Although it may not be considered a modern city by European standards, Budapest is currently in the midst of a renaissance of sorts when it comes to food and drink. With some incredibly bold and innovative restaurants and bars continuing to push their own boundaries, Hungary’s capital is primed to start making serious waves, not just in Hungarian cuisine but also on a global gastronomic level.
Once settled in a new city, the first item on my agenda is always to sniff out some good quality coffee, preferably from a local roastery that I have yet to try. One such place to satisfy my need in Budapest is called Coffee Market.
Dishing up simple egg dishes as well tasty sandwich options to accompany a cup of coffee from local roasters Racer Beans Coffee Company, you could do a lot worse than making this your first port of call before setting out to explore what this old city has to offer.
Located in the Jewish quarter of the city, Kohnya Food & Friends is a bustling and lively eatery that attracts a young and trendy clientele. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner this is a spot that can be visited at any time of day but works particularly well for lunch. Wholesome, hearty food is the flavour of the day. With dishes of pork knuckles or beef cheek being presented cleanly and simply all within a warm friendly atmosphere.
It would be impossible to visit this historic city with all its palaces and churches without traipsing along the banks of its symbolic river, the Danube. If you are looking to enjoy a meal while taking in the riverside views, Spoon Restaurant if the perfect place for a lunch or early dinner. Floating on the Danube, the restaurant aboard this boat. With exceptional service paired with a stunning setting, Spoon is perfect spot for a relaxing meal after a day climbing the overlooking hills of Buda.
If you prefer your food on the go, there are various street-side vendors and market places selling flame grilled sausages or traditional Hungarian tunnel cakes as well as dozens of fantastic hummus cafes scattered across both sides of the city.
A destination dining experience for any visiting foodies has to be the Michelin recommended Mak Bistro. The concept of head chef, Janos Mizsei (24), who has won much acclaim already in his short career (including Best Young Chef of Hungary 2014), is to provide diners with ‘state-of-the-art gastronomy’ in a relaxed and unpretentious environment. The menu is innovative, world-class and exciting. Plus, with recent Hollywood diners such as Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling, this is a must visit!
Moving further into downtown Budapest, a relatively new but equally recognized member of the city’s culinary creatives, opening their doors in 2015, is Monk’s Bistrot. Diners can choose from intimate seating in the sleekly designed dining room, to an eagle-eye view at the chef’s table. On sunnier days the back terrace provides a gorgeous setting overlooking the gardens of a neighboring church as well as the rolling hills of Buda on the far side of the Danube. The inclusion of light and creative dishes such as Foie Gras with Brioche and Raspberry, Scallops with Lentils, Carrot and coriander’ or a stunning Lavender Mille-Feuille’ all at an exceedingly fair price, make this the ideal venue for dinner or lunch.
Crossing the Danube, the ancient divide within the city is clear as the old-town vibe of Pest gives way to the sprawling affluence of Buda. With Grand hotels and even grander palaces, 21 Magyar can be found in Buda Castle itself.
Boasting ‘Hungarian cuisine as it used to be in the “good old days”, updated to the 21st century’ this bistro style restaurant may be the best place in the city to get a taste of what the tradition of Hungarian cuisine is all about.
For all the walking there is to do, the best way to get a glimpse of everything this city has to offer is to take a cruise down the Danube at night, with all the palaces, churches and bridges lit up. There are a number of dinner cruises available each night with a variety of onboard entertainment to choose from.
With the craft beer revolution still in full swing across Europe, Budapest is no exception. In fact, one could argue that the Hungarian craft beer scene is one of the most promising and exciting across the entire continent. With Horizon T winning the AllTech brewers cup in the Dublin Convention Centre in 2017 and scores of innovative new brewers honing their skills across the country, the Hungarian appetite for culinary excellence also extends to their beer culture.
One superb bar for you to sample some of the finest Hungarian ales is Jonas Craft Beer House. Centrally located on the Danube promenade this dog-friendly bar has a balcony with one of the best views in the city. The perfect place to sit and enjoy some refreshments on a sunny day. If beer isn’t your thing, they also offer a large selection of locally made pálinka, a traditional fruit brandy drink that is endemic of the country.
On the weekend, the place to be for both tourist and locals alike is the string of small ruin pubs located once again in the city’s Jewish quarter. This small alleyway is home to dozens of individual tiny pubs and bars, each one as small and unique as the last. Decked out in bric-a-brac and secondhand furniture these previously abandoned buildings are now buzzing with atmosphere reminiscent of Temple Bar on a Saturday but with its own kitsch style.
However, if rowdy crowds are to be avoided in favour of something a little more refined, Bar Pharma is the perfect choice.
A small and crisply modern setting, the cocktails being created here are on par with anywhere else in the world. With world-class demonstrations of mixology on display each night, this place has become popular among both locals and visitors alike. Try to arrive early in the evening to ensure a bar side seat to watch the magic at work.
Having previously devoted every ounce of his spare time to music, Tony is more commonly found these days in a kitchen than on a stage. With experience in writing on festivals and shows around the country he has recently turned his pen to more culinary exposés. With a particular penchant for craft beer he can often be spotted travelling from one bar to another in search of the latest brew to hit the market.