A crackling voice over the intercom says 6th floor. We head up. Stepping out of the elevator, we are greeted by our smiling host, who invites us into the flat that looks onto the Danube and the Buda Hills. The chicken paprikash is already cooking, the dough for the dumplings is waiting to be dropped into the water. We’ve booked a table in a pop-up apartment restaurant that we think you’ll enjoy too.
Our lovely hosts, Ferenc, Zsuzsa and their daughter offer us home-made pálinka as all the guests arrive. Two of the other guests – a young Italian couple – seem unsure of the 1998 vintage, but throw it back fast after they’re given a small history of pálinka, a strong Hungarian fruit brandy.
It’s the Italian pair’s first time in Budapest and its our first time at a pop-up apartment restaurant. But what is a pop-up restaurant exactly? Well, the thanks go to Cuba’s Fidel Castro – although he wasn’t the inventor. He simply banned “imperialist” private restaurants in Cuba, so people started to cook for each other in their homes. Later, they cooked for tourists as well, who were smitten with the idea and exported it. The legal service is increasingly popular in many European cities, including Budapest. The atmosphere is more intimate and home-like and it’s also a budget-friendly option. It also provide the chance to meet locals and find out more about the city.
While the Italian visitors are introduced to the miracle of Hungarian noodle making, we get a tour of the nicely decorated flat. It turns out that the family has only been running the pop-up named Eat & Meet since February. The husband works as a graphic artist, the wife is an accountant, while their child – somewhat fortuitously – has just started her new job as a gastronomical tour guide.
The idea of the home restaurant came from the daughter who opened a pop-up focusing on Hungarian specialities for Restaurant Day.
Eat & Meet wishes to become an ambassador for Hungarian cuisine in Danubius Street, so it primarily targets foreigners with a typical Hungarian menu, which always include a poppy seed or curd cheese speciality.
Every evening has special moments, they have seen a number of funny reactions to the food. One of the guests was shocked by the curd cheese noodles, another thought the family tried to drug him with the poppy seed cookie, and some Canadian guests loved the tomato soup with alphabet pasta so much that they wanted to cook it at home despite the ingredients being unavailable.
For us, the first course was egg soup, which we found to be delicious, followed by the aforementioned chicken paprikash with noodles – one of the Italians is a vegetarian so there’s a mushroom paprikash version as well. Food requests can be taken into account (vegetarian, vegan) as can food intolerances (gluten, lactose, nuts etc). The food is the kind that a Hungarian would get at their mum’s or grandmother’s and everyone at the table is nodding in approval.
For dessert there’s poppy seed and sour cherry pie, our Italian friends love it so much that they even take photos, since they have never eaten poppy seed before. The slices are so generous that by the end we’re stuffed.
With dessert we get Tokaji Furmint and you can also choose wine for your main course. Our hosts tell us about the history of the various foods and drinks plus the related traditions. As the warm weather arrives they’ll also offer open-air dining on the terrace, so guests can enjoy the exceptional view of Budapest in its entirety.
Considering the price-value ratio (the dinner costs 25 euros per person) Eat & Meet is one of the better value pop-up options. In some cases, professional chefs just move their restaurant into their living room along with the prices. Here, it is really a mum cooking traditional Hungarian dishes so you really feel like you’ve been invited over for a dinner party.