The first leg of our Eurotrip after Italy was to Eastern Europe… first stop, to the Hungarian capital, Budapest!When I lived abroad, Budapest had been on my “to go” list but I never got around to visiting there. We arrived early in the morning and checked into our AirBnb, about a 15 minute walk away from the city center.
After dropping off our bags, we walked around the city center. We visited the Hungarian Parliament Building, the largest building in all of Hungary and the tallest building in the city. We also walked by the Shoes on the Danube River, a commemorative memorial sculpture to honor those killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen during World War II. People were ordered to remove their shoes then shot by the river where their bodies would fall. The sculpture signifies their shoes left behind along the bank. We then visited St. Stephen’s Basilica, a Roman Catholic basilica in the middle of the city.
After strolling the streets, we came across an outdoor market within the main plaza where there were tons of food vendors selling traditional Hungarian cuisine. Even though everything looked delicious, we had dinner plans so we didn’t want to ruin our appetites.
Our first dinner was at Onyx, a one Michelin starred restaurant that actually earned its second star a few days after our meal! They offer two tasting menus; a six course menu or eight course menu. We opted for the eight course menu as the dishes sounded more enticing.
We enjoyed their bread basket as it had numerous types of bread from brown seeded bread, cheesy bread, white bread, and even squid ink bread.
A tasty little bite of fried crispy okra which didn’t have the slimy texture.
Salsify, a root vegetable, has a wonderful sweet flavor that paired nicely with pickled radish and a bright parsley coulis. This was a favorite amongst the dishes.
Thinly sliced pieces of cod fish were swimming in a buttermilk sauce with rye bread, refreshing cucumber, and briny sturgeon caviar. Overall I enjoyed this dish but it needed a touch of salt.
Rillette, typically made with meat that’s been shredded, was made into a crispy croquette. Underneath was charred cabbage with a slightly acidic sauce.
A thin piece of trout was wrapped around a fish mousse with tomato sauce underneath with clams and mussels. While technically this was executed nicely, I wasn’t crazy about the fish mousse.
As I don’t eat mushrooms, this was Tommaso’s dish while I enjoyed the next dish.
A clear rich consommé with a perfect raviolo stuffed with braised oxtail. The quail egg on top was just lightly cooked with the yolk still runny when cut into it.
Tender beef slices were simply garnished with black salt. Around the beef, there were variations of celery root (purée and small pieces) as well as a celery root “dumpling” stuffed with Buffalo Mozzarella cheese.
This was a slightly strange pre-dessert with cocoa “dirt” and horseradish ice cream (tasted more sweet than spicy and pungent). It wasn’t necessarily bad, just odd.
Túró Rudi is a popular Hungarian candy bar with chocolate on the outside with almost a creamy cheese like substance in the middle. I wasn’t a fan of the pumpkin with the Túró Rudi as I felt like the dish was too savory for my liking. The sea buckthorn just added more tartness but overall I like my desserts a little sweeter than this.
For our first meal in Budapest, we were pleasantly surprised as we didn’t know what to expect their fine dining would be like. Even though I’m happy Onyx achieved a second Michelin star, I don’t think the food reflects that. However, the ambience and service was top notch, definitely worthy of a second star. Therefore my rating is a 7.5-8/10.
The following day we walked to the Buda side of the city. First we sawFisherman’s Bastion, a neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque terrace along the Danube River. Right next to the Fisherman’s Bastion isMatthias Church, a Roman Catholic church originally built in 1015 even though no archaeological remains exist. The current church was constructed in a Gothic style in the late 14th century. Lastly, we walked to the Buda Castle which dates back to 1265 when it housed Hungarian kings.
One of the most iconic and traditional coffeehouses in the city is Café Gerbeaud where they have beautiful cakes and all types of coffee drinks. Even though it’s a little pricey, we came here twice during our stay and tried three slices of cake all together which were all amazing.
For a traditional Hungarian dinner, we dined at Hungarikum Bisztró. The hospitality and ambience were wonderful here and there was even live music.
I mean, who doesn’t like gnocchi especially topped with a nice dollop of tangy sour cream and crispy bacon chunks?! Sooo good.
Of course we had to try goulash, a traditional soup with stewed beef and vegetables. Simple but quite scrumptious.
While both the mashed potatoes and braised cabbage were spot on, the duck leg needed some love. The skin needed to be crispy and the meat itself was under seasoned.
The pork loin was pretty tasty, nicely charred, especially with the paprika sauce. With little dumplings underneath, basically like spaetzle, I enjoyed this much more than the duck main course.
Any type of apple dessert I’m a fan of. Small pieces of cooked apple were stuffed in between the pastry crust with a silky vanilla sauce. The spongecake was also good but it just didn’t hit the spot like the apple pie did for me. Overall the meal was pretty delicious, a solid 7.5-8/10.
