Since the time of Budapest’s belle-époque era, many of the city’s restaurants have bourne a distinctive grace that remains prevalent in several fine eateries today. Gilded lamps, wall-mounted mirrors, and wooden wainscoting may present a scene reminscent of the late 19th century, but such fixtures have never gone out of style here – and at these restaurants that either date back decades or are specially designed to evoke an old-fashioned ambience, guests are surrounded by this timeless décor that draws on local history while dining on 21st-century dishes from near and far.
Celebrating its 130th anniversary this year, this classic coffeehouse once served as a second home for many of Hungary’s greatest writers, and still today it bears an inspiring atmosphere of plush leather booths, black-and-white portraits, and ample sunshine flooding through huge windows that open in summer to the sidewalk-seating area. However, the food is far from old-fashioned here – menu items include reinvented Hungarian favorites like Újházy hen soup served with shiitake mushrooms.
Deák St. Kitchen
In the heart of downtown by Deák Square, this welcomingly elegant restaurant opened last year as the primary eatery of Budapest’s new Ritz-Carlton – but instead of creating a dining destination based on international trends, hotel management decided to design the Deák St. Kitchen with classic local flair. This approach extends to the dishes, which include up-to-date versions of homestyle Hungarian cooking like the veal shoulder paprikash with cottage-cheese pasta and fermented cucumber.
This constantly buzzing Buda-side bistro dates back to 1914, and it has continuously served as a local hangout since then – however, this hotspot’s current incarnation opened only about a decade ago, when the restaurant was relaunched with a modernized atmosphere drawing on the style of Parisian brasseries and a dose of timeless Budapest panache. As one of the city’s best breakfast spots, Déryné serves international favorites like eggs Benedict, but the menu also features many Magyar delights.
Although this urban oasis of old-world charm is purposefully modeled with French style (it even served as a stand-in for a Paris café when Stephen Spielberg was filming Munich in Budapest), it is easy to imagine being back in time here in the Magyar metropolis while dining at a marble table on the sprawling terrace here, all before a statue of Károly Kamermayer – the first mayor of unified Budapest during the late 1800s. Modern Magyar flavors, ingredients, and wines are omnipresent on the menu.
In many ways, this is the most modern locale of this list – after a comprehensive renovation last year, this Buda café (a former haunt of several Hungarian literary greats) presented a fresh look drawing more on Budapest’s ruin pubs than its own decades-old saga... but Hadik still bears many traces of the city’s golden age, including intricately carved wooden chairs, a crystal chandelier, and black-and-white photos on the wall. Regardless, the menu features Hungarian classics with modern flavor.
The setting can’t get much more classic than at Opera Café – located in a previously unused section of the world-renowned Hungarian State Opera House, this classy eatery opened in 2015 to welcome the public for top-quality Magyar meals amid a dramatic vintage décor of marble columns, tiled flooring, and wicker chairs. The kitchen uses only the finest regional ingredients for local favorites like duck-liver pâté with apple purée and homemade brioche, as well as some of Hungary’s iconic cakes.