Whenever we visit a new place, we like to avoid the tourist traps and try traditional specialities and places that the locals enjoy. This led us to Kisbuda Gyöngye on a recent trip to Budapest, meaning we had to take a taxi out of the city centre to a quiet residential street that you would never just stumble upon. (For what it’s worth, though, it can also be reached by bus or tram. There is also a brasserie named Remiz, also just out of the city centre, run by the same proprietors.)
This slightly secretive location added to the traditional appeal of the food and decor, as did the restaurant’s reputation of having hosted celebrities and diplomats as well as members of the public. We were also welcomed warmly and our meal was accompanied by live piano music throughout, which made the experience of eating there even more memorable.
So what of the food itself? We were keen to stick to traditional food, and so started with the catfish soup, which contained generous hunks of fish and proved filling, with a pleasing hint of spiciness. Portions are extremely generous in Hungary, so if you plan on having this as a starter, just tell the waiter so that the portion size can be adjusted for you. Following this came a dish of letscho and a flavourful paprika beef stew, served with pasta.
After enough food to feed an army, it’s surprising that we bothered with dessert, but bother we did, thanks to the temptation of another Hungarian speciality on the menu – szilvásgombóc. These are sweet dumplings with a plum jam filling, which are covered in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried. So despite looking like Scotch eggs that moved to Hungary in search of more lenient licensing hours, they are most definitely nothing of the sort. As for the overall taste experience, we found them a little heavy. Despite this, though, we weren’t put off Hungarian food (at this restaurant or otherwise) and would definitely return due to the quality of the welcome, the quality of the food, and the good value for money (we paid no more than £30 for all of this for the two of us, including a glass of nondescript Hungarian wine each).
And we urge you to visit too: the saddest thing about our visit was to see the clearly hardworking proprietor and pianist working all night for so few visitors, in an empty restaurant that (the staff told us) sees more visits during the day from people who work in the area. Budapest is, on the whole, a much neglected European city by tourists, and its restaurants and food deserve more than this.
H1034 Budapest, Kenyeres utca 34