Budapest has enjoyed something of a culinary renaissance in recent times. Slowly but surely, this historic city has spent the last few decades recapturing the esteemed reputation it maintained so proudly during the late 19th and early 20th century, when it was seen as the food capital of the world.
So where can you taste the essence of Hungarian cuisine today? While authentic, good-quality dining options are on hand wherever you look in Budapest, the most notable restaurants are to be found on the right bank of the river in and around Pest’s trendy inner-city.
Here are our three top picks for some of the best restaurants to visit on a trip to the Hungarian capital.
Taste both modern gastronomy and traditional cuisine as Gundel’s
Overlooking City Park, Gundel is a landmark restaurant that could justifiably be called a national treasure. Founder Károly Gundel garnered local acclaim and then worldwide fame when, in 1910, he had the vision of blending Hungarian cuisine with international influences. His success was so pronounced at the 1939 World Fair that even The New York Times heralded Gundel as doing more to enhance Hungary’s reputation than a shipload of tourist brochures could have done.
This award-winning bastion of formality – where men must wear jackets – and fine cuisine retains all of Károly’s original culinary values. Current top-class dishes based on original recipes include the likes of their famous slow-cooked goose liver foie gras and their signature dessert, Gundel palacsinta: a crepe with a filling made from rum, raisins, walnuts, and lemon zest, served with a chocolate sauce.
Savour the experience from a corner table from which you can privately survey the room’s 1920s decor adorned with wood panelling and 19th-century paintings. For a table at the weekend, be sure to book in advance.
Experience Onyx’s creative kitchen cuisines
Set within Budapest’s historic Gerbeaud House in Vörösmarty Square, Onyx is a prestigious gourmet restaurant with a grand reputation. Opened in 2007 with a remit to be ‘a restaurant of high international standing,’ it became the capital’s second Michelin-starred restaurant within just four years.
Renowned head chef Ádám Mészáros uses only local, seasonal ingredients to create Onyx’s Hungarian Evolution Menu: an inventive selection that transforms Hungarian staples into mouth-watering haute cuisine. Every dish is a joy to look at, much like the intimate neo-Baroque interior, with its lavish Regency chairs, elegant marble statues and sparkling Venetian chandeliers.
Make the young wild boar cheek stew with buttered noodles and pickled paprika your first choice if you opt for à-la-carte dining.
Try masterful meals at Costes Restaurant
For a less formal fine dining experience head on over to Costes Restaurant on Ráday street. This spacious eatery balances contemporary touches like geometric dark-wood panels with cushioned armchairs and a warm colour palette to create an atmosphere at once both modern and inviting.
The food – top international cuisine with some delectable Hungarian touches – really is heavenly, prepared with the finest fresh ingredients and presented in artful arrangements. Did we mention that Costes was the first restaurant in Hungary to receive a Michelin star? Try the eight-course Grand Menu and you’ll see why. If you’re after a true Hungarian taste sensation, order the boar with dumpling, quince and red cabbage.
With more than 300 domestic and international tipples available, the wine menu at Costes is well worth investigating too.