Menza is my recommendation around the Liszt Ferenc area, great Hungarian food at very reasonable prices. Then get along to one of the many cafe’s or pastry houses and eat the best croissants in the world filled with the most delicious apple, curd cheese or walnut, or combinations of a couple, with a good coffee and a swig of Palinka, the national drink.
If you're up in the tourist-packed Castle District (Varnegyed) on a steamy summer's day and long for a quiet sit-down and an authentic Hungarian lunch, stroll along Fortuna utca (street) to Pest Buda.
This traditional 'vendeglo' or local, family-run eaterie, dates back to 1948 and has been renovated to keep all the original features such as the wine bar in the cellar where you can see the cave walls (Buda Hill is almost hollow and riddled with caves and passages).
Diners enjoy Hungarian home cooking on red checked tablecloths and, while munching, admire the Pest Buda carpets; vignettes of old Budapest life which have been scanned in and made into wallpaper.
One of the favourites on the menu is 'kenyer langos' (a kind of 'bread flamed doughnut') advertised as Hungarian pizza and a substantial lunch of oven baked dough with Magyar toppings of sausage and lecso (ratatouille), duck breast and spinach or tomato and tangy sheep's cheese.
Pest Buda Vendeglo Bistro
Fortuna utca 3, Castle District, I. Budapest
Open daily 11.00-24.00
Metro to Moszkva ter (now called Szell Kalman ter) then Varbusz (Castle minibus) up the hill.
Google map: bit.ly/r3QEyc
Liszt Ferenc tér (or Franz Liszt Square) is party central in Budapest. It is a tree-lined pedestrianised area in the heart of Pest, located in the VI district by Oktogon.
During the warmer spring and summer months, the square is packed with beautiful people and tourists sitting in the bars, cafes and restaurants and filling the terrace areas. You can do this in winter too, as all the cafes have huge heaters. Every kind of cuisine, cocktail and coffee is served here from pizza at Pompeii to retro Magyar dishes at Menza to French style at Cafe Vian to Cuban at Buena Vista cafe. There's also an Incognito jazz cafe, Karma restaurant for good vibes and a late night drinking den at Mediterran.
Liszt Ferenc tér
Metro No 1 (little yellow underground - Kisfoldalatti) to Oktogon, tram 4 & 6 to Kiraly utca or Oktogon.
Google map: bit.ly/hRTKZE
Bock Bistro is a great restaurant serving traditional Hungarian cuisine with the perfect local fine wine to accompany the food. József Bock, one of the founders, is a legendary wine maker so you can be sure of the quality of the reds on offer here.
Csalogány 26 is an upscale restaurant named after its address, but also csalogány means 'nightingale'. Delicious meals prepared in a kitchen with a video link to the front of house so diners can check on the preparation. A bit gimmicky but fun. Upscale dining in a classy setting.
Balettcipő means 'ballet shoe' and this place will set your toes a-tingling. Enjoy great salads and cakes on a sunny terrace on the recently pedestrianised part of Hajós utca.
Hajós utca 14, 1065 Budapest
+36(0)6 1 2693114
M1 Little (yellow) underground - Kisfoldalatti to Opera
Karma is one of the many restaurants situated on Liszt Ferenc ter, a square packed with eating and drinking venues and beautiful people chilling out on the wide terraces. Karma has delicious dishes and some good vibes.
A buzzing Italian restaurant (especially at lunchtime when it's crammed to the gills with office workers and bankers from the local area). Fresh seafood, open grill, home made pasta and oven baked pizza all created with Italian ingredients (not always guaranteed in this city). Great wine cellar. A fun venue for a meal - a deux, with colleagues, friends or family.
An old style Hungarian restaurant located at the start of Raday utca, a semi-pedestrian street in Pest, crammed wall to wall with restaurants.
Named after Gyula Krúdy's book The Red Post Coach the whole restaurant oozes the turn-of-the-twentieth century atmosphere of the book.
The eclectic building was built in 1876 and housed a coffee house at one time. Since 1970 it has housed the Vörös Postakocsi where a mixture of authentic and modern Hungarian cuisine is served.
Traditionally heavy dishes are rendered light, courtesy of organic meat, dairy products and vegetables.
