Budapest

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY

HOTEL

BO18 Hotel Superior - This classy hotel is well located in a historically important part of the city, the staff are superb and the breakfast is amazing.

RESTAURANTS

Rézkakas Bistro - Contemporary Hungarian with vegetarian options. Excellent wine list, superb staff and fairly priced considering the quality.

The Curry House - Authentic Indian/Bengali with plenty of excellent vegetarian options.

The Eco Cafe - Vegetarian and organic breakfast and lunch options in this friendly, modern cafe.

Hungaricum Dessert - Chocolate soup, chocolate cups, hot chocolate and of course chocolate cake, as well as savouries and non-chocolate drinks.

The New York Cafe - Iconic cafe with a beautiful interior serving a Hungarian/USA style cuisine.

Halászbástya Restaurant - Contemporary, fairly priced Hungarian food in the fairytail castle-like setting of the Fisherman's Bastion.

Shalimar - Excellent Indian cuisine served by knowledgable staff, with vegetarian options.

TOURS & ATTRACTIONS

The Big Bus - A great value hop-on/hop off bus tour around the cities' best known sites.

The Széchenyi Baths - A unique bathing experience in pools and saunas that come in a variety of sizes and temperatures.

The River Ride - A city bus and River Danube boat tour in one, on an amphibious vehicle!

The Budapest Museum of Fine Arts - A fine museum near Hero's Square. We saw a comprehensive Rembrandt exhibition here as well as it's impressive permanent collection.

Budapest is a great value destination in which to eat and drink well, stay in great comfort, pamper yourself in a spa and perhaps visit a museum or two (or even run the city marathon, which we did; it's flat, scenic and well supported and organised). As for photography though, well, the city poses a significant challenge in the form of a very odd law...

 

Hungary might well be the home of such great action/street photographers as Kertész, Capa and Brassaï but current legislation more or less bans street photography; the rule is that you can only take photos in public as long as not a single persons' face is recognizable. Natually you could always ask somebody if you could take their photo and then make a portrait; this works in some circumstances and we recommend it as a way of creating meaningful experiences with locals. But we had Kertész on our minds when we visited and wanted street photography to be a big part of what we were doing so often found ourselves waiting for the sun in order to chase shadows – shadows have no faces – and looking into or at the bright lights wherever they may be. 'Contra Jour' might just be your most used technique here, that or just ignore the law entirely. Which we did on occasion but really, do you want to be spending your holiday looking over your shoulder and worrying about potentially being arrested or fined...?

 

It’s amazing how a simple law can entirely change a tourists' perception of a place. The mere fact that we weren't allowed to photograph faces in the street encouraged us not to look at many, so in effect on several occasions the locals sadly become a faceless mass to us. It's a shame; such a law alienates tourists, shows a certain immaturity within the government - to focus negativity on such a harmless hobby as photography isn't the act of worldly politicians - and foolishly dismisses a hugely important part of their recent culture.

 

There's a couple of other issues to discuss before we get onto the good stuff (of which there is much). Firstly, we advise you to be careful in your dealings with The Palace of the Arts, a well sited and great looking venue on the banks of the Danube. We had tickets reserved for the Marianne Faithfull show and arrived 15 minutes early only to be told that our tickets couldn't be found and that they wouldn’t let us in. So despite this being the premier venue for watching live music and dance in Budapest, be aware that they can’t be trusted to reserve tickets.

 

Secondly, a word about The Capa Centre. The staff are helpful and welcoming but we didn’t see any good photography during our visit. There was a small exhibition of work by Hungarian photographers who’d been to New York to report on the Hungarian expats there. It was pretty standard, just portraits and a few street shots, nothing much, neither a homage to past style or an attempt to create any new path. In the room next to it was a larger exhibition which made use of modern technology to give you a glance into a series of virtual reality worlds. It was fun to visit but it was more like a trade exhibition showing off some new gadgets than anything to do with photography. The only remnant of Robert Capa was a few books in a display case downstairs. If they’ve got an exhibition on that you like the sound of though, then do pay them a visit. They’re just a few minutes walk from the Opera House, so very easy to get to. http://capacenter.hu/en/

 

There's a photographic exhibition space in the city that we didn't visit as they never responded to our calls or emails. The place looks promising though. Their website is http://maimano.hu/en/

 

Below are some of the digital images we created and more in depth information about restaurants and attractions.

