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Need Upscale Dinner Recommendations for Budapest

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My husband and I will be staying at the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace for 4 nights. We need restaurant recommendations for very special, memorable dinners. We are looking for great food, a gourmet experience, fabulous service and beautiful ambience. Thus far, we are considering Vadrozsa and possibly Fausto's and Onyx, and of course, Gresham Restaurant at our hotel. Please comment on each of these, and please recommend others that you think we should not miss. When making your recommendations, however, please keep in mind that we are American and are seeking straightforward, not too exotic, ingredients and preparations.

Thanks for the help!

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  1. It's a tad hard to understand what exactly you are looking fo (not sure how to juxtapose "gourmet experience, fabulous service and beautiful ambience" with "please keep in mind that we are American and are seeking straightforward, not too exotic, ingredients and preparations" and neither of these suggest that wer aren on the same page really when it comes to assessing restaurants). But among those listed, Vadrozsa is not a serious restaurant to the best of my knowledge. Basically appears to exist exclusively as a tourist magnet, and not an especially successful one at that.

    Fausto's is exquisite Italian food, exquisitely served. The street is humdrum and the restaurant a bit difficult to find. On a 4 night trip to Budapest, unless there is something particularly appealing about having a marvelous Italian meal served by people with Hungarian accents and perhaps surrounded by other diners who either are or seek to emulate upscale members of the Sopranos cast, it would not be high on my list. Or if it were, it would appear behind Nobu, which indeed serves quite marvelous Japanese food in a rather more welcoming setting.

    Onyx is a serious place with serious food and an earnest chef who is extremely devoted to what she does. It has taken the trouble to try to fit the Michelin-star mold of service, and by and large succeeds (and indeed recently got a Michelin star), but to my tastes the service is simultaneously a bit rough around the edges (I found my glass empty more often than I would have liked when I was there last) and too intrusive (I am not a fan of food as a performance art, and I fgound our conversation intruded upon too often to be told about the dishes we were being served by servers who were not able to answer questions that went beyond the descriptions they had memorized). But the food is wonderful and creative. Which puts it in a category that includes quite a growing number of Budapest restaurants, such as Costes and Babel.

    The Gresham's bakery does a lovely job on breakfast and on pastries (the former quite rare in Budapest, the latter ubiquitous). I am very fond of the work of its Executive Chef, who is, I believe, Tuscan, and who seems to be committed to extremely high quality ingredients presented in consistently high quality classic preparations with modest personal spins. It is a throwback to a time when 5-star hotel restaurants focused on excellence and consistency, before the recent years in which food has become a destination and hotels have housed daring restaurants that draw custom in their own right. You will enjoy it, as well as its incomparable view.

    But thus far you are missing out on anyplace that has a real sense of the city or its emerging cuisine (there really is no place devoted to its classic cuisine in a credible way, though I have not been to Gundel since it changed ownership).

    For a feel of the city and a meal that immerses you in its spirit and its food (not the gypsy violin spirit or the chicken paprikas parody food, but the spirit of welcome and of cafe culture and the food prepared by a very talented person who understands that food is about enjoying what one eats and restaurants are about enjoying a meal, not just the food), I always gravitate to the Cafe Bouchon. Places that offer really interesting modern takes on Hungarian-inspired food include Bock Bisztro, Borsso, Csalogany 26, Borkonyha.

    For a wonderful bowl of gulas soup, the Castro Bisztro remains about as good as it gets.

    6 Replies
    1. re: farago

      Thank you for your very complete reply. It's just packed with great information and suggestions. In particular, I'm very intrigued by Cafe Bouchon. We definitely are interested in experiencing both the spirit, culture and food of Budapest!

      Forgive my ignorance as I am just beginning my research, but could you please describe gulas soup for me? We are huge soup lovers -- in fact, I'm preparing Hungarian Mushroom Soup for our dinner tonight! Also, if there are other exemplary Hungarian dishes that we dare not miss, please tell me what they are with a brief description. We are very excited about our visit to Budapest not just for the beauty, history, culture and food of Hungary, but also because my father-in-law's ancestors are from Hungary. I expect our visit to be very, very special.

      Thanks for your help. It's most appreciated.

      1. re: MalibuCA

        You know it as "goulash." Basically what most people consider to be goulash (including Austrians and Czechs) is not quite the same as original Hungarian goulash. Hungarian goulash is a soup. What most of the rest of us think of as goulash (a thick stew) is called porkolt in Hungary.

        Also, there's no tomato in Hungarian goulash. The red color comes entirely from paprika.

