Friday, February 6, 2009

Hungary’s Epochal Food & Wine Culture

Statues at Heroes Square, Budapest

Dio Restaurant

Mysterious fountain of wine!

Budapest (pronounced/ Buda-Pesht), capital of Hungary, is in my opinion one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. During the cold war it had a reputation for being “the Paris” of Eastern Europe. The city is actually a combination of two cities Buda and Pest that are separated by the Duna (Hungarian) or Danube River.

When I first visited Budapest in 1992, the inhabitants were still trying to grasp with their newly obtained freedom. The Soviet Union was officially dissolved. While this was mainly positive, some locals resented the jump in expenses that they incurred with freedom.

When I dined in traditional popular restaurants, I experienced old world cuisine that was comprised of a great amount of heavily fried foods such as chicken and goose, doused in paprika & cream. The wine list’s consisted of 90 percent sweet local white varietals and classic Tokay and Aszu, sweet wines made in a similar style as Sauternes. Many were great pairs for cutting through fatty, fried, spicy foods.

During my first visit, I found the Budapest’s hotel accommodations minimalistic. With the exception of The Hotel Gellart, with Turkish baths and spa, most other hotels featured Soviet influenced, prefab architecture.

Today, the city is home to more than 70 hotels, including the luxury masterpiece Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest. This Art Nouveau landmark has been painstakingly restored/ transformed (at a cost of $500 million) with ultra-modern comforts, luxury and impeccable service with water views of the Danube and Buda Castle District. Its restaurant is well worth a visit.

The Four Seasons Restaurant Gresham Kávéház
Modeled after a café long frequented by Budapest's intelligentsia from the nearby Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Gresham Kávéház. The restaurant overlooks the Danube and the Chain Bridge.

Exceptional Appetizer! Trio of Foie Gras

•Foie Gras Au Torchon with Strawberry Jam
•Foie Gras Scallop with Cinnamon Roasted Peach, Tokay Reduction
•Foie Gras Mille-Feuille with Red Currant

Notable Entrees

•Slowly Cooked Pike Perch with Spring Vegetables, Saffron Sauce
•Roast Sea Bream Fillet with Green Asparagus and Romaine Lettuce, Tomato and Green Olive Tartar
•Grain Mustard Crusted Salmon with Fennel and Beetroot Carpaccio, Pink Pepper Corn Dressing
•Tagliatelle with Scallop, Squid, Mussels and Shrimps, Spicy Fresh Tomato Sauce
•Roast Baby Chicken with Leek and Potato Cake, Preserved Lemon Jus

Roosevelt Tér 5-6.
1051 Budapest
Tel. 36 (1) 268-6000

Hilton Budapest hotel
The Hilton Budapest hotel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located in the heart of The Buda Castle District, next to the Fisherman's Bastion and Matthias Church. The hotel offers great Danube and city views.

Enjoy the best of Hungarian and International cuisine in the Hilton Budapest hotel's Dominican restaurant or view the ruins of a medieval monastery from the Lobby Bar. What makes this hotel really unique is that it is constructed around medieval ruins. You pass through the ruins walking from the lobby to guest rooms.

The Hilton Budapest hotel has 24 meeting rooms for 4-660, exclusive open-air venues in historical settings, a 24-hour business center and wireless Internet access all around the hotel. Step up to a Guest Room Plus for a Danube view or choose an Executive Room with Executive Lounge access.

Hilton Budapest Hotel
Hess A. ter 1-3, Budapest, Hungary H-1014
Tel: 36-1-889-6600 Fax: 36-1-889-6644

Nearby you may choose to visit the Labyrinth of Buda Castle.
This maze of tunnels (which literally goes on for miles) is located beneath Castle Hill. The tunnels were first intended as wine cellars, then as bomb shelters. But cave drawings have also been found, indicating a more ancient history, which will also be part of your experience. Tours are self-guided and spooky. You might wish to bring a flashlight or matches. One highlight is the mysterious fountain of wine. If you visit after 6pm, the main lights are turned off and you must tour with lanterns. Cost 1500 HUF/1200 with Budapest Discount Card.
Labyrinth of Buda Castle
Castle District
Budapest 1014 Hungary
+36 1 212 0207
Open Hours Daily 9:30am-7: 30pm

The House of Hungarian Wines
Another must stop for wine lovers is The Hungarian House of Wines, which is located across the street from The Hilton Budapest Hotel. They are run by the Hungarian Academy of wine and feature an array of wines from Hungary’s 13 major wine regions, giving you a one-stop location for tasting a kaleidoscope of delicious wines from Hungary’s top regions. Approximately 50 bottles are open for tasting. Cost is 3500 HUF/ $15 USD for one hour tasting.

The House of Hungarian Wines
1014 Budapest, Szentháromság tér 6.
Tel 36-1-212-1030

DIÓ Restaurant & Bar
H-1051, Budapest Sas u. 4.
Tel. 36 1 328 0360

DIÓ offers a modern day interpretation of Hungarian cuisine with International ingredients. The restaurant is boldly decorated in its own sleek style that combines 21st century form, with natural weaves fused in spectacular color and dramatically illuminated.

Worthy bites include Deer Sausages, Goose Liver Praline in stuffed Maize, Vegetable Fritters and Pigs Cracklings Pate. New twists include traditional Goulash Soup made from Grey Cat
Linktle. Fish lovers will enjoy the Roasted Pike Perch with Bacon and Mustard Sauce!

The wine list is dominated with boutique Hungarian wines and a spot of Italian reds. This is Budapest's newest dining hotspot. It is well worth the visit.

Fausto's Osteria Restaurant
Szekely Mihaly utca 2., Budapest, Hungary
Tel: +36 1 331 87 11

After several days in Hungary, you may get the urge to take a break from the local cuisine. I found Fausto's Osteria by searching Italian restaurant Budapest. My cab dropped us off at the street, but it took 15 minutes to find the restaurant, because they had no sign! It was well worth the work.

Fausto's produces authentic down home Italian cuisine at reasonable prices. My wife and I enjoyed a bottle of Collavini Cabernet 2004 for (5.000 HUF)$21.65 USD. Their menu contains a great selection of Meat, Fish and Home-made Pasta dishes.

Monarchia Wine Shop, Budapest
Address: 1092 Budapest, Kinizsi Street 30-36.
Phone: +36 1 456 9898
Opening hours: Mo-Fr: 10-18; Sat.: 10-18

The Monarchia company is a consortium of Hungary's best wineries. The Monarchia wine shop offers a broad selection of Monarchia wines as well as International selections, books and wine accessories. The store is near the Hungarian Museum of Art.

Story and photos © 2009 by Christopher J Davies


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Rome apartments said...

Budapest and all of Hungary in general is excellent for some hearty fine and a variety of wines.
I love spending time in Hungary whenever business takes me there.

Sicily Paul said...

I stayed in the Four Seasons last year and it is a lovely restaurant and great food.
I would stay there again only the cost is way beyond what i can afford more than once.
Sicily Paul