Our third day we trekked to the Great Market Hall, a food market with all sorts of vendors. Upstairs they have ready made food and I finally tried a traditional Hungarian snack, lángos. It’s basically fried dough where you can put savory or sweet toppings (I got it with sour cream, ham, and cheese) and it was bomb.
After the market, we walked to the Buda side again and visited Gellért Hill Cave. Within the network of caves, a chapel and monastery were built which was slightly creepy to visit since it’s underground.
After our excursions we had to visit Café Gerbeaud for a second time because their cakes are just so damn good!
We actually didn’t have dinner plans our third night and went to a local Vietnamese spot near our apartment. Surprisingly the pho soup was much better than most that I’ve tried!
Our final day in Budapest started bright and early by heading to the Széchenyi Thermal Bath, the largest medicinal bath in Europe where its water comes from two thermal springs. Even though it was morning, there were a good amount of people (I’ve heard it can get quite busy at night).
After a relaxing morning, we walked around Vajdahunyad Castle, a building constructed in 1908 with the intention of showcasing 1000 years of Hungarian architecture. Afterwards, we walked through Hero’s Square.
We made a quick visit toSzimpla Kert, a funky pub opened all day. I can only imagine how crowded it could get a night.
For lunch we had goulash soup in a bread bowl at a food truck and some sandwiches from Bors Gasztrobar, a popular street food spot with a small eclectic menu. We ordered two half sandwiches: the thai massage (spicy chicken, curry, zucchini, and cilantro) and toki pompás (mangalica sausage, bacon, sour cream, and cheese). Both freakin’ delicious!
Our final night in Budapest we dined at Costes Downtown, a one Michelin starred restaurant inside the Prestige Hotel. Their original Costes restaurant is also in the city center and has a Michelin star but their downtown restaurant was closer to where we were staying. They offer a four, five, or six course tasting menu where you choose dishes from their à la carte menu. What’s great is that you and your dining companion don’t need to order the same dishes if you decide to do a tasting menu therefore you can try more dishes! Since it was our last night, we went all out with the six course tasting menu where we tried four starters, four mains, one cheese dish, and three desserts, all shared between the two of us.
Similar to the amuse bouches at Onyx but with a squid ink cracker with cod brandade and tapioca chip.
Warm bread with goats milk butter and brown butter with garlic. I loved the tanginess of the goats milk butter but the brown butter needed a little more seasoning and didn’t have any garlic flavor.
A perfectly cooked quail egg with fried sweet leek strands.
I don’t think I’ve ever had sturgeon crudo but the fish was lightly marinated and went beautifully with the coconut cream, red lentils, and juicy sweet mango. A lively colorful dish that tasted as good as it looked.
Pan seared scallops with variations of sweet parsnip (purée, fried pieces, and larger pieces) with diced green apple. Really delicious as well.
A comforting bowl of celery root soup with celery root pieces on the side with sharp Cheddar cheese and toasted hazelnuts.
Grilled quail was perfectly cooked, juicy and tender, with an intense herb sauce, cabbage, and melt in your mouth lardo slices. This was superb.
Pike perch, a freshwater fish, was pan seared (the skin could have been crispier) with black quinoa and fresh spring peas.
I’m typically not a monkfish lover but this was executed so well. The roasted meaty fish was still tender and was served with an aromatic curry sauce, and black and white rice almost cooked risotto style since it was so creamy.
Mangalica pork just goes so well with sweet sunchokes. The pork itself was tender and the fat just melted in your mouth.
Super tasty rib-eye beef with braised cheek and a sabayon sauce. Of course beef and potatoes are a classic combination and the potatoes in Eastern Europe are outstanding because they’re just naturally so creamy and sweet. Even the potato chips on the side were tasty.
Mango sorbet was our pre-dessert with sticky rice. I loved the sorbet but didn’t finish the sticky rice as I was getting full.
A simple cheese course with national and international selection of cheeses.
All the components of a cheesecake deconstructed with a tangy refreshing yogurt sorbet, tart berries, and a rye crumble.
Aranygaluska, a traditional Hungarian dessert with dough that’s been rolled in butter, sugar, and nuts, was the basis of this dessert with a poached pear on top. This dessert was right up my alley.
I’m not typically a chocolate lover but this was the weakest out of all the dishes. While visually stunning, it lacked flavor and dimension.
Costes Downtown was our favorite meal of our Budapest trip. Pretty much every dish was executed well; seasoning was spot on, cooking techniques were correct, and presentation was beautiful. The restaurant itself is sleek yet inviting and service was great. I also had three mocktails that were stunningly presented and extremely delicious and well balanced. I’d give Costes Downtown an 8.5/10.
During our four days we had such a fun time in Budapest! From the magnificent architecture, the calming hot springs, the friendly Hungarian people, and delectable cuisine, this city is worth visiting.