I'm ashamed to admit, that when first thinking of food in Budapest I didn't get far beyond Gulasch. However, it should be duly noted that Budapest is a hipster foodie heaven well in the making. Farm-to-table bistro cafes, street food on many a corner, and a cross-cultural array of foods and flavours, are all waiting to be discovered by the discerning visitor. Here are my Top 5 foodie tips to make the most out of your visit to Hungary's capital (note: I made a special effort to resist punning on 'Hungary'):
1. STREET FOOD
Highlight: fresh, tasty, hip food
Some of the best things I ate in Budapest came from the street. Wander over to the Jewish Quarter in summer and you're bound to stumble across a street food van or other in a matter of minutes. My favourite was the Karaván street food court on Kazinczy Street – conveniently located next door to the famous Szimpla Kert ruin pub. In a cute-looking courtyard, you will find several street food vendors offering their delicious wares to dig in to – in fact, you'll be more than spoilt for choice and will undoubtedly have to spend a while wandering around each stand before making a decision. I grabbed a late lunch there and the atmosphere was perfect – really chilled, with happy vendors dancing along to some cool tunes while they cooked. I opted for a Lángos from Lángos Máshogy and wasn't disappointed. Lángos is a traditional Hungarian creation – a type of flat bread which has been deep-fried (healthy!) You can choose from a variety of toppings, but I went with the vendor's recommendation of: garlic, sour cream and caramelised onion. With that flavour combination it was a good job I was travelling alone!
2. TÚRÓ RUDI
Highlight: for the sweet-toothed
For a sweet snack on the go, look no further than the nearest supermarket – the place to get your hands on Hungary's much-loved sweet treat: Túró Rudi. I first heard about these bad boys from a Hungarian, who described them in VERY accurate way: a cheesecake bar covered in chocolate. Who can say no to that?! Not exactly cheesecake, the middle of the bars are actually made from curd. They come in a variety of different flavours which are worth giving a try, but I'm of the opinion that the classic bar is best. If you're concerned about navigating your way through the supermarket to find them, fear not: the Túró Rudi have a distinctive spotty packaging and can always be found in the refrigerated section, often nearby to the cream and yoghurts.
3. GERLARTO ROSA
Highlight: ice cream as a work of art
Proving that ice cream doesn't only taste good, but can look good too, is Gelarto Rosa. A hop skip and a jump from St. Stephen's Basilica, you'll find this pleasant little ice cream parlour. When grabbing an ice cream, normally it's to go, but Gelarto Rosa's pretty interiors will more than tempt you to stay a while. "But what makes Gelarto Rosa so special?!", I hear you cry. Well, the key to the secret is all in the name. Gelarto Rosa is famed for curating it's ice cream cones to look like a rose. It may sound like a gimmick that can't possibly live up to expectations, but I promise you it can – and I watched in amazement as they made my ice cream all the sweeter by sculpting it into a floral form. It's not all style and no substance though, the ice cream tastes wonderful, too.
4. HUMMUS BAR KIRÁLY VI.
Highlight: hummus, hummus, and more hummus (ok, and falafel)
In case you haven't noticed already from my other food-based posts, I'm rather fond of falafels. It comes as no surprise then, that when I spotted falafel joint Hummus Bar at the end of a long day, that I didn't think twice before pulling up a chair and checking out the menu. It was only later that I found out that Hummus Bar is in actual fact a chain in Budapest – but that shouldn't detract from the fact that they make damn fine falafels for a decent price, which can be enjoyed in a solo-diner friendly environment. I stopped by at the Király VI establishment, conveniently situated nearby to where I was staying. I grabbed one of the Hummus Plates which came with – you guessed it– hummus, plus falafel, aubergine, arabic salad, carrot coriander salad and, of course, the staple pitta bread. A falafel fan's dream and certainly worth a look for a light lunch or dinner.
5. GREAT MARKET HALL
Highlight: an array of eateries in an impressive locale
A visit to Budapest isn't complete without paying a visit to the famous Great Market Hall. Situated alongside the river banks, the hall is impressive upon first site – looking more like an elegantly designed, grand train station than a place to house market stalls. The eye-catching architecture continues on the inside, with a full view of the vast steel structure. But, back to the food. Those wishing to purchase some fresh produce should stick to the ground floors, whereas those in search of something to satisfy their appetite should head to the eateries on the upper floor. Amidst the array of tempting food on display on the upper floor, one of Budapest's most famous Lángos stands can be found. It's not often I make rookie food/tourist mistakes, but at this Lángos stand I did. I ordered the Lángos I had decided on, and was then asked if I wanted some of this topping and this sauce with it too (the list went on). Somehow I didn't twig that these were not free extras being offered (not my smartest moment), and by the time I did, I was several toppings in and it was too late to turn back. Like art, sometimes terrible mistakes can turn into beautiful things, and this ended up being the case here. Behold the beauty of my epic Lángos. It's safe to say that everyone stared in envy at my creation. Was it expensive? Well, yes – the equivalent of a basic lunch and dinner in Budapest. Luckily though, my intelligence returned before I paid, and I asked for half of my Lángos to be bagged up to take away – win. So, visit the Lángos stand, just make sure to pay attention to what comes with your order and...what doesn't.