's recipes and serves them up in 21st century style and the unpretentious Csalogány 26 is one of the best restaurants in the country.
One should never discount the grand old institutions; they have been around for over a hundred years for a reason. They are still serving typical dishes in huge portions, in a traditional setting, often accompanied by Gypsy music. Traditional Hungarian cuisine, like many national cuisines is based on using simple ingredients used in inventive ways. It varies from region to region but all tend to be quite rich . Meats feature prominently on the Hungarian menu, particularly pork and poultry, but also game, lamb, beef and fresh water fish also make an appearance. The most famous dishes include Goulash and the closely-related Pörkölt, both variations on stew, fish soup and Chicken Paprikás.
Jewish-style cuisine is enjoying a revival with Macesz Huszár and Kőleves, and the Rosenstein family restaurant is definitely worth seeking out. Meat lovers will always be happy in Budapest, with dedicated steak houses KNRDY, Prime Steak House and Pampas Steakhouse catering to carnivores, and burger enthusiasts have to try Baltazár Grill in Buda. The culinary palette of Budapest has significantly expanded geographically as well in recent years, which is most evident in street food, but there are some fine dining restaurants on the list too. Nobu Budapest is a member of the worldwide dining empire and adds Hungarian touches to the Japanese fusion Nobu-style. Wang Mester has been Budapest's best Chinese restaurant for years, and the master finally opened Mandarin Bistro, a fine dining restaurant downtown. Arany Kaviár has been representing traditional Russian cuisine for over twenty years and the romantic restaurant counted among the best of the best for almost as long. Italian cuisine has always had a strong presence in Budapest, and Trattoria Pomo D'Oro and Trattoria Toscana are its best ambassadors. For Indian, Indigo is the number one choice with a chic interior and authentic dishes.
Perhaps the most significant new trend is the blurring of lines between dining and entertainment with bars serving food and restaurants functioning as wine bars in the evening. You will find the most popular and cutting edge gastro-bars around downtown Pest's Gozsdu Courtyard and St Stephen's Basilica, including Spíler, Kiosk, Kolor, Zazzi Bubbles & Bar, DiVino…the list is ever expanding and potentially endless.