I very rarely book restaurants for when we go away on holiday. I can’t think of anything worse than having to abandon whatever we’re doing wherever we are to rush back to the hotel to get ready to go out for dinner. Equally I never plan out what we’re going to do (beyond having a vague idea of what I’d like to see and do based on a bit of research) because experience has taught me that even with the best advice on how long things ‘should’ take or how long you ‘need’ that the best thing about going anywhere is discovering things that you can’t plan for or realising that something is way more or less interesting than you thought. What looks like just a park on a map might have a really cool lakeside cafe in which leads to afternoon cake which then means that you aren’t as hungry when you need to be for a reservation. Plus, it’s easy to book somewhere on the basis of good reviews written by the English/Americans and then turn up and find the place is a complete tourist trap.
However, on our recent trip to Budapest I decided to book a restaurant (Aszu Etterem) for our first night because we were due to arrive late afternoon and I knew we wouldn’t have much time to find somewhere that looked good. As part of that research I found a few other places which looked great, but weren’t first night dinner places as they either looked fancier (Baraka) or more worth savouring (Borkonyha). So, unusually for me, I went ahead and booked dinner for us for three nights of five, leaving us enough scope for spontaneity and finding places we liked the look of while we were there.
All of our meals in Budapest were good and I do in particular recommend Baraka (I may yet write about our meal there), but we loved Borkonyha. So much so that after our first dinner there on Tuesday night, we booked again there and then for a late lunch on the Friday. Although I took photos from our first dinner there, these are from our second visit because a late lunch means natural lighting and, accordingly, better photos.
Located close to the Basilica, Borkonyha Winekitchen is one of five Michelin starred restaurants in Budapest and despite its star is very reasonably priced, with the most expensive main course currently on their website being just £20 (not much more than some main dishes in bog standard chain restaurants here).
Borkonhya Winekitchen is described as being blend of a French-style bistro and a contemporary family restaurant offering the best of Hungarian cuisine. All accompanied by a fantastic selection of Hungarian wine.
On our second visit we wanted to try slightly different choices from the short-ish menu, although we would have both happily eaten the same dishes that we chose the first time. Although having said that, I couldn’t resist a repeat of my starter, pigeon breast and rilette with broccoli and dried apricot. Rich and delicious, the apricot nicely balanced out a rich sauce and the combination of rilette and breast provided variety in texture.
My boyfriend chose the salmon, trout and scallop starter with fennel in a shrimp sauce. Different from his starter on our first visit, the “perfect” egg. He tucked in with relish and rated it more than his first starter, although it was probably a more conventional choice, which may explain it.
After loving the fish of the day with green peas in an anchovy sauce on our first visit, my boyfriend decided to try something a bit different for him – the vegetarian option – a baked corn cake with soft cheese and olives in parsley cream. Although he is pescetarian he very rarely chooses the vegetarian option, normally going for a fish dish if possible and on this occasion I think would have, with hindsight, had the fish again, but said that this was alright.
After having the farm chicken and quail breast with colorful carrots and cottage cheese on my first visit upon recommendation by the staff, this time I chose one of the dishes from the short list of specials, pork on a bed of chickpeas. Beautifully tender caramelised pork on smooth chickpeas. They also do a set menu for a price of, I think it was around €55.
On our first visit we had opted for three courses and a bottle of wine and I think it all came to about £80, but then it occurred to us that, in a restaurant where a quarter of the wines are sold by the glass that we should ask for them to choose wines for us that matched our food, which they did beautifully with an array of Hungarian wines.
Following an assortment of Hungarian cheese, the desserts were, as with all the dishes and as could probably be expected, a visual and culinary feast. A small selection meant that blueberry yogurt, almond crumbs and green tea was my dessert the first visit and my boyfriend’s on the second…
…whereas my boyfriend’s first visit choice was mine for our second visit – Bitter chocolate, passion fruit, coffee.
With a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and without any stuffiness, I’d thoroughly recommend a visit to Borkonyha to anyone who is off to Budapest, and let’s face it, everyone seems to be off at the moment. I’m not sure why but it’s an amazing city and deserves a visit.
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