Émile Gerbeaud moved to Hungary in 1884 and partnered with Henrik Kugler, whom he had come to know two years earlier in Paris. The resulting café and confectionery has been operating since 1858 and today, with 157 years of history, its name is intertwined with tradition and quality. Now, Pest has the Gerbeaud while Buda boasts a place called Émile. We find out what to expect at the famous café’s new spot across the river.
The Gerbeaud at Vörösmarty Square has lived through good and bad over the past half century. For example, in the decades of socialism in Hungary and immediately after the regime change, it was not necessarily known for its top quality service. Although quality comes with a price, Gerbeaud has been able to revive itself over the past decade, and the high quality and success of the neighbouring restaurant, Onyx, is symbolic of this.
The bar is high for Émile and the owners did not have an easy job when they bought the somewhat run-down villa in Buda. The concept is that from morning to evening, guests can find almost everything they need in the house: in the ground-floor counter we find desserts, the gallery is perfect for breakfast, there are spots perfect for a business meeting over coffee, afternoon tea or a late night champagne. The ground-floor restaurant will please those who enjoy fine dining, and the garden could easily become a favourite starting or ending point for summer nights for those in the area.
In addition to items of family heritage, the original plans for the villa are also exhibited in the upper section, which is a nice gesture from the owners. According to the drawings, the house was built to the plans of Márton Szabó for him and his family.
The restaurant’s most interesting point is the open kitchen and, naturally, we could not resist sitting at the “chef’s table” so we could follow the cooking process. This was an experience in itself. Chef Gergely Kövér is cool, calm and collected and runs the kitchen well, while still having a moment for guests. He spent several years in Spain and the Netherlands, and now puts the knowledge he gained abroad into the service of the local crowd. The sous chef, Ferenc Jóvér, came over from Costes.
The amuse-bouche (a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre) is a beetroot bonbon with creamy horseradish, after which three kinds of excellent homemade bread and salted butter arrive. The latter is served on a small plate, made from the old marble counters of Gerbeaud.
One of the most beautiful dishes of the menu is an appetiser, the smoked eel (3500 HUF) with watercress, tapioca pearls, parsley oil and Earl Grey tea. The latter is poured on the plate by the waiters, who also tell us about the concept of the dish. The restaurant managers, Dániel Kovacsik and Péter Herr, seem to know their stuff and elegance is in their every movement. This is not surprising, since both of them have worked at The Fat Duck, which is considered to be one of the best restaurants in the world.
The chef boldly handles the classics of Hungarian gastronomy. Next is ox meat broth (1900 HUF) with marrow, toast and eggs, which is poured on the dry soup. The recipe of the specialty, also called “pocket soup” was written by József C. Dobos in 1881.
The main course is sous vide Mangalitsa on a bed of vegetables (2900 HUF). The skin is crisp, the meat is tender – the only downside is that, with the bean and sausage side, this is not exactly a light dish. At the end, we can choose from four kinds of dessert. It is important to mention that the sommelier recommends excellent wines for each dish, and it is definitely worth heeding his advice.
Although we could not try it at this time, Émile’s most important main dish will be the paprika chicken, which is supposedly going to be perfected in the kitchen. For this, the raw material comes from the house’s own farm in Vas county, just like the eggs used for the breakfasts. Many people have been waiting for the opening of “Buda’s Gerbeaud” and based on our experiences, we can say that their excitement is fully understandable. We hope that Émile’s story will continue just this brilliantly, for at least another 157 years!