        1. re: kukubura

          Thanks for your reply. I'm a little confused, however. I get that it's a soup, but is it made with meat? potatoes? Paprika, of course, but what else is in the preparation?

          Thanks for helping me figure this all out.

          1. re: MalibuCA

            http://tastytrix.blogspot.com/2011/03...

            1. re: kukubura

              Thanks. It looks yummy! I'm going to try the recipe at home!

              1. re: MalibuCA

                Did you ever try this recipe? Wondering what you thought. I guess your trip is still a way off. You know after all this build up you're going to have to provide a VERY detailed trip report! ;)

    2. - Don't miss Mák bistro for a quick lunch, it is just 100 m from the hotel. Vibrant, creative food; rather lazy than very elegant place.
      - Onyx is OK (you can get good pastries or a coffee in the same famous building of Gerbeaud)
      - the other Michelin starred place, Costes is also very good. They have a good, very usable lunch menu as well, if you are seeing the city, ie. the main city market in the neighbourhood, supposedly you don't need a reservation for an excellent lunch.
      - goulash I prepare for myself :), but generally for modernized Hungarian food (or also for a real beef burger :) ) you could go to Bock Bistro (keep in mind, foie gras and Hungarian wool pork are heavy also in a modern form, don't have a very rich breakfast that day :) ) if you like soup, Hungarian fish soup or bean soup are also good choices
      - as a similar place, people also recommend Borkonyha

      1. We are in Budapest right now; the best Italian meal of our lives was at Pomodoro on the street Any Janos near the Danube north of the Marriott Hotel on the Pest side. You may think it is strange to eat Italian food in Budapest, but we have had good meals in any number of excellent restaurants here, and Pomodoro is the only place we must eat again before we leave Budapest on Monday. It is definitely upscale; and reservations are necessary. Have fun.

        1 Reply
        1. re: writerobin

          Thank you for your reply. That is so nice of you to take time from your exciting vacation to reply to my inquiry! I will definitely check Pomodoro. I do not think it strange at all to eat Italian in Budapest. We love good Italian, and I don't think it matters where in the world you are if you can find an "over the top" Italian restaurant, which sounds like you have found. Besides, as much as we want to sample Hungarian food, it is nice to experience a variety of menus. Thanks again so much, and have a great time in Budapest. I can't wait until we get there. Are you visiting any other cities where you have found exceptional restaurants that you would like to recommend? We are also traveling to Paris, Prague and Vienna as well as Budapest.

        2. Not trying to hijack the thread, but will be in Budapest next week and am looking for THE restaurant that will be suitable to take a native 60 YO couple that will allow me to repay their kindness to me and one that they would like. Yes, there is Gundel, but keep hearing negative things other than the great restored appearance. Where would you take this couple and why ? Thanks in advance. Cost not an issue.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

            My wife and I just returned from Budapest after a 1 week vacation. We ate our way through our budget and Budapest. We ate at Cafe Kor, Cafe Bouchon, Bock Bistro, Fulemule, Csalongany26, Onyx and Costes.

            Cafe Kor, offers outstanding value for money. I have never seen a Schnitzel so large in my entire life. I had the foie gras for the main, and as an amateur athlete I can certainly pack it away. But there is no way, I would have been able to have a starter, main and dessert by myself.

            Fulemule, also offers good value for money. This restaurant and Cafe Kor are priced most affordably in comparison to the other restaurants. The roast goose, was delicious - for those of you that had the roast duck while in Prague, Fulemule certainly has it beat - crispy yet tender, and not over cooked. Unfortunately, depending on where you stay Fulemule is probably the furthest away.

            Cafe Bouchon, with the exception of the 1-Star restaurants (Onyx and Costes) had the best and most comfortable venue. Well seasoned and executed daily offerings, but at prices approximately 15% more than Fulemule and Cafe Kor. Louis (we couldn't pronounce his Hungarian name) offered great service and excellent attention such that we returned there to dine. At all times, he offered to replace any of our courses if it was not to our satisfaction. Again, a great recommendation from the contributors on Chowhound.

            Bock Bistro, was an absolute disappointment. Perhaps it was an off day at the restaurant, but I would never advise anyone to eat at that restaurant given the prices are commensurate with Cafe Bouchon and Csalongany26. They packed too many tables in the bistro and we were seated by the door. Budapest was invariably warm over the last 2 weeks and with the door open and air-conditioner not running, it did not take long for my wife and I to feel warm. My wife had the Hungarian Chicken with paprika and it was decidedly average; I on the other hand had the roasted pork knuckle (based on the recommendation of another contributor on Chowhound) ... it was poor to say the least. For anyone that has previously had a schweinhaxe, the crackling was leathery and it was under seasoned. In summary, Bock Bistro is a definite miss.

