Think Hungarian food and the first thing that comes to your mind is usually goulash. Indeed, wandering around Budapest, on every corner you find an offer of the famous dish, be it a bistro a restaurant or a local tavern.
Tip n. 1: walk and walk
After having tasted various versions of it, we go to a traditional restaurant, advised by a dear friend who relocated some time ago in this majestic capital. Here one cannot stop marveling at the richness of the architectural styles: gothic, renaissance, baroque, classical, ottoman, romantic, art nouveau – you name it.
Up to where?
The restaurant, Szep Ilona, is in Buda, on the western bank of the Danube, forming with Pest, on the other side of the river, the beautiful city.
We decide we have tried enough goulash. And opt for other traditional plates. And here I have to forewarn you. This is not light food. Portions are abundant, with plenty of dense sauce and sour cream reigns! So I advise you to go on an empty stomach and ready to handle the typical Hungarian style food.
I start with a delicious sour cream potato soup with sausage slices. A great choice.
Then we order a warm starter, which turns out to be nearly a main course in its own right. Two meaty pancakes a la Hortobágy in red sauce and sour cream. Very tasty and nutritious, perfect for meat lovers!
Finally, the main! Roast beef in wild sauce with potato donuts. And, yes, plenty of sour cream. I did warn you about the persistence of it. Thin and tender meat slices, with a delicate aroma but still satisfyingly rich, what with the sauce and the original side dish.
As you can imagine, I simply could not order also the dessert after such lavishness!
I advise accompanying the meal with Hungarian wine (or beer), which you can also order by the glass.
Szimpla Kert and Ruin pubs
But what really struck me amongst the many Budapest food options, was the farmer’s market hosted every Sunday from 9 to 2pm by Szimpla Kert, in Kazinczy utca. In the heart of Pest’s Jewish Quarter. Szimpla is the first and original romkocsma of Budapest. Better known to the international public as ruin pub, opened in 2002.
Innovation in the tradition
Nowadays the ruin pubs phenomenon – a unique feature of the Hungarian capital – has become well established, with many new such pubs opening and even closing, following a seasonal logic. The idea is to occupy in an alternative fashion old temporarily unused buildings which have not been restored for lack of available public funds. The Budapesters have thus decided to preserve them, creating a unique symbiosis of old and new. Often these are nocturnal places full of music and happenings, furnished with recycled material and adorned by artists’ pieces. But here at Szimpla, Sundays are a triumph of local farmers’ fresh organic products.
You can buy and take away, or decide to eat on the spot, in one of the variously carved out spaces, inside or in the courtyard. Although this venue has become a tourist attraction in its own right, and therefore the clientele might be more foreign than local, it is still totally worth visiting. Together, of course, with all the other excellent farmer’s market that take place in the city. Enjoy!
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