BO18 Hotel Superior

The Bo18 Hotel Superior is a twenty minute walk from Budapest Keleti railway station, where many trains arrive from Vienna and Prague. The surrounding neighbourhood – including the Corvin Passage – was where the 1956 uprising against the Soviet forces was fought most fiercely and you can still see the bullet holes in the walls of the house directly opposite the hotel front door.

 

The staff are first class, our room was excellent, the bathroom amazing and the breakfast really has something for everyone, from meat eater to fruitarian and vegan. There's even free sparkling wine on offer, and a chocolate fountain at weekends. The hotel is also very well located and great value. We’ve stayed in three hotels in central Budapest and this is the only one we’d recommend to our friends and family. We’d say without hesitation, if you’re in Budapest, do stay here!

 

See our review of the BO18 Hotel Superior here, or visit http://www.bo18hotelbudapest.com/en/

Rézkakas Bistro

Rézkakas restaurant is in the very centre of Budapest, a five minute walk from the Cathedral. We consider it exceptional value and we recommend you eat there at least once during your city stay. They’re going for their first Michelin Star soon and the quality of food, service and ambience reflects that (although the price most certainly doesn’t). The staff are experienced, passionate and committed to meeting the needs of their customers but they’ve also got their eyes wide open regarding Hungary’s perceived position in Europe and therefore their international customers expectations.

The interior is divided into two long rooms separated by the bar, topped with a barrelled roof and finished with huge mirrors at each end, beside which are quotes by Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw amongst others.

If you know about wines and want to spend some serious money on an excellent vintage then you might well find your passion satisfied here. There’s also a ten item strong vegetarian section on the Rézkakas menu. I was impressed, I was lucky to get a choice of two veggie dishes in most other restaurants we’d been to in the previous few weeks in Austria and Hungary.

The bottom line is, this is a city centre, Michelin Star-standard restaurant charging the same prices as a regular, nondescript restaurant in downtown Toronto or London and as such we think it’s well worth anybody’s time. Exceptional food, experienced service and superb value for money; this is what we expected from Budapest and Rézkakas delivered on every count. For us it's the best restaurant in Budapest; don't miss it.

Value 5/5

Atmosphere 4.5/5

Service 5/5

Flavours 5/5

Vegan Friendly? 2/5

Vegetarian Friendly? 5/5

To discover more, see the Rézkakas website here - http://www.rezkakasbistro.hu

The Curry House

The Curry House is our favourite Indian/Bengali restaurant in Europe. It’s convenient for those staying at the Bo18 Hotel or visiting the city centre and museums (the main city museum is just five minutes walk away), the decor and service is excellent and the food is tasty and as it should be (says Lamia, who was raised in Bangladesh and knows about such things. As an Englishman used to enjoying the version of Indian food we have in our country, I think it’s great too).

The drinks list and menu was in perfect English as well as Hungarian and since the staff speak fluent English we had no problem ordering off the menu.

My starter was was the classic potato and pea filled samosa in light shortcrust pastry, deep fried. I’ve spent many days wandering around old Delhi enjoying samosas and these were very similar to the best of those that I had there. There was a spicy rather than a chili heat, and set between the samosas was a delicious, tangy, sweet tamarind sauce.

My main dish was a kadai paneer, which was cubed, hard cottage cheese cooked with tomato, green pepper, green chilly and an onion gravy. There were plentiful chunks of paneer in the medium heat sauce and the sauce itself was full of pepper and of a medium consistency.

To go with this I had byriani rice. This was a mix of delicious basmati rice cooked with house biryani spices. The texture stuck together excellently so could eat our meal with fingers, as we’re used to doing when enjoying real sub-continent food. There were nice specks of food colouring and the rice was perfect – not chewy or mushy.

For a drink I had a Dreher local beer, excellent, then a mango lassi. It was very cold and served in a polished metal chalice like people in Bangladesh would’ve drunk from years ago, believing the metal to have medicinal qualities. I felt like royalty drinking from such a vessel! The lassi was thick. not overly sweet and tasted like real mangoes had been used. Superb.

Budapest has many excellent eateries, many of which we were lucky enough to enjoy during our stay, and we’d say that the best of the Indian-style restaurants has to be this one, The Curry House. The food is excellently presented, tastes great and is mostly authentic in style, the service is just right, the ambiance is relaxed and friendly and overall it’s very good value. We recommend you visit!

