Budapest had long been on my bucket list of cities to visit, so it seemed only right to sneak in a trip before 2019 comes to an end. I can safely say it did not disappoint and I only wish I’d visited sooner. I was completely taken aback by the beautiful Fisherman’s Bastion, St. Stephen’s Basilica and the iconic neo-Gothic Parliament building which boasted similarities to the Houses of Parliament in London.
As much as I enjoy seeing the sights, I cannot deny that most of my travels revolve around food to a certain extent, and Budapest was no different. My favourite thing to do is browse trip advisor beforehand and have some solid ideas as to where to go to avoid any disappointment. Over the course of the three days, there was an impressive amount of eating and drinking completed, but I’m telling myself that the walking and exploring made up for it! With Christmas just around the corner, no one is counting calories anyway. Here are just a handful of foodie highlights I would definitely recommend if you’re thinking of visiting.
As we arrived in Budapest bright and early, we were certainly ready for a leisurely brunch to kick off the trip. Brunch is my favourite meal without a doubt, so unsurprisingly I already had somewhere in mind which conveniently was only a stone throw away from our hotel. STIKA is a pocket-sized restaurant located in the old Jewish Quarter and specialises in serving breakfast all day, every day (pretty much!), which I knew would be right up my street. After reading rave reviews, I was expecting a packed-out place but it was surprisingly quiet which I imagine was due to it being a rather sleepy Thursday morning in Budapest. The best thing about STIKA for me was the extensive ‘Benny Selection’ which includes eleven different types of Eggs Benedict. As my go-to, I really was spoilt for choice as you could choose from adding caviar, goats’ cheese or even beef to the traditional breaky as well as the usual suspects. It was a very tough decision, but I decided to go for the ‘Sausage Benny’ because when in Hungary, you just can’t say no to kolbasz (spiced sausages)! Two poached eggs were served with homemade Hungarian sausage on top of an English muffin with creamy hollandaise sauce – simple yet tasty and the best start to the day.
When the sightseeing and walking gets a bit much, a pit stop for something sweet is always in order and Varosliget Cafe & Restaurant by Heroes Square was just what we needed. As someone who doesn’t have an overly sweet tooth, even I was tempted by the impressive selection of cakes and desserts on offer. As much as I was looking forward to trying traditional Hungarian cuisine, I decided against the strudel and dumplings on this occasion and went straight for the Pistachio White Chocolate Cake with a sharp and refreshing Raspberry ice cream. I find it impossible to turn down anything that involves pistachio. It was incredible and certainly steals your heart just like the menu promised. We were all sold by the huge selection of cakes which included interesting flavours like Lavender.
For one of our evening meals, I picked a little Hungarian restaurant called Retek Bistro which really took traditional to a whole new level. With the red and white checked table cloths and quaint décor, it was very cosy and charming inside and had a small yet concise menu of traditional Hungarian dishes. Steering away from bowls of goulash that my family ordered, I chose lángos which is freshly fried disk of dough (crispy on the outside and soft within) topped with garlic butter, sour cream and grated cheese. It is just as stodgy as it sounds but is definitely satisfying. I can imagine it really is the ultimate Hungarian hangover cure or late-night munch. It is traditionally served as street food at market halls and festivals and I must admit it was more like a meal in itself. As we were also served bread with our starters, it was a double dough situation and I was feeling very, very full! For our main meals, three of us opted for the Hungarian Style Deep Fried Meatballs served with creamy mashed potatoes and pickled cucumbers which was also very filling but tasty. If I hadn’t been so full of dough, I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more and the different pickles were really complementary. On this occasion, it was a case of true food coma and we couldn’t fit in another thing!
After our evening meals we enjoyed strolling the streets of Budapest to find some late-night tipples and were really spoilt for choice. There are so many little hidden gems in Budapest - Tuk Tuk bar was just one of these. As soon as you enter, you are transported to 1920’s Shanghai with a unique interior of swinging chairs, ornaments and interesting prints, which together really made the whole experience and added to the ambience. The extensive cocktail menu includes bespoke creations made with fresh herbs and spices like, basil, chilli, ginger, lemongrass, lemon cane and homemade syrups. The cocktails are all unique in their own way and served in interesting glasses with decorative flowers and garnishes (very Instagrammable). I went for an Asian Pornstar Martini which was made with a special ko Japanese vodka and provided an interesting twist to the classic cocktail. I would definitely recommend if you’re not brave enough to order a drink with Jalapenos or you’re looking for something on the more familiar side!
Our final stop was the 360 rooftop bar which is famous for its panoramic vista of Budapest. It definitely has a trendy, relaxed vibe and is the ideal spot for sipping cocktails and enjoying a bar snack or slider or two. Perched atop one of the tallest buildings along Andrássy Avenue, also known as Budapest's Champs-Élysées, it’s definitely worth a visit for the view alone and is also a hot spot at the weekend where hip-hop and R&B ooze from the DJs booth in the evenings. Sadly, this was our last evening in Budapest and the next day we were due to head home. If beautiful architecture and history, fabulous markets and quirky dining is your cup of tea, then Budapest is certainly for you!