What we ate in...Budapest
If you're scouting out places for a city break this summer then Budapest is an amazing place to go for a few days getaway. Not only is it pretty close (2 and a half hours from Liverpool or two episodes of Peaky Blinders, if that's how you measure time), it's also comparatively cheap, has loads of history, lots of sights and there's food and beer in almost every direction you look.
I'm a compulsive planner* so already had in mind what I wanted to do and, more importantly, where we were going to eat before we'd even left John Lennon airport so if you're visiting soon and wanted to know what to eat in Budapest, here's a lil' overview of what we had.
* honestly, I made a mind-map- what a catch!
Touching down late afternoon and having only a token Starbucks at the airport for brekkie we went for a wander around the area by our Airbnb in search of food. The first place we stumbled upon was Fuego. I'd lie and say that we picked it because it looked like it was full of locals enjoying traditional Hungarian cuisine but in reality I was drawn to it because it looked like a Nando's (you can take the girl outta Liverpool...) Thankfully, it was really good and 2 pints of the local beer, half a chicken, a spicy paprika dip and some sides (croquettes, and two different types of potatoes...for energy) only came to about 4500 HUF- about 14 quid. Definitely good enough to rival it's Portugese counterpart.
On the same road as Fuego is the oldest of Budapest's famous ruin bars- Szimpla Kert. Szimpla is a sprawling labyrinth of rooms, bars, and absolute colourful chaos. To add to that, on the day we went they just happened to be hosting a dog festival (!) which meant there was hundreds of puppies running about to add to the madness. I'd envisaged sitting in the sun to enjoy a drink but Budapest was sadly just as freezing as back home so we went to explore indoors instead. After a few more drinks in Szimpla as well as a beer (read: several) in Hops Beer Bar, an international Brewdog, we headed back to our apartment armed with bags full of crisps and several bars of Milka to munch on before bed.
Who said us Brits weren't cultured, ey?
The second day meant it was time for exploring so we joined on to a walking tour of the city, fuelled up with pretzels and coffee and went in search of the sights.
|Your eyes aren't deceiving you, that is a Michael Jackson tribute tree.|
Having spotted a cute little Spring market in Vörösmarty Square on the way round the tour, I made a beeline there for lunch the second we were finished. I'd been eyeing up potato pancakes from food stalls all over Budapest and this one was filled with sizzling pork, sour cream, sweet red peppers and onions, all stuffed inside a huge crispy hash brown. It was the dream. Washing that down with a few glasses of mulled wine (no, it wasn't Christmas but it was cold!) I picked up a doughnut cone filled with chocolate mousse, whipped cream and sprinkles for a light dessert and we headed back to nap and change for our exciting dinner plans ahead.
By far my favourite experience in Budapest was meeting Suzie and her family for dinner to take part in her Hungarian dinner party- Eat and Meet. Now I know this type of thing isn't to everybody's taste, in fact I got several messages asking me what the hell we were doing, but I promise you it was SO fun.
We hopped a bus out of town to find Suzie's apartment in a towering apartment complex by the river. Us, along with 10 other travelling guests were then treated to a proper home-cooked meal put on by Suzie's mum. Her dad kept our drinks topped up all night and Suzie was on hand to keep the conversation flowing and tell us about what we were eating. It wasn't nearly as awkward as you might think- we started the night with a shot of the local spirit Pálinka to warm us all up and then the evening went nicely from there. I'd definitely recommend trying it if you're not a fussy eater and you don't mind taking the odds that you might be sat next to somebody a little unusual!
|Our lovely host Suzie|
|Celeriac Soup with Roasted Duck, Chilli and Croutons|
|Stuffed Chicken, Roasted Pumpkin and Rice|
|Home-baked Chocolate and Orange Cake|
One of Budapest's most unique attractions is the thermal spas dotted all around the city. We had a good old soak in the Szechenyi Baths located in the middle of the city park which, despite the freezing weather, kept us more than toasty and restored our bleary wine headaches with it's (apparently) healing waters.
Next door to the baths is Vajdahunyad fantasy Castle which we explored before catching the metro back to the main square for a quick lunch stop. We had hot dogs, (more) mulled wine and my first chimney cake which, despite looking rather unimpressive was one of my favourite things we ate whilst we were in Budapest. A cylinder of dough coated in sugar is cooked over open flames and charcoal to create a huge tube of sweet, crispy dough that steam billows out the top of- just like a chimney! They'll also roll them in coconuts, chocolate or chopped nuts if you're feeling fancy. I could definitely see these going down well at the Baltic Market (hint hint).
Later that evening we crossed over the Danube and headed for an early evening drinking session underneath the foundations of Budapest Caste at Faust Wine Cellars. While Hungarian might not be your first choice when you're picking up a bottle of the good stuff, they actually have loads of wine regions and it's quite a big deal there so it would have been rude not to try some whilst we were visisting. The whole thing is in a tiny underground cave, lit by flickering candles with just 5 or 6 tables in total. We were given a selection chosen by the sommelier including 2 whites, 2 reds and an amazing sweet dessert wine called Tokaji that I would have happily drank all evening. Despite some cheese scones to keep us going, by the time we left the cellars it was dark and we were both starving so we staggered back across the river looking for a late dinner which we found at Hummus Bar.
Fortunately there was a Hummus Bar right by our apartment but apparently they're all dotted all over the city. It was the perfect combination of carb, beige and spice that you crave once you've had a bevvie and it was less than a tenner for the two of us to feast on falafel, pitta, dips and er..maybe another beer.
Our last day in Budapest was spent mostly packing, drinking and lounging around mini-street food market Karavan, soaking up the first sighting of the sun we'd seen all week. I finally got to try Langos, a Hungarian speciality of deep fried dough topped with garlic, sour cream, peppers and cheese. Fully authentic but honestly, a little bit weird.
We ended up going for our final meal at Vicky Barcelona, a Spanish/Hungarian tapas bar in the Jewish Quarter with the loveliest waiters, live music and salsa dancers. Much to my delight they had the heaters cranked up to 11 so it felt like we were sipping Sangria in the Med rather than down the side-streets of the Hungarian capital.
The next day we hopped a train over to Bratislava in Slovakia to continue our little Eurotrip, but I'll save the details of that for another day!
Have you been to Budapest? Know anywhere else amazing we should have tried? Let me know!