Value 4/5

Atmosphere 3.5/5

Service 4.5/5

Flavours 4/5

Vegan Friendly? 2/5

Vegetarian Friendly? 5/5

To discover more, please visit http://curryhouse.hu/

The Eco Cafe

The Eco Cafe is just up the road from the Terror Museum, one of Budapest’s top attractions. It’s easily reached by foot from any hotel in the city centre or you can hop off one of the ‘hop on/hop off’ bus services as they stop very near. We made our way there as there aren’t any other cafes - that we found - in Budapest that offer organic, vegetarian food within the sort of modern, relaxed yet conscious environment that the Eco Cafe’s website portrayed.

The owners and staff are really friendly and helpful and speak great English. We sat at a bare hardwood table in front of a child’s corner that was peppered with small tables, chairs and toys and a christmas tree that was standing in a pot that’d been wrapped in coffee sacks. We noticed immediately that there seemed to be more of an educated and refined clientele here than at other ‘local’ cafes we’d visited, with calm quiet people working on laptops, no doubt using the free wifi (that was uncomplicated and easy to access).

The prices were reasonable – less than what we’d expect to pay in England and Canada – and we could pay in Euros if required. There was a broad mix of smoothies and super smoothies using acai or wheatgrass, sandwiches made fresh on the premises, organic apple and pear ciders from England such as Wyld Wood and Fullers and a range of organic wines, juices and cordials.

I started wtih a 3 cheese sandwich; there was Brie, Red Leicester and Emmental with a little rocket salad and tomato. The bun was crunchy outside, soft inside and very satisfying.

Lamia had the tomato and mozzarella sandwich, with a side of kettle chips. Like me she had it warmed up, kind of like a panini.

“The tomatoes are juicy and taste fresh, the mozzarella is stretchy and the bread crunchy, there’s not much more I want in a sandwich,” said Lamia.”It’s good to know that most of these ingredients are organic too.”

Then came some excellent pastries, and to finish we shared three cakes. The first was an apple, walnut and carrot cake. It was dense, as the brownie were, and the subtleness of the ingredients didn’t come through for a while. There was just enough cream on it to make it feel like a treat and the icing tasted natural, not overly sugary, so overall it was a very good carrot cake. The second dessert was an almond cake. This was the creamiest of all, our favourite, and tasted very much of almonds. There was plenty of cream and the sponge was a perfect medium texture, complimented by the harder nuts on top. Superb!

Finally we had the Paleo Brownie. This was firm and we could easily taste the quality and the organic pedigree of the ingredients. Not processed or overly sugar,y it seemed like a healthy version of a brownie but also really delicious and soft so didn’t feel like we were compromising.

We really recommend the Eco Cafe if you’re in Budapest and yearning for a decent range of healthy yet tasty vegetarian food and drink (they’re also passionate about their coffee) or just want to meet some really lovely local people.

Value 3.5/5

Atmosphere 3.5/5

Service 3/5

Flavours 3/5

Vegan Friendly? 1/5

Vegetarian Friendly? 5/5

To discover more, please visit http://ecocafe.hu/en

The New York Cafe

Walking into the New York Cafe in Budapest reminded us of stepping into one of the more decorated of the Hapsburgs palaces, or indeed any of the magnificent buildings we’d enjoyed the past few weeks in Florence or Rome. The Baroque ceiling, the Art Deco furnishings and soft piano from a live pianist, and the little place-mats on each table carrying the story of the cafe in some way (our table told the story of Molnár Ferent, a local writer who gained international fame when his book was turned into the Broadway show and film ‘Carousel’), everything told us that we were in an establishment of some style.

The service quickly shows itself to be superb, knowledgeable and passionate. Our waiter anticipated our thoughts and added to them - guiding us through the menu - and our food came within 10 minutes of ordering.

Nibbling on fresh bread cooled with sea salt butter we ordered a glass each of 2011 Tokai Furmint; it’s a wine we’d had before, excellent taste, exceptional value. Our glasses emptied rather easily so to slow that down we ordered extra drinks to satisfy our thirsts. A Borsodi Hungarian beer for me – ice cold – and a New York Cold Lemonade with lemon, lime, fresh orange juice, mango, water and soda for Lamia.

Lamia started with a half portion of goulash soup with beans and homemade noodles. “The potatoes got a bit of bite to it,” said Lamia, “there’s about 3 big chunks of tender beef but I’d say it’s mostly veg and beans. It’s a hearty soup, perfect for winter days like this, and it’s very flavourful and well spiced. I can easily see why this is a favourite here. It’s much more of a hearty soup than the thinner version of Goulash you may find in Austria and other countries.”

