Devour delicious Balkan delights at Pola Pola

Photo : László Balkányi/We Love Budapest
Vakvarjú Étterem - Pest

Balkan flavors are well known in Hungary: we know what cevapi is, while fans of local gastro trends have enjoyed pljeskavica as well, and ajvar is widely available here. Now you can taste the specialities of Bosnian-Serb-Croatian cuisine at Klauzál Square as well, thanks to the recently opened Pola Pola.

South Slavic cuisine is quite distinct: they use lots of spices, meat is prominent, and grilled delicacies come with a smoky aroma. At the same time, it is not overcomplicated: a lepjina (a kind of pita), grilled meat. and some onions are perfectly enough for Balkan happiness. The masterminds of Pola Pola also wish to follow this direction by importing the Bosnian-Serb flavors to downtown Budapest, since authentic cevapi is only available south of the border. The opening had been preceded by long moths of preparations, since they had had to drop their original concept: the building in Klauzál Square couldn’t have held a 40-ton oven, which could have also heated the entire building in winter. Consequently, this special appliance capable of baking about 10,000 lepinjas a day was built in another part of town and the District VII locale specializes in grilling only. The spacious dining area doesn’t boast extraordinary interior-design feats, but that’s inconsequential, since it is the lepinja and the meat that matter first and foremost.
Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest

The lepinjas at Pola Pola are prepared from a light dough and take only a few seconds to cook in the 550°C oven fuelled with Bosnian beech. During our first visit, we went for the lepinja spread with kajmak (a salty type of cream cheese). The flavor of the soft, cold spread mixed wonderfully with the smoky Balkan aroma of the grill-heated Pola Pola lepsinja – resulting in an impeccable combination. Creating the perfect pastry has paid off: after our tasting session, we agreed that the strongest point is this slightly coal-tasting, soft Balkan pita, which, when paired with a meat, reminds of summer. It has everything: sunshine, frolicking and spirit.

Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest

According to the Pola Pola team, the most difficult part was finding the ideal meat supplier. They “gambled” away hundreds of kilos of meat in constant testing. The cevapi, the pljeskavica, and the sish are all made of veal, since this meat is finer. The cevapi is based on neck, blade, ribs, and soft loin cuts. Everything is cooked on the grill, which you can also watch in action. The good news is, the ventilation of the place is excellent, so you won’t be mistaken for an extra from a Kusturica film when you return to the office. There is, luckily, still a tiny bit of mesmerizing BBQ smell hovering around the place.

Photo: László Balkányi/We Love Budapest

Chicken fans won’t be disappointed: the raznjici (chicken shish kebab wrapped in bacon with Kápia peppers: 1,990 HUF) and the fillet in skin (1,590 HUF) are both excellent choices. We would still stick with the trinity of cevapi (1,590 HUF/plate), pljeska (1,790 HUF/plate), and rostiljska kolbasica (1,790 HUF/plate) with shopska salad, ajvar, and onions. To be honest, we didn’t quite get what the industrial-sized dose of onions was about – even if you have intestines of steel, we don’t recommended devouring it all. Many might find the cevapi plate too dry, since the dips and spreads are slightly small, so you might want to add a salty yogurt drink or a beer to your order to wash it all down. To be clear: neither the meat nor the lepinja are dry, we’re simply used to plenty of sauce. They also serve breakfast beginning at 8am, when you can ask for their meat dishes or a classic egg plate.

We recommend trying the lepinja (190 HUF) first, then go for the lepinja with kajmak and ajvar, after which you can proceed to the meats. The take-away option is a sandwich with six cevapi for 1,290 HUF or with ten cevapi for 1,690 HUF. It comes spread with ajvar and filled with shopska salad. In case you eat in, try doing it Pola Pola style: order a variety of meats and spreads with your lepinjas and share… but we must admit that we are not keen on sharing our lepinja.   

Pola Pola
1072 Budapest, Klauzál tér 11.
+36 70 434 0502
Opening hours:
Sunday-Wednesday: 8am-10pm; Thursday: 8am-2am; Friday-Saturday: 8am-4am
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