            Csalongany26 - we almost gave this restaurant a miss as we had scheduled to watch a ballet on ad-hoc notice. And staying on the Pest side, it would have been inconvenient to return to Buda for dinner. But I am so glad that I unanimously decided that we should make a trip specifically for lunch. While the main of 3-course business lunch menu was a well cooked rice with tempura prawns, I defy anyone to find me a tasty, well seasoned 3 course lunch menu for approximately 10 Euros. I had the 4-course menu (significantly pricier at approx. 27 Euros) but what a treat. At absolutely amazing meal especially the suckling pork and suckling lamb. While the food was hardly Hungarian but more French, again what an amazing meal. The downside is that the restaurant lies in between Margaret Bridge and The Chain Bridge, which is a pity as there would be more people frequenting the restaurant. I would strongly recommend anyone visiting Budapest to please, please make a trip to this restaurant.

            Onyx and Costes - As my wife and I are based in the Netherlands, we are fortunate to have access to a number of 1-Star restaurants. But we had to visit Onyx and Costes ... after all how could you get a 3-course lunch at a 1-Star restaurant for 15 Euros and 25 Euros respectively? Someone on Chowhound poked fun at Onyx where the waiters served your meals wearing white gloves ... but I thought it was a classy gesture. It is my humble belief that you know what you are in for when you taste the bread at a 1-Star restaurant. Onyx had the most delicious bread I have ever eaten especially their polacza (spelling??). Great service, excellent food and gosh - an unbelievable Somloi Galuska. The one criticism that I can offer is that because it was a business lunch, I felt that the presentation of the mains were not of the standard that I was expecting for a 1-Star restaurant.

            Costes - my wife's favorite of all the places that we ate at. She liked the decor which was more modern compared to Onyx (kitsch). It is my belief that here in the Netherlands that Callas (Den Haag) is the best 1-Star restaurant. Perhaps it is an unfair extrapolation but if the dinner menus are anything like the lunch, Costes would certainly push very close to Callas standards. Excellent service again, but the waiters were no nice offering personalized service. We started with a 3-course business lunch menu, that was supplemented by an amuse bouche, a gift of a dessert platter (after informing how excited we were to eat at their restaurant) and a goodie bag! The food was progressive, thoughtful, beautifully presented, excellently cooked ... it was a great way to end our vacation. My wife and I immendiately decided that we would return next year to dine at Costes but this time for dinner. We were informed that the restaurant is aspiring to acquire its 2-Star next year, so a return is on the cards.

            1. re: blownd

              Thanks so much for your informative reply. It sounds like you had a amazing foodie experience in Budapest. I can't wait to go!

              1. re: blownd

                We had an excellent lunch at Costes. I wish we had also tried Onyx, but we ran out of time. The service was great and the food was excellent. My favorite meal in Budapest.

            2. The information on this thread has been incredibly helpful to me. Thank you all. One thing that puzzles me is that I see no mention of Baraka, which I had understood to be one of--if not the best--restaurants in Budapest. Has it closed, lost its cache, never had it?

              2 Replies
              1. re: JmVikmanis

                I'm also curious about Baraka. Also, Onyx and Costes are closed in August when we are there, but we have Fulemule, Fuchsli, Cafe Bouchon booked. Our hotel booked us Tom George for the last night, but I'm not convinced. Any other suggestions? We are not just looking for high end, but our preference is modern, inventive takes on local cuisine.

                1. re: JmVikmanis

                  Baraka is a tad out pod the way; a lovely room and a lovely outdoor setting in good weather. Food is consistently excellent, portions are not large. The original executive chef, Viktor Segal set the standards very high and he is perhaps the leading chef in Hungary, but he has been gone for many years (some of his dishes remain on the menu; there's an Asian fusion edge to them, but they consistently work very well indeed). The restaurant has evolved and developed without diminishing at all. It's a good, pricey, meal in a lovely setting. I get there about every 18-24 months, and other places far more often, but it is not a disappointment. The hotel it is in (Andrassy) is a bargain for its level of amenity, though also a tad far from the very center.

                  With the exception that I favor Onyx over Costes (but one can have very different feelings about Michelin-rated restaurants and about the Michelin ratings generally, and I have only had dinners at these venues so there may be differences there as well), blown pretty much nails it in what strikes me as a very astute setting of tasting notes.