A whitewashed culinary haven has brought a warm lakeside vibe to Budapest. Paletta, a popular dining destination from the Balaton region, is celebrating one year since its successful move to the Hungarian capital. Its short menu geared towards prime local food and drinks, the restaurant has just introduced its new winter menu featuring dishes created from the nation’s prized mangalica pork, plus the tastiest domestic cheeses and, of course, fish.
Some people say that you should delve into provincial Hungary if you want a real experience of local hospitality. But if you are still on the lookout and go beyond Budapest’s main squares and thoroughfares, you might come across hidden gems such as Paletta, a bistro that brings the Hungarian countryside to the Magyar metropolis.
Evolving from a Balaton-based business, this homely hangout in the up-and-coming locality of District IX is the brainchild of Dani Bezerics, a restaurateur from a winemaking family, who has spent the larger part of his life around Lake Balaton. Opening his first business in Budapest a year ago was a milestone in his career, a move aimed at augmenting the high-standard culinary options the capital has to offer in the midst of a gastronomic boom.
After a recent makeover and several tasteful innovations, Paletta has just introduced its new winter menu, including food pairings not found elsewhere. Suiting the brand’s concept, the main ingredients for each dish are sourced from Balaton then prepared according to 21st-century needs, without unnecessary twists.
To start, the zander goes perfectly with the slivers of mangalica lard it’s topped with; Brussels sprouts on the side and their crispy leaves crown this unparalleled appetiser. Recreated for the colder winter months, the deep-hued beef consommé is served with house-made bread, which comes to you toasted and coated with an adequate layer of juicy bone marrow, even a touch of green herbs. A profoundly addictive (and filling) synergy.
A highlight among the mains is the congee, an Asian-style rice porridge, here green-coloured and presented with various vegetables. This creamy delicacy is prepared as an exciting fusion by the Paletta team, who add finely roasted nuts and substantial slices of mangalica pork, soft and pink inside, for this atypical combination.
But you can also go for the restaurant’s revered breaded cheese, an essential part of the menu since its opening. A truly tasty alternative for vegetarians. Guests who follow a meat-free diet are also offered mushroom soup, white-wine infused oat risotto and salt-baked celeriac.
To close your feast, a palatable pumpkin pudding is a must-try. A piquant ginger cake is soaked in custard, while nuts and ginger-beer granita make this one-of-a-kind blend complete.
For each course, Paletta staff offer matching wines, mostly products from the Bezerics family. Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Furmint and Chardonnay barrique feature among the whites. Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc boost the line of reds on the wine list.
Bezerics also offers that all-important Hungarian remedy, fruit-based pálinka, alongside other spirits with high alcohol content. For something less intoxicating, try the eatery’s spicy apple drink, served hot.
If you’re in the neighbourhood around lunchtime on a weekday, swing by Paletta for their midday specials – you pay 1,750 forints for a two-course meal and a total of 2,150 forints for a soup, main dish and dessert. Sundays are always brunch days.
On 17 December, the bistro hosts a charity event, when proceeds benefit the Lámpás ’92 foundation, supporting young adults living with disabilities.
Whenever you come, you should always find Paletta’s friendly vibe, the welcoming attitude of the staff and the special feeling that you’re sitting by the sunny Balaton waterfront, even when it’s snowing outside. And you don’t even need to leave the city boundaries for this convivial experience.