I had the Buffalo mozzarella with dried tomatoes and ruccola pesto.The buffalo mozzarella was torn apart rather than cut, as it should be, and the tomatoes were semi-dry, drizzled with an excellent olive oil and sprinkled with a cracked pepper that was of an equally excellent standard. It’s easy to notice good ingredients in this sort of simple dish.

Lamia next had the New York burger with potato crisps & mixed salad. It was a fair sized burger served in a ciabatta bun. Inside was shredded lettuce, North American style pickled relish and a light mayonnaise dressing. “It’s quite heavy to the point where I have to pick it up strategically, the filling often spills out onto the crisps which soften and it almost becomes like a cheese pickle relish on beef nachos. It’s really delicious! "

I had the New York tagliatelle with homemade grilled porcini cherry tomatoes and mascarpone. It was a generous portion. The decor, quality of ingredients and service at the New York Cafe might be what you expect from fine dining but the portion size is hearty indeed. The pasta was a touch past al dente, although this may be because I took too much time taking photos and not eating. It was a subtle tasting dish, the mushrooms retained texture, the spring onions and tomatoes add the colours of the Hungarian flag and there was just enough creamy sauce to ensure I’d have to use bread to mop up. Paired with the remnants of a Tokai wine it was a satisfying lunch.

We’d recommend a visit to the New York Cafe. Take your camera, the interior is as magnificent as the food.

Value 3/5

Atmosphere 2.5/5

Service 4/5

Flavours 4.5/5

Vegan Friendly? 0/5

Vegetarian Friendly? 5/5

To discover more, please visit http://www.newyorkcafe.hu/

The Szechenyi Baths

A spectacular bathing experience awaits inside the 1913 Art Deco façade of Szechenyi. You may recognise the corridor to the left as you walk in the main entrance – it featured in Evita, starring Madonna, and was used portray the hospital scenes – and indeed the whole foyer area (the grand roof, the period signs and statues) really offer up the feeling of having walked onto a film set. The paying system is easy and the vendors speak English if any issues arise. You can hire towels or bath robes, or order a massage, and cabins to get changed and leave your clothes in are included in the price; if you want to use the original cabins built in 1913 as we did this will cost a little extra.

Take a camera – there are lockers to keep it in whilst you go into the baths – and if you happen to have a waterproof one like many people had on our visit then it seems ok to use it whilst in the outdoor pools, although take care to be discreet and try not to get anybodies face in any of the shots (this shouldn’t be difficult though as the steam coming off the water turns most figures into silhouettes).

We didn’t think the Szechenyi Baths could be so good as they were and indeed, if you believe much of what’s written on Trip Advisor you might expect something far less than what is on offer (it’s less than complimentary at times but we just can’t imagine what the writers were thinking as our experience was beyond incredible). We loved our five hour long visit, never getting bored once, and although it’s an extensive complex it’s pretty easy to find your way around. Imagine a football stadium, only in the centre instead of grass there are three large outdoor pools – two for relaxing (and playing chess!) in and one (a fifty metre long giant) for swimming in – whilst in the stands are the changing rooms and a sequence of smaller indoor baths, saunas and steam rooms.

The indoor pools, of which there are a great many, are all heated to varying temperatures ranging from a chilly twenty degrees to a steamy bath-like forty. The saunas range from around fifty five degrees to around seventy.

In one pool there was a keep fit class – dumbbells were scattered around the water’s edge – whilst the other pools were given over to relaxing. The chlorine free central pool was the most ornate with red porphy, Corinthian topped, marble columns and whilst relaxing up to our necks in the thirty seven degree water we could really imagine being in an ancient Roman bathhouse. The other bathers’ voices softly echoed around the vaulted ceiling, it was hypnotic, troubles easing away…

We moved onto the smaller, forty degree pool for five minutes and then jumped into the cold water splash pool to cool right down. Then it was off to the semi circular chlorine free thirty six degree pool, and so on.

A beautiful way to end any visit to Szechenyi is to sit in the outside pools looking up at the stars. Wow, I felt unique, in equal parts hot and cold, tired and satisfied yet eyes wide open with the thrill of new experience. To discover more, please see http://www.szechenyibath.hu/

The Big Bus Tour

We’d say take this bus tour at the start of your stay in Budapest as it’ll help you to gain an overall view of the city layout. This is what we did. We rode it all the way through it’s route the first time we took it, made a note of where the sights and monuments we wanted to see were, then sat down at a cafe and using the map they supplied we planned our next movements.

Your ticket gets you two days riding in total which includes a night ride and an hour long boat trip on the Danube, so there’s plenty of time to hop on and off and get your photos. And since the buses are scheduled to run at least once an hour you can hop off at a major sight, get your photos and then move on with the next bus, or if you want to spend more time there and really study the sight then you can take a few hours hours and catch the next bus that’s convenient.

Headphones are supplied and commentary is in over twenty languages, including of course English. We really enjoyed the many insights the commentator offered into the sights we passed, not just standard facts but often stuff you won’t find in the guidebooks; it totally raised the level of our experience.

To discover more about the Big Bus Tour, please visit http://eng.bigbustours.com/budapest

The Budapest Museum of Fine Arts

Facing Heroes Square, this museum is well laid out and has a small but fine permanent collection – we particularly enjoyed the Monet’s and sculptures by Rodin. Our main reason for visiting though was the Rembrandt exhibition, as it was a great opportunity to get up close to the work of the master who gave his name to a style of portrait lighting that we still use in our studio photography to this day. His portraits are brilliant and if you ever get the chance to see those of his son, Titus, you really should. There’s more feeling in those few pictures than in most other images you’re ever likely to see.

 

The museum often puts on excellent exhibitions – just before the one we saw were shows featuring the work of Toulouse-Lautrec, Raphael and Caravaggio – so it’s worth checking out their website to see what’s on when you’re in town. It’s also very near to the Szechenyi Baths, which are definitely worth a visit. See their website for more information here .

Halászbástyá Restaurant

Halászbástyá Restaurant is located inside one of the best known sights of Budapest, the Fisherman’s Bastion. We’d booked in for a late lunch at 3pm, in order to see sunset over city, and the lady at the door who took our coats knew our names. We were expected, a great start.

The stone interior, with it’s huge, thick walls, looked like that of an old castle. There were beautiful chandeliers, even in the bathrooms, and the centerpiece of the restaurant, under a vaulted roof, was a massive round table that was set to seat twelve people. Indeed, we did feel like we were in the dining hall of a great king.

Tamás, our waiter, explained the menu in perfect English; I chose a five course meal whilst Lamia chose three, which was preceded by warm, fluffy house bread with room temperature butter.

My first course was goat cheese with green apple, celery salad and minted green pea velouté. What great colour this dish had – red, green, white, the colours of Hungary! The balls of goats cheese were lightly fried and very like Scotch Eggs in appearance although much lighter in texture and far more fragrant in taste. The apple-celery sauce was a beautiful Granny Smith apple green and had plenty of texture, half chopped – half puréed and there were some pomegranate seeds sprinkled among the chopped apple to add sweetness. In all it was a very fresh dish and if you’re fan of goats cheese you’ll love it.

Next I had the Jerusalem artichoke cream soup with caritas gnocchi and roasted walnut. My dish was beautifully creamy and without doubt one of the best soups I’ve ever had. The gnocchi was of medium texture, the walnut of a hard texture and there were small circles of soft zucchini and carrot for decoration. Top marks for this soup, superb presentation, excellent taste.

Next I had lemon-spinach risotto with marinated forest mushrooms. The risotto was loose, very creamy and with a terrifically zingy lemon taste. There was just the right amount of texture left in the mushrooms and the celery chips on top were beautifully delicate. I didn’t know how this dish would work, I imagined the citrus would have a light and flighty flavour and the mushrooms more gravitas, and those assumptions were both true, but I was wrong in thinking they couldn’t compliment each other, as they did, very well indeed.

In between this and my next course I was offered a wonderful raspberry sorbet to refresh my palette.

Next I had the sage gnocchi with aubergine, zucchini and celery crisps. The overriding memory of this gnocchi was of the sweetness added by little tomatoes and the pleasant crunchiness of the small zucchini.

For dessert I had the Somló sponge cake trifle. Layered something like a tiramisu there were levels of cream, sponge and chocolate topped with more cream and sprinkled with a few nuts. It pushed all the buttons as far as chocolate and cream is concerned and gave a feeling of great decadence.

Considering the location, the view, and the high standard of service and presentation, and of course the taste of the food, a meal at Halászbástyá is extremely good value. Try to visit in the late afternoon or evening, and secure a window seat, the view is incredible!

Value 5/5

Atmosphere 4/5

Service 5/5

Flavours 4.5/5

Vegan Friendly? 0/5

Vegetarian Friendly? 5/5

To discover more, please visit http://www.eng.halaszbastya.eu/

Shalimar Restaurant

The Shalimar, which is about a fifteen minute walk from the Bo18 Hotel Superior, looks impressive from the outside.The favourable impression continues inside, which is set out with space in mind; there’s lots of room between dining tables. A normal restaurant might pack in five to ten more tables in the same central space as they have at the Shalimar. In reality this means that you have room to spread out and relax, and that you don’t have to listen to the people next to you talking. Chairs are comfy and plush red curtains frame the windows. North Indian paintings decorate the walls, statues of Shiva, Ganesh and Vishnu inhabit the recesses, there are exposed brick ceiling above the bar and delicate carved lattice woodwork screens flank the grand staircase leading to the washrooms.

The menu is in English as well as Hungarian and the staff speak very good English. As we ordered the waitress asked what heat level we wanted, on a level from two to eight, with two being baby heat (no spice at all). Lamia ordered a four, I went for a five.

I started with the samosa. They were triangular patty shells filled with spicy crushed potatoes and green peas: they had the classic samosa taste I remember from Asia. I could taste some five spice and the correct pastry had been used; it tasted very handmade, which for me is a good sign.

Next I had Dal makhani á la Shalimar. This was the chefs assorted lentils in smooth gravy with cream and a dash fenugreek. It was a little spicy and the sauce was loose enough that I was glad I had a naan to mop it up.

To share we had a Mutter Paneer – cheese cubes in curry with green peas. This was the classic dish with peas, hard cheese and a jalfrezi type level of medium heat. The sauce was creamy and slightly oily and both those things add up to a comforting dish for me. The level of heat wasn’t apparent at first but made itself known a minute or so after you’ve eaten it.

Another dish we shared was a vegetable jalfrezi, a choice of vegetables sautéed with onions, coriander and spices and garnished with sliced raw ginger. Although it had more texture than other dishes it seemed like the vegetables didn’t have time to fuse with the sauce during the cooking process so it all felt a little out of place. It had good texture and it made for a suitable side dish but I’d have been disappointed if I’d have had it as a main; the looser dishes are definitely the Shalimar chefs specialty.

To accompany all this we shared the Basmati Chawal – aromatic rice from Himalayan foothills (it was cooked firm and for my personal preference was a little undercooked but rice is a very personal thing so what may be right for me may not be right for others), a Paneer naan (naan with cottage cheese, non oily with pieces of paneer scattered through the interior) and a plain paratha. This was layered whole wheat bread baked in a tandoor resulting in a satisfying range of textures, from crispy burnt bits that turn up frequently to softer areas that were four layers thick.

Lamia finished with a sweet mango lassi that she said was very sweet, quite thin and with a hint of rose water. From Lamia’s Bengali point of view, the food at Shalimar was like her Moms food. “It’s very Mughal in it’s richness and opulence of flavours and textures. This would be very popular amongst my Bengali or Indian friends,” she said.

From an English point of view this is like the best Indian restaurants in my hometown. The sauces are probably thinner than in England but there’s a brilliant use of spice, and as someone who’s spent a couple of months in India I’d say the quality of food at the Shalimar far surpasses anything that I ate anywhere in Delhi or Chandigarh.

So we’d say the Shalimar is definitely worth a visit. The food is good, the waitresses are very friendly and know the food they serve so can explain it if you need to know anything before ordering, and you can easily order a full vegetarian meal without compromising on choice or quality.

Value 5/5

Atmosphere 4/5

Service 4/5

Flavours 3.5/5

Vegan Friendly? 2/5

Vegetarian Friendly? 5/5

To discover more, please visit http://www.shalimar.hu/english.htm

Hungaricum Dessert

The Hungaricum Dessert Choco Cafe is right in the centre of Budapest, just a minute or two walk from the basilica. Yet despite being close to the tourist action it’s a very calming and relaxed place to pass an evening, and of course consume chocolate in a great variety of ways...

The cafe is bright, with Salvador Dali/surrealist paintings on the walls and pom-poms in the red, green and white of the Hungarian flag colours hanging from the ceiling. There’s a variety of seating options including deep, comfortable, two seat leather couches, easy chairs with fleece blankets and more upright chairs in window alcoves; there’s also super fast, easily connected wi-fi and menus in clear English and Hungarian. The bubbly, kind girls working behind the counter spoke good English and took time to introduce to us the great variety of chocolate cakes and bon bons on offer. They pointed out the large range of dark and white chocolate soups and drinks, including some spiced with cloves, ginger, cinnamon and also rather more unusual choices such as jasmine, quince, mulberry and buckthorn. We decided to move onto those later but first, Lamia had a chili hot chocolate (“this is very thick and chocolatey,” she said, “and the chili gets you in the back of the throat, it’s a good a hot chocolate as any I’ve tasted, anywhere.”) and I the jasmine hot chocolate.

To accompany it I had a strawberry cheesecake. It wasn’t overly sweet like a normal cheesecake – which indicated good ingredients and a chef who doesn’t rely in sugar for a cheap thrill – and it was very firm and of a good portion size. The only negative is that I’d ordered badly and it didn’t really go with my drink. Next time I’d get a more fruity hot chocolate to pair it with.

Lamia had the chocolate truffle cake. It had layers of firm and soft chocolate cake with a creamy filling that, like my cheescake, wasn’t overly sweet and definitely gave a terrific hit of rich chocolate.

Next Lamia had the dark chocolate orange soup. “The biggest difference between this and my hot chocolate is in the presentation,” said Lamia. “It’s served in a soup bowl and beside it is a cup made of chocolate with whipped cream and candied orange inside. The drink itself is just like a hot chocolate with orange fruit syrup inside it. It’s a milk chocolate and very sweet and rich, I’m struggling to finish!”

I had an orange chocolate soup with a mandarin cream palinka chaser.

This was a delight. There were strips of spaghetti-like hard chocolate laid on top of the cream and the orange chocolate offered a subtle taste. It was fun to eat the little dark chocolate cup after drinking the thick creamy palinka too! This was a very warming combination, I loved it.

To finish with Lamia had a Mediterranean vegetable pastry. It was like a veggie pizza without tomato sauce, with a soft, flaky puff pastry base. It was really tasty and subtly spiced, in the Mediterranean traditional.

I had the goat cheese pastry. I could really smell the cheese as I bit – there was so much filling, over a cm of pungent cheese – and the base was so light, wow. What a satisfying way to end my feast.

The Hungaricum Dessert in Budapest really is a chocolate lover’s dream. It’s also unique, in our experience, and we’d advise popping in every day for a drink and a snack so you can try a little of what they do, often.

Value 4/5

Atmosphere 2.5/5

Service 3/5

Flavours 3/5

Vegan Friendly? 2/5

Vegetarian Friendly? 5/5

To discover more, please visit http://www.hungaricumdessert.hu/bemutatkozas_ENG.html

The River Ride

The River Ride floating bus is the first of it’s kind in Europe. It’s a bus that takes you on a tour of most of Budapest’s iconic sights, and then it plunges into the River Danube and becomes a boat, shuttling you past the islands and bridges that separate Buda from Pest. If that sounds exciting, we can say, it is!

The commentary that comes through on the headphones is detailed and spoken well by the guide who sits at the front of the bus. There were sometimes reflections in the windows so we couldn’t get photos but as you can see there were enough times when that wasn’t the case and we could get excellent views.

We’d advise you take this tour at the start of your city stay as it gives you vital information that your guidebook might not have. For instance it told us that the Fine Arts Museum had works by El Greco and also the last statue ever created by Leonardo di Vinci. We’d already been there though and not known this so hadn’t seen the works, which we were disappointed about. The commentary also informed us that the tomb up on the hill near the Fisherman’s Bastion is the most northerly point of Islamic pilgrimage in Europe; another thing that was new to us (even though we’d been up to the Bastion twice – once whilst on another tour – and read up on it’s history).

Before it splashes into the water the bus passes the Synagogue in Dohány Street before travelling up Andrássy Avenue past the Opera House and the Oktogon to Heroes’ Square, from where, approx 45 minutes into the tour, it heads to the Danube.

After plunging into the river the tour passes Margaret Island, Margaret Bridge, the Royal Palace, the Parliament and the Chain Bridge.

What an interesting and unique tour this was! We 100% recommend it for every visitor.

Discover more about the River Ride at http://riverride.com/

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