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Try freshly caught Hungarian catfish at Budapest’s Stég Fish Bar

Being the capital of a landlocked nation, Budapest doesn’t offer many places where we can enjoy fresh seafood – but now we have found an excellent exception that provides diners with much more than the classic fish-and-chips platter. Instead of attempting to import fish from the Mediterranean or Atlantic, the new Stég Fish Bar specializes in serving freshwater fish from Hungary, creating a great option for a downtown fish feast with a charming interior and culinary expertise.

A new street-food restaurant opened at the Dob Street entrance of Gozsdu Udvar, across from the new Spanish tapas bar, with tables facing the passage and a small, street-side window. Stég is a fish bar with a modest-yet-memorable design, a refreshing alternative to the trendy bistro atmosphere created by Hungarian designers Eszter Laki and Gergely Szőke. We really liked the quirky fish wallpaper, the placemats, and the whole setting: it was appetizing and fun. The angry-looking catfish heads staring from the walls also add to the atmosphere, and are the owner’s own trophies. The ventilation is exceptionally good; even though they even make lángos in addition to fish, we didn’t smell too much oil, which is pretty rare for a fish bar.

It’s no coincidence that there is little high-quality Hungarian river fish available on the market; due to current laws, catering units receive fish bred in still waters instead of reducing the fish population of domestic rivers. Experts on the subject can tell where a fish is from just by looking at it, but even a layman can taste if a fish is “muddy”. Stég strives to get the best fish from the best suppliers – they refuse to use poor-quality catfish. This attitude is sympathetic and sincere, with the place also openly indicating that their fries are frozen. And why wouldn’t they – we’re talking about street food, and let’s face it: while special homemade fries can provide a great experience, fish and chips goes better with the less-fancy version anyway.

Stég’s owner has been living by the Tisza River for 20 years, in a floating house. For him, the river is a way of life: this is where he unwinds and does sports, not to mention enjoy his love of authentic river-fish flavors, which were rather alien to the capital until now. This is why Stég was born, serving delicious catfish greaves, fisherman’s soups, and fish and chips coated in brown-beer batter.Among the entrées, we tried the aforementioned catfish greaves served with red onion, cucumber, and lemon (2,290 HUF). We got well-made catfish bites that were not too fatty, tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. We proceeded to enjoy a small portion of catfish fisherman’s soup (2,290 HUF for a small portion, 2,990 HUF for a large portion), with huge, white fish-fillet cubes and plenty of spices, but lacking in pungency – however, we can request it to be spicier, as well. We’re talking about a delicious and ideally thick soup here, which can also be ordered with the innards included for an extra 450 forints. While the price is a bit high, it truly reflects the quality. We’re not the biggest fans of fisherman’s soups, but even we finished our bowlful until the last drop.

Their fish and chips is either made from cod (2,490 HUF) or from premium gray catfish (2,290 HUF), and it comes in portions large enough for two people, served with remoulade sauce. Stég’s fish taco is a fun catch as well, made with catfish bites – a Californian surfer classic with a Tisza-style twist. Naturally, we can order whole fish, as well: perch, bream, catfish, and hake. Yes, we know hake is not a river fish, but a Hungarian fish bar would be inconceivable without it. To enhance the beach-like atmosphere, we can also eat lángos and waffles at Stég. Overall, we like the concept very much, and left Stég with a full stomach – we are genuinely pleased to welcome a high-quality fish bar in District VII.

Stég Address: Budapest 1055, Dob utca 16 Opening hours: Monday-Wednesday: 11am-midnight, Thursday-Sunday: 11am-2am

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