The menu offers several game and vegetarian options. The restaurant's wide selection of modern Hungarian wines is a treat for all. There is also an extensive range of pálinka.
Klassz is both a wine store and a restaurant. Very good food and reasonably priced; a great atmosphere and unusual decor. Excellently located on the stylish Andrassy ut.
Andrassy ut 41, between Opera and Oktagon underground
The Dunapark restaurant was restored a couple of years ago and has a fabulous Art Deco interior with swirling, curling lines of the gallery resembling something like an ocean-going liner.
The cafe downstairs serves a mouth watering selection of cakes and pastries and there is a leafy terrace in summer which stretches out onto Szent Istvan Park and the Danube in the distance.
Once a favourite of the bourgeoisie and urban gentry, this place is now a hip hangout, but still with a healthy proportion of old ladies in hats gorging on cake!
Pozsonyi ut 38
Tel: +36 1 786 1009
Restaurant open: Mon-Fri 11.30-24.00, Sat 10.00-24.00, Sun 10.00-22.00
Patisserie open: Mon-Fri 08.00-24.00, Sat 10.00-24.00, Sun 10.00-22.00
Nice restaurant with a lot of delicious traditional and traditional-style dishes. Good prices and big portions.
Casual atmosphere - even pool tables inside! - and nice outdoor sidewalk dining area.
Corner of Baross Utca and Jozsef Utca (in Jozsefváros district)
Fatal actually means wooden plate in Hungarian but the portions may well prove life-threatening.
Located in Pest off the Vaci Utca, the restaurant is easy to find, cheap and offers huge traditional meals, mostly cooked and served in the dish dish, atop of a wooden plate.
I had the pork knuckle and only got halfway - highly recommended but book in advance if you're going in the evening.
Address: 1056 Budapest, Vaci utca 67.
Phone: +36 1 266 2607
Directions: In southern Vaci utca, halfway between Fovam ter (trams 47 49, buses 15 City, trolley 83) and Ferenciek tere (metro M3, buses 5 7 7A 7exp 8 15 78 112 173exp City).
This website is about the real Budapest, and gives very interesting background details about the history, culture and architecture of this beautiful capital which is slowly losing some of its unique features (old presszo bars, neon signs, dingy borozos) as it changes into a modern European metropolis. Written by a Hungarian speaker, the articles featured go behind the facade and into much more detail than a guide book could manage.
It has a wealth of information for people who really love Budapest and want to know the city better.
Check out the recent story on the Trabants - really interesting!
Great restaurant in a good location, not far from Octagon. Food is fantastic, atmosphere great. Two people, two courses, best bottle of wine on the menu; £45 - bargain. It's full of locals too - a good indication.
6th district, Liszt Ferenc ter 2
This is an excellent Italian restaurant on Dohany Utca near the main road Rakoczi Ut. The food is of good quality and the portions impressive. Try one of their pizzas, almost impossible to finish. The staff are friendly and the atmosphere good. It's also reasonably priced.
1077 Budapest, Dohany Utca 40. Tel 354-07-88
Scottish pub, with charming Scottish landlord and Hungarian wife who speaks excellent, Scottish-accented English. Good beer (Belhaven), satellite TV for the sports fans, and excellent food. The steak Tartare is one of the best.
Ker. Moazsar u 9
06 1311 7611
Off the north end of Ferenc Liszt ter.
Became my "cantine" as the French say, a regular, easy place to eat. Very friendly, delicious food - Hungarian and also pizza/pasta, and very reasonable. Open all day, every day 10 - midnight.
Kiraly ut 59b
tel 36 1 322 3278
Just off Erszebet near the "Pizza H(ugh)t" on the corner. Opposite side entrance of Ferenc Liszt Academy
trolley 70,78, tram 4,6
Asian fusion restaurant, attracts the in crowd, and a little more expensive than the average local. The food is very good indeed, and is welcome if you want a lighter meal than the usual rib-sticking Hungarian fare. On Andrassy, in the centre of things. Service a little lax, but all in all a very good experience. Booking advisable.
Andrassy ut 8
tel: 302 2570
near